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Suns & Shields

By Rachelle Hamlin

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An Autumn Change

By: Rachelle Hamlin

Fort Fairfield Journal, September 16, 2015

Yesterday I found a small photograph of my mother. It’s a picture I snapped of her on the porch of our home in Providence, Rhode Island. She has gray hair, short and neat as usual. She sits back in a rocking chair reading the newspaper as I often found her. She wears a pearl earring and necklace set above a close-fitting, feminine printed dress in brown and yellow and white tones which I remember since it’s a black and white photo.

It was my favorite picture of her, taken in 1970 to preserve her before she grew old. She was smiling and beautiful. I had just gotten home for a weekend with a new camera and Mom protested. She didn’t want me to take her picture in a candid situation. She didn’t know how special and how gorgeous she was. I didn’t know how comforted I was just to see her again, to touch a rock when everything around me was a turbulent sea I was drowning in.

This morning I awoke with a backache, hearing the words to a Beatles song from that period. “She was just seventeen, if you know what I mean, and the way she looked was way beyond compare. So how could I dance with another (ooh) when I saw her standing there?” People felt like that meeting my mother – me, my dad and so many others.

While my waking thoughts were on my mother, I remembered a phrase I read yesterday that impacted me. It was “dressing with dignity.” My mother always dressed with dignity. I remember opening her closet near the end of her life. I was surprised how few clothes were there. She always was a vision of loveliness… always. She was clean, neat, poised, erect, quiet and gentle. Her inner spirit was so strong that her dignity was her clothing.

She never, ever, tried to draw attention to herself or her body although my Dad loved to dress her in pretty stuff. In fact, the only time I ever heard her offended was once when one of her friends “showed cleavage” by wearing a low-cut summer blouse. Mom was prim and proper. This is something clearly out of phase in today’s society.

Yesterday it also happened that some prim and proper people on Fox News expressed strong disaffection over Miley Cyrus and MTV’s recent awards programming. Filled with exhibitionism, crassness, ostentation and rebellion, it seemed that each man and woman tried to outdo the next one to show how low or how disturbing they could be in public. That was their message to the world.

This brought the phrase “dressing with dignity” to the front of my mind. Today’s rock and rollers had wandered a long way away from innocence. Early rock music started with Beatles songs like “I want to hold your hand” and Paul Simon’s incomparable lyrics “When times get tough and friends just can’t be found, like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down.”

All these things converged on me on a day when I had decided to clean out our clothes closets to prepare for the coming cold seasons. How amazing and precise spiritual guidance is when you ask for it! It had been such a simple prayer; Lord, help me with this closet cleaning.

You see, I had felt a growing strangeness about my own reflection in the mirror. It seemed as if I was looking at someone other than myself. Why? What was giving me this feeling of discontent? Finding the photo of Mom, catching that phrase in a book, seeing the Fox News anchors react and the memories that they brought forward was needed education.

It helped me to see beyond my mirror image way back to my own meticulous grooming as a young adult, even past that to my mother’s secure and polished manners. My mirror was telling lies about me. Now I could see my rebellion, my laxness, my weakness, my search for acceptance by imitating what I saw in others around me. The answer to my simple prayer had been provided as soon as I asked for it. “Dress with dignity.” It just took a shuffle sideways and a slap in the head for me to see that I needed to adjust something.

I have to dress and undress every single day. Since it is me that I’m dressing then I ought to make it me that I see in that mirror. I am a dignified person. I ought to appear dignified when I see my own reflection. After all, we form our own messages to the world.

A week ago I saw a thirty-something woman get out of a car and walk across a parking lot. Head to toe she struck me as unique. She was poised, carefully dressed… perfectly herself. She had dignity and wasn’t afraid to show it. I think I am ready to make those autumn changes now, and it’s really nice to know that I won’t be the only one doing so around here.



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