(Picture for a moment: falling confetti, embracing people, flying foam fingers and the wearing of goofy glasses.)
Okay, so I am a little late for New Year Celebrations. Seventy-three days too late. Better grab your sweet tea, pull up a rocker and let me explain.
In the last year, I turned 43, I birthed a fourth child, I embarked on a full-time journey as a freelance writer. I am learning to live with the falling down parts, and that takes quite a bit of time, especially when the falling down parts are numerous.
Fear not, my old Kentucky home, I am a southern girl – a Southern FARM girl – tried and true, inside and out, and I have had plenty of experience with the falling down parts.
I was raised in church, you see, and that helps me a great deal. Aside from the soul-saving, spiritual growth, I learned early on how to get ready for church, how to behave while I was there, and the difference between proper and improper — all three of which were wrapped up quite nicely in a certain lady’s undergarment.
When I was a child, our family went to church every Sunday morning, every Sunday evening, every Wednesday evening for prayer and business meetings, and every other time there was a happening at church. Church was a part of what defined us, helped us to believe in something bigger than ourselves, and gave us an opportunity to give our very best for the God who we believe is the giver of all good things.
I can distinctly remember crossing over from girlhood into certain womanhood by how I got ready to give God my best on Sunday mornings. Children were allowed a bit more freedom in dress. Women, however, had to be more demure, more conservative, more grown up. I traded my white socks and Mary Janes for tights and patent leather. Eventually, I traded my tights and patent leather for nylons and flats. The flats then morphed into low heels, even though it was more difficult to walk in the gravel parking lot of the old country church with them. I learned how to pack a little purse for church – cloth hankie, mints, compact, clear lip-gloss, coins for the offering that Momma pushed into the palm of my hand on the way from the car to Sunday School. I can even remember graduating from a children’s Bible to a red-letter-edition, King James Bible, wrapped in burgundy leather, the page edges glistening with gold.
Momma and Daddy and my Grandmother and Grandfather Robinson were my pillars of faith. (My other set of grandparents on my mom’s side went to church in Lexington. It was a rare and wondrous occasion to go to church with my Meme in the big city from time to time.) These family members walked with me and talked with me and made sure I knew right from wrong. We shared farm life, family life, and church life. They taught me to speak when spoken to, give deference and respect to my elders, not to point or stare or judge harshly, not to think too highly of myself than I ought, and the importance of empathy and treating others as I would want to be treated. While it is true that my family comes from conservative, Southern Baptist heritage, I, in my adulthood, have come to realize that being conservative is not all that bad.
And the women, God love their hearts, taught me how to live with slips. This has nothing to do with water in any form, be it ice or a puddle on the floor. No, this slip can be full or half, is not often found in department stores today, and is often worn on the outside of clothing by today’s young people. A slip is what most people would consider to be an archaic item of clothing. This slight piece of intimate clothing was often named among other items like a chemise or a camisole, a shift, or a petticoat. But to me and my female family members, it was necessary for holiness.
A slip was that extra layer of protection. It gave warmth in the winter, and soaked up the sweat in summer.
A slip preserved my dignity. It was the last line of defense when static possessed my nylons and threatened to override (or, perhaps, UP-ride is a better term here) the hemline of my dress.
A slip preserved my modesty, and thereby, my reputation. I can remember Momma dragging me to the fabric store when I was much younger, before I could actually appreciate a fabric store. We admired the bolts and Momma would pass her hand under one layer of fabric. If she could see her wedding band, the fabric was too sheer and we moved on to the next bolt. There came a time, however, when every bolt seemed to hold thinner and thinner fabric. Even then, my faithful slip allowed me to pass the Go-stand-by-that-window;-Now,-turn test. As long as the silhouette of my legs was obscured, and as long as no one could see any other underclothing, I was rendered modest. Modesty was not, and is not, a bad word.
A slip was as useful to a girl as just about any other tool. I learned I could use the hem of my slip as a handkerchief substitute. I could tie a little pocket in it and carry tithe money there on the many occasions I forgot that cute little purse. I could even use it to clean a strange smudge off my shoes, if necessary. The dress my Momma made and ironed so carefully for church would be spared the brunt of my forgetfulness, or the often uncoordinated movement of my feet because the slip caught all of the hard jobs.
A slip taught me humility, and the code of women. For some reason, it was a terrible thing to allow the slip to show. Perhaps this was because it was a garment that was worn close to the skin, indeed an intimate thing. It was a garment that was meant to be covered, like something soft and sacred. Every now and then, though, I would be reminded that I had let that something soft and sacred, that something that protected and preserved me, fall down. A slip that shows is a gentle nod in the direction of humility. Even the greatest of women had a low-hanging slip from time to time.
It was then that I learned the code of women.
A tap on the shoulder, a leaning together of two feminine heads, a lowered voice, “Your slip is showing, dear.” Then a few private adjustments to make everything right. It was a reciprocal code, which defied the stations of age or class. As long as I was of slip-wearing age, I possessed a place in the inner slip circle.
Now, in my forty-fourth year, one year after the birth of my fourth child, a year’s worth of full-time freelance, and seventy-three days after New Year’s, I can finally say that I have spent a bit of time with some private adjustments of those falling down parts.
In my heart, there is a tap on my shoulder, the leaning in of a gentle feminine head, and the quiet voice that tells me, “Your slip is just fine, dear.”
Happy New Year, indeed.