Rumba pants, purdy#039; hats, and patent leather shoes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2001

Despite my continuing ups and downs with "Springitis" (i.e., raging allergies and the non-melodic strains of my voice sounding like "I'b cod a code in by nose"), I'm glad that Spring has finally shown its clear, bright and breezy face to us.

The pollens may hate me, but I still love this season.

Lately I drive around town on the way to an interview or photo op or running errands-and I find myself gawking.

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"Wouldya look at those camellias . . And the azaleas! Those flowering trees are gorgeous . . ." I must look like some corny yokel who's just made it to the "Big City" for the first time.

What can I say: beauty, especially that of Mother Nature, sucker punches me every time.

Nature puts on an especially spectacular show for us close to Easter time.

In the days of my childhood, we put on a rather brilliant Easter spectacle ourselves in the Killough household.

Normally, Mama, quite the talented and inventive seamstress, made almost all our clothes for school and church.

At Easter time, though, our frills and furbelows came store-bought' from Greenville, usually from Planter's Mercantile or Belk Hudson's (which held the distinction of being the only three-level store in the Camellia City.)

My older sisters' dresses might be in nautical navy blue with white grosgrain or cherry red trimmed in gold braid, but little "Tag -Along Me" was kept swathed in pastels: baby pinks, powder blues, mint greens, soft yellows. My short frocks with their lavishly ruffled full skirts required that piece of feminine hardware dating back to pre-Civil War times: the crinoline.

Ah, crinolines!

These stiff, starched, scratchy underskirts kept your dress properly poufed out.

Uncomfortable? Oh, yes.

The dress was only the beginning.

One must have the proper accessories for the occasion. This meant, for me, a new pair of shiny white or black patent leather shoes complete with lace-trimmed anklets (and how that lace made my ankles itch).

My small hands would be slipped into a pair of (briefly) pristine white gloves, my blond head topped with a flower-trimmed bonnet (which, as a very young child, I would later inexplicably attempt to destroy).

A charming little white wicker purse allowed me to stow away my Sunday School tithe money, a few sticks of Juicy Fruit-and a hankie for my potentially drippy nose.

(I do not remember a spring when I haven't had allergy problems.)

Such dress-up' occasions certainly required the family to pull out the old Brownie box camera and, later, the sleek Instamatic, to capture such "Kodak moments" for posterity.

My sisters and I would pose rather stiffly in the living room or outside in front of some flowering shrub or tree, careful not to crush our frocks or ruffle our curls, our smiles ready for the camera.

One Easter, however, I just wasn't in the mood to model.

There I am, captured on film, one gloved hand clutching an adorable little purse, the other atop my carefully combed tresses, crinoline in full "poufing" mode beneath my frilly little frock-red-nosed, red-eyed with a definite need to put my lower lip back in', as my Daddy might say.

I do not recall exactly why I was so distressed, but suspect it had something to do with my older sister Sara trying to chase me down to (A) kiss my chubby little cheeks, (B) put that darned old bonnet on my head or (C) both of the above.

In those days, you see, I was my sister's little pet' and on occasion I had to request, in my pre-schooler's lisp, "Pwease, Sara, would you stop huggin' me?"

On Easter, when I was all gussied' up, I seemed to be a particular temptation for her.

(She has a dog now and lives many miles away in Huntsville so I am safe at last.)

Ah, yes, there was one article of early Easter clothing of mine I failed to mention-one my sisters, at least, found highly entertaining.

Each Easter morn, I donned not my ordinary cotton underpants, but an extra-fancy pair bearing multiple rows of ruffles right across the posterior.

These garments were known as "rumba pants", and with those short, full skirts of mine, they were oh-so-easy targets for my two mischievous siblings.

I'd be innocently standing on the hump' in the back seat of our old green station wagon, clutching the seat in front of me, when a loud popping sound would echo through the car.

"Mama-they're popping my pants again!" I would wail as Debbie and Sara giggled gleefully.

Like a miniature Queen Victoria, I was assuredly not amused.

Happy Easter, everyone-and remember the true reason for the Easter season.