Thursday, May 6, 2010


My Mother’s Hats

One evening last winter, I began the arduous task of sorting through old family photos and organizing them into a chronological chaos of sorts. I began this project with childhood photographs of my parents and grandparents. And, as all organizers of old photographs know, I was soon lost in reverie and reflection.

One distinguishing detail I noticed in the photos of my mother was her obvious fondness for hats. Thinking back over the years, I could not recall my mother going anywhere without her hat. She wore this fundamental part of her wardrobe whenever she went to town or to church or anywhere the least bit important. In fact, she wore a hat while she gardened or gathered eggs, and always at family picnics. She just loved hats!

When hats became unfashionable and everyone was going bareheaded, (even in the winter) and claiming freedom from traditional fashion, my sisters and I begged Mom to stop wearing her hats. We felt so embarrassed when Mom arrived at the PTA meeting or the band concert in her “proverbial” hat.

“Mom,” we would plead, “hats are out!”

“Well,” she replied, “I haven’t noticed the queen giving up her hats! Hats are worn by ladies and real ladies should always wear a hat. I just don’t feel complete without a hat. You girls may go bare headed if you like, but it’s not me and I must be comfortable with myself. Besides,” she said in wistful voice, “it is a nice custom, the reflection of a kinder, gentler age.”

Mom stuck to her philosophy and we grew up, married, and had homes and families of our own. We gave up the notion of trying to persuade Mom to give up her hats. Instead, we added to her collection by buying hats for all the special occasions in her life. Personally, I loved the idea of wearing hats, but I could never quite capture that same confident look, the poise and grace that made Mom look great in a hat. She wore hats with taste and charm.

Looking at the old photos just now, I came to realize that somewhere through the years; I had nearly forgotten that we girls tried our best to talk Mom out of her beloved hats. How glad I am now that she was true to her own self. Her hats were a representation of her own identity; an integral part of her character that said, I am a unique person; a woman with my own special set of convictions, my own objectives and ideals. I am me, and I am not afraid to be me.

After Mom passed away some years ago and we children lingered at the graveside, knowing our lives would never be the same without her, we said our good-bys and slowly began to leave the little country cemetery. As a last token of love and respect, my brother quietly laid her favorite hat on top of the casket.

“Bye Mom,” I whispered softly, laying my hand on the casket, touching her cherished hat for the last time, “you were truly a great lady; you taught me so much, especially how to be myself.”

Ruth Ellinger©2010 all rights reserved

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Sheared Sheep

The Sheared Sheep

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

Heb. 12:11

Have you ever felt like the little sheep who was singled out and sheared to his very skin? I have been on both sides of this picture – as one who received the shearing by the Spirit of God until I felt naked and vulnerable, and as the one who administered the shearing to other sheep. It is a necessary part of raising sheep, but not always a pleasant duty. But later, when the fleece grows out again, the wool is soft and beautiful. This is the result of shearing.

The fleece or wool that is the coat of the sheep, must be cut off, sometimes so close that the little sheep appears to be naked. He shivers in his state of nakedness and looks quite ashamed and desolate.

Once a year, in early adulthood, the sheep is sheared or shorn by the shepherd, usually in the spring. The sheep are gathered into the shearing shed and the shepherd and his helpers get to work. Most sheep submit to this practice, but there are a few who resist with a bitter bleating. But if the shepherd is skilled, he can do the job quickly and painlessly – if the sheep submits that is.

But first, the sheep must be washed, made free from the burrs, vegetation, and dirt that tends to cling to the woolly coat. After carefully washing the sheep, a skillful shearer can cut the wool off quickly. Then the wool is marketable as ‘cleaned’ wool. Dirty fleece is harder to shear, more difficult for the sheep to endure, and dulls the cutting instrument of the shepherd.

I remarked to my shepherd husband last week, “You really cut close on that little sheep, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” he said, "it was a close shave, but then—he had gotten into a briar patch. He needed to be sheared.” Then he smiled. “But he just laid down and took it, then hopped up and went on his way.”

ruthellinger@2010 all rights reserved

Jesus said, “I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”

John 10:11.

The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep...