April A to Z Challenge: In the Mirror

Welcome to the April A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year my contribution is the story of my great grandmother Alzina. She lived in the style of “Little House on the Prairie”and kept a record of her life through letters to family and her own journals. I find her story fascinating and intriguing. Each post will start (sometimes strangely) with a consecutive letter of the alphabet, just because they have to. My hope is that we can “catch” some of her courage to help us face challenges in our present times.

In the mirror, her all too familiar reflection stared back at her. Frowning, Alzie tried to imagine how she might look. Her long dark hair was wound up in a bun to keep it in place and she had just taken off the bonnet that she wore outside.

“Mother, what do you think about bangs?”

She and her mother were very close and she knew she could ask her anything and get a kind, wise and respectful answer.

“What’s wrong dear? Are you getting teased at school for your appearance?”

“Not exactly, and I don’t want to be teased either, which is why I’m asking. You know that some of the girls are having their hair fixed with bangs now. And they talk sometimes about wearing earrings too.” She didn’t bother telling about the dancing that she had watched in the school hallway. That had also been interesting but she was pretty sure she knew what her mother would say about that.

“And what do you think about that, Alzie?”

“I wonder if I would like it because it does seem pretty to me. But I want to know your opinion Mother.”

“I know. And I shall give it to you. I am not in favor of those measures to beautify my girl, who is already made beautiful the way God has fashioned her. You know that I believe you and Phebe and Sadie are growing up to be strong capable young women. I am in favor of you learning to support yourselves in some way but I believe that being a wife and mother may likely be your highest calling. The preparation of your character for these roles is much more important than the outward appearance. Fashion and keeping up with trends can become much too important at an early age and I would rather you choose other interests. There, you have it. But whether you approve or disapprove yourself, when you talk with others, do it kindly without offending. Can you do that?”

And so she did learn to stand for her own ideas. And simple observation helped her see who were the safest companions. She really cared more for the approval of Christian parents and friends, and sided with them without arguing about details. And as it turned out, there was no lack of social life. Father was always willing to take Phebe and Alzie to evenings of charades, social games, literary societies and night schools. Since they didn’t have brothers old enough to accompany them, their mother would also go, and then Father would return about 10 p.m. to fetch them home.

In those days being a wife and a mother was a very high calling, and entailed very hard and necessary work. There were not many opportunities available to women that were more attractive either. And whereas bangs and earrings no longer have a stigma today, they were bold and experimentally “fashionable” at the time. And as we all learn sooner or later, one thing can lead to another when dealing with experiments.

Loss Happens

Loss happens. To everyone, and more than once. In fact, life could be seen as a progression of things we gain and things we lose and leave behind.

I’m not priming you for a sad story. This tale is one of those inconsequential, odd things that happens to me every now and then, but catches my attention a little more than usual. It’s another earring story, of which I have quite a few.

Several years ago, shopping in a second hand shop in Alachua, Florida I noticed a display of earrings on a rack at the checkout desk. They were probably handcrafted and were all Swarovski crystal in various combinations, drop earrings with pretty silver hooks. The pair I decided to get were several clear crystals with some blue crystal beads on top. I got them because I wanted something blue.

Since then I’ve worn them a number of times without incident. They are nice but I would call them unremarkable. Yesterday I had them on during my visit to the doctor’s office and as the young child (or so she appeared) who took my blood pressure laughed at them and said “Oh wow, you’ve got snowmen earrings. How cute.”

“No, you’ve got it all wrong. They’re not snowmen, they’re just geometric shapes. Not snowmen.” To be truthful I couldn’t even envision what they looked like at the moment, and it had NEVER occurred to me that they looked like snowmen so I couldn’t understand why she thought so. Later, I looked at them and had to admit that they could look like snowmen, if you’re one of those people to whom everything looks like something else. There are people like that.

Today, I’m wearing blue again and decided to stick with the same earrings. At lunch, my friend Char looks at me and remarks about my snowman earrings. Obviously, since it’s summer in Florida and 90 degrees in the shade, everyone is thinking snow? Maybe? I don’t know, but I had to tell her she was the second person in two days to come to that conclusion, after several years of no one ever settling on that. We laughed.

After lunch I did several errands, including being called to pick up the husband at work. He had donated blood and was feeling not so well and wanted to be driven home. His office is only a short distance away so I decided to bike over and drive his truck home too. I am a good girl and wear my helmet all almost all the time and don’t like to wear dangling earrings with it. But, there was only one to take off.  Somewhere since lunch, one of my snowmen must have melted, or something. Lost.

I remember stepping away from the counter at the bank and saying “Did I drop something?” But it was one of those sixth sense things that makes you think you might have heard something, even though nothing is in sight. I probably should have looked harder, but no, and I’m not going back either.  It’s not that I have anything against snowmen – on the ground, in the winter.  Not in the summer, not on my ears, just sayin’…

NOT a snowman, right?