My Mother in her white uniform on the way to work at the State Hospital. Taken in Grandma Rogers yard in Mokane.

Mama was modest and didn’t usually let anybody watch her get dressed, but on the first day of her new job she called Sissy into the bedroom to help her and I went, too.  Mama had a list of everything she had to wear. One thing on the list was a “good” underwire brassiere with “firm support.” She couldn’t get it fastened in back so I climbed up on a chair and guided the little hooks together for her.  She already had on her firm support girdle, another required garment.  It was a “long line” model that started just a few inches below the brassiere and stretched down to the top of her thighs. Four long elastic straps, with clips on the ends to hold up her stockings, dangled from the bottom of the girdle. Her cotton panties were pulled up over top of the garters and the girdle. A full slip came next, then the starched white cotton uniform with snaps marching up the front. She had cut her wavy dark auburn hair to a chin length bob and what was left had to be tucked into a hairnet. The finishing touch was a starched nurse’s cap. Everything, including the stockings, was pure bright white.

“Wow! Mama you look so different! Like a real nurse!” Sissy spoke in an awestruck whisper.

“Do I really?” Mama turned and looked over her shoulder to see the new woman reflected in the dresser mirror. She straightened the white cap and tucked a loose curl under the brown hair net. “I do look different, don’t I?”  She danced around the bedroom, gathering up her purse, her keys and the pure white sweater to wear home at midnight when the air was chilly.

Sissy and I followed Mama out the door and stood side by side on the sidewalk watching as she drove away.

“How long does she have to work? Will she be home for supper?”

Sissy shook her head. “No. She won’t be home until a long time after we go to bed tonight. She’s working four to midnight.”

An excerpt from my memoir Snakes in the Kitchen.

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1 Response to Mama

  1. Linda Curry says:

    The way you have written this makes me feel I am there in the room too as Mama is getting dressed. It reminds me of my mother who said she couldn’t go without her “step-ins” as they provided back support. Compare those clothes to our comfy jeans, joggers and fleece. Even now wearing a dress with tights and heels I find an effort, especially in the winter.

    Thanks for this insight into the past.

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