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Saturday, September 1, 2012

“I’m not wearing any underpants”: Stories my mother told me

Talk about an attention-getting title for a blog post! As I have mentioned in a few previous posts, I have been having a hard time keeping up my blog recently. Stress, pressures, lack of energy, and some other issues have turned my creativity upside down. I am doing my best to get back into the groove, and the stubborn part of me doesn’t want to completely cave into it!
This evening, as I was taking a hot shower, a very funny story came into my mind. I thought it would be terrible for a great story like this to go untold. After all, the best articles, books, novels, and poems all have one thing in common- a terrific story.

My mother is German. She was born in Germany in the late 1930s, and her early childhood memories involve war. She has hundreds of amazing stories from that time, and I hope at some point to be able to capture them. This story I am about to tell, however, tells a story of when she first moved to the United States in the late 1950s. It is a family classic.

Here is the background- Washington, D.C., in 1958, my mother has recently arrived from her hometown of Köln, Germany, and has been staying with one of her great aunts- a wealthy woman who has been living in the U.S. for a few decades. My mother had THREE such great aunts, who were all her paternal grandmother’s sisters. They are always referred to by my mother by the streets they lived on in D.C. 

There was Aunt Mintwood Place, Aunt Holly Street, and Aunt Columbia Road. Aunt Mintwood Place was the wealthiest, snobbiest, and meanest. She treated my mother very shabbily, and after my mother married my Cuban father, was never heard from again.  But I digress.

This particular story takes place in D.C. at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart on corner of 16th and Park Road. My mother and Aunt Mintwood Place were going to Mass one Sunday morning. Aunt Mintwood Place always dressed to the nines to go to Mass, and she had on a very beautiful dress, her mink coat, and her veil. In those days, Catholic women had to wear some sort of head covering when they entered a church. Unfortunately for my poor mother, that was NOT the custom in Köln, and she had not remembered to bring her head covering.
Jackie Kennedy wearing a head covering to Mass
As the story goes, once inside the church, Aunt Mintwood Place kept touching the top of her head and looking at my mother with dagger eyes. My mother couldn’t figure it out, and afterward, her aunt gave her a serious lecture about how she was now in the U.S. and that she needed to ALWAYS have her head covering for Mass in the future. So, my poor immigrant mother took her lecture like a woman and started walking out the door of the church.

There is a long, stone, stairway down to the street and my mother had walked quickly ahead of Aunt Mintwood Place when she called after her. “Oh, the wind is blowing very hard! I am afraid my dress is going to blow upward in the wind. “
 My mother looked at her with a perplexed face, but then saw that the pleated skirt she had on was indeed blowing upward. So, my mother leaned in toward her and said, “What are you so worried about?” to which Aunt Mintwood Place, who had been so very worried about my mother’s bare head in church, uttered the now infamous sentence- “I’m not wearing any underpants.”     PRICELESS.
My mother stands there looking at her, completely overwhelmed by the irony of the situation. She told us, years later,  that all she could think about was the old biddy standing in front of her, decked out in her diamonds, mink, expensive dress, head covering and NO PANTIES!  How incredibly hypocritical of her!

The obvious “moral” of this story- Get your priorities straight. Cover your ass before worrying about covering your head.

I hope you enjoyed this story as much as we have enjoyed it these 50 plus years. It reads like a joke, but it’s 100% true.   MORE stories to come.