When I was a wee girl, the Easter Bunny usually left an arsenal of candy. The prized hollow chocolate bunny, watched us with its single candy eye from inside the plastic packaging towering behind our overflowing baskets filled with candy treasures. Before us was a smorgasbord of sugar waiting for the greedy mouths of children but our wise mother never allowed us to eat any of it until we’d lined our stomachs with breakfast. It was torture to wait for the porridge to thicken in the pot.
I was deviously clever; there was a strong will and I found a way to get around the rule. Mom never suspected that my hollow bunny, still in the box and looking perfectly complete from the front, was stripped of its entire back, carefully broken along the seam where the two halves fused together. By the time I sat at the table for the lack luster porridge, I was full to the gizzard with delicious chocolate.
But even more than the excitement of candy, Easter was always the day I got to pack away my thick winter leotards and pull up knee socks. This transition meant everything to me. The practical and unattractive leotards I was forced to wear were for insulating value to ward off the cold and prevent knee pain. The doctor labeled my aches and pains ‘rheumatism’ and my mother dutifully hunted for the thickest stockings to help keep the cold from creeping into my joints that caused restless nights and midnight tears.
They were unfashionably hideous. Perhaps if the colours weren’t so dizzily bold they might have been bearable, but neon royal blue and bile green were a far cry from what the other girls in my class were wearing. My leotards were misfits in a chromatic battlefield with the rest of my wardrobe, standing out like a beacon saying mock me, mock me, mock me. I felt positively ugly back then, and the stockings only added to the overall embarrassment I felt in public.
These leotards were three times thicker than the other girl’s tights making my knees, calves and ankles appear fatter. Whether anyone else noticed I’m not sure, but looking at my reflection was like seeing myself in one of those distortion mirrors found at the circus.
Like any sock, the pilling of balls from the washing and wear made them take on the appearance of a disease without a cure. Mother tried to pick the lint but it was a losing battle. They probably should have been washed inside out to prevent the surface from knobbing up, but the fact remained, they were an irrefutable mess.
I already had a problem with my “chicken legs”, a pet name my older sister coined that never failed to bring tears. Someday I must regal you of the chicken leg chapter of my life, hopefully to bemuse, although at the time it pretty much molded my lack of self-esteem and crippled any thought of exposing my legs in public. Just another one of the insecurities created during the foundation of my youth that constructed the three stories of self-deprecating fool I am today.
So I’m wearing these hideous stockings while standing next to the lovely black diamond patterned tights of my classmates and I’m feeling like a warthog next to swans. Their thinner stockings might not have had the warmth of my bulky carpet-like tights, but they were pretty and stylish and well worth feeling the winter bite; To fit in, I would have accepted the seasonal numbness gladly.
Then blessed Easter rolled around signifying the cut off for winter attire. Back in the day before global warming reared its ugly head, the weather changed gradually and seasons flowed smoothly into the next. The temperatures would rise in a stately progression and the winter clothes would be shed sequentially, piece by piece, replaced by the lighter attire of spring. Easter meant throwing those ugly stockings aside to don knee socks so I didn’t stand out like a proverbial sore thumb. I’d bury my shame in the trunk along with those leggings and I prayed that I’d out grow them or they’d be devoured by moths before next winter.
The irony of this story was that my so called rheumatism was not a medical affliction at all, but a symptom of my mother tying my leather shoes too tight. She’d double knot them so they wouldn’t loosen, pinching nerves in my feet that traveled up my shins and caused my knees to throb. I spent my entire childhood suffering from a parental obsession to prevent me from tripping over dangling laces. My mother blamed my aches on the cold, and of course that was a natural assumption considering it only happened in the winter months, but that was because spring and summer meant different footwear; soft canvas sneakers, sandals, flip flops and of course bare feet that didn’t press on or irritate nerves.
I discovered this years later when I tied a pair of shoes too tight and that old familiar ache of my childhood condition returned. Thinking about all the medication I was fed both orally and topically, too bad dad hadn't purchased stock in Children’s Aspirin, Absorbine Jr and Minard’s Liniment; the latter two were applied liberally, splashed on like whitewash on a fence post. While other children my age smelled of ivory soap, fresh air and sweet sweat, my personal scent was hospital disinfectant ad nauseum.
So as a child, Easter meant more than chocolate to me. It was a transition from persecution to an elevation, just like the biblical story. I’m not saying my tale runs parallel to the life of Christ but gee......those stockings were certainly my cross to bear.