My Mother Ruth Landis Metzler was a simple girl who grew up on a farm near Lititz, Pennsylvania and attended Erb’s Mennonite Church. As a young woman, she wore plain clothing and never cut her hair. Her adornment was of the biblical kind as the Apostle Paul admonishes:
I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes . . .
I Timothy 2:9 NIV
As we sorted through her personal effects recently, we found two prayer coverings and three bonnets, all miniature versions of those large sizes (jumbo, actually) she wore during her girlhood and all through the years we children lived at home.
On the clipboard in her kitchen, we found the business card to the Sue’s Covering Shop in Lititz where she bought her most recent headgear, the black bonnet now rivaling the size of a Jewish yarmulke and fastened with a shiny black-tipped hat pin.
Size mattered among the various congregations in the Lancaster Mennonite Conference in all the years my mother wore prayer coverings. Handwritten on Sue’s Covering Shop business card was Mother’s latest size: D – 19 1/2. When I called Sue’s, the clerk said that D indicates the pattern number, the higher the number (okay, it’s a letter) the larger the size. And 19 1/2 describes the inches around the circumference of her covering.
Hankies, now replaced by Kleenex, were once a part of every woman’s wardrobe. As a young child, my offering (a penny as a toddler, and later a nickel as I grew older) was tied into one corner of my white handkerchief, so I could untie the knot and put the coin into the tin box my teacher passed around during the Sunday School class. Surprisingly, Mother’s hankies were fancy, some even gaudily so, and one even boasts green tatting.
Mom’s purses have usually been black and serviceable though we found set aside a hand-tooled leather purse and remember a lacquered basket-weave popular in the 1950s and 60s. In the October 2014 issue of Guideposts, Malinda Bertels takes stock of her Grandma’s purse and finds in it tissues for applying rouge, a vial of holy water and a faded inscription on a small wooden cross which provides insight and courage to move forward. Mom’s purse contained none of those things, only the bare essentials.
The very last purse she ever carried had a zippered compartment on the outside and all the pockets she liked on the inside for her cards and such. Most important was the pouch on one side, probably designed for a cellphone, but which held her house and car keys. The house key remains, but the car keys have been passed on to a friend from church.
Mother never wore any jewelry except a wrist-watch, but friends bought cute little pins for her anyway. They were never all in one spot, but when we gathered them together, they numbered nine. The only one I ever remember her wearing was the round silver-faceted one, probably to her grandson Austin’s wedding.
Plain and fancy, her wardrobe included the gamut. A plain woman with fancy edges, that was Mom!
A souvenir of their honeymoon, this pillow was found among Mother’s treasures, obviously a gift from Dad, revealing his softer side.
Was/Is your mom plain or fancy? Are you similar or different in fashion sense?