Carol Harris column: Mom was no Lady Muck
By Carol Harris
For the Salisbury Post
My mom was a war bride from England, an auto mechanic in World War II for the English Air force ó a very strong-willed “Johnny Bull,” as my Dad would call her.
My mom was a “Daddy’s girl” and followed my grandfather around, learning everything she could. She was quite handy, could fix anything. She was not the sort of mother who enjoyed cooking and cleaning, getting her hair done or wearing makeup and nail polish.
She was no “Lady Muck,” an expression she used often to refer to women who wore makeup and went to the beauty parlor once a week.
Along with Dad, she raised four boys and me, the baby of the family, the one and only daughter, with a stern hand.
In those days, in England, it was a well-known fact that only prostitutes shaved their underarms and legs. This was something my mother never had done. I was grounded in junior high school when she found out I had followed the norms of my peers.
In 1978, I met and fell in love with my husband, son of the Akron Fire Chief. We planned to be married that next July. As the wedding drew closer and we worked on the guest list, I knew that there would be important city officials attending my wedding. How would I convince my mom to wear long sleeves and a long dress or slacks in the middle of July in Ohio where central air conditioning was not commonplace?
We had gotten into several disagreements over the years on the “no shaving” subject. For years, I begged her over and over to please shave, use Nair or something! Her mind was made up. “I have never shaved and I’m not about to start now. If it bothers you… don’t look!”
My wonderful mother-in-law, Dreva, offered to make my mother’s dress. My mom refused. She would make her own dress! She used a pattern similar to Dreva’s dress, only my mom’s version was sleeve-LESS. Everyone will see her underarms! Mom assured me she’d make a jacket to go with her dress. Whew!
The day of my wedding it was over 90 degrees. The AC unit at the VFW Hall, kept blowing a fuse. It wasn’t Ohio summer weather at all. Guests were fanning themselves and wiping cold drinks across their brows to keep cool.
I was sitting at the bridal party table in my mother’s thick satin wedding gown that had been in a cedar box for over 30 years, trying not to sweat. I felt like the bad witch from the Wizard of Oz ó “I’m melting!” And I felt guilty that my mother was being forced to wear a jacket in this heat. Shame on me!
Then, the moment came when the bride dances with her new father-in-law and the groom dances with the his new mother-in- law. As I stood up to dance …. I see my mom across the room. What is she doing? Taking off her jacket! Everyone will see her unshaven underarms! I have to stop her! Quickly…but how?
Milliseconds seemed like hours. I have to get to her before she takes off the jacket. What do I do? Run? YELL?
No; the band is introducing us. Maybe no one will notice. I feel my face turning red. My mother’s underarms are about to be the topic of discussion at my wedding reception!
As she slowly took off her jacket, looking over her shoulder at me and giving me a wink, I thought, oh boy.. here we go! Mom took the dance floor with my new husband.
She looked as beautiful as I ever remember. I could not believe my eyes ó her underarms were bare! It may not seem like much, but for MY mom, it was the best way for her to let me know how far she was willing to go to make my wedding day special and definitely memorable.
Carol Harris lives in Salisbury.
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