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HOLLENBECK: Traditional cooler weather arrives to welcome Easter holiday

April 25, 2011

Cooler weather moved into Arkansas a few days ago, which isn’t surprising.

Today is Easter Sunday and all my life I’ve been told that the cool spell preceding it is the “Easter cold snap.”
This interval also is referred to as “blackberry winter,” a time when the weather turns cool, ostensibly to set the buds on the blackberry vines. As far as my history goes, when the blackberries are in full bloom, there will be blackberry winter for a few days.
(Not that I’ve ever picked blackberries, but I know they’re around.)
Such information, not surprisingly, came from my mother, who was full of wise sayings and generalized stuff about a lot of things that didn’t seem to matter much at the time, but now I consider priceless. (How I would love to be able to hear her say just one of them again ... )
An Internet site confirmed that “blackberry winter” is mainly a Southern term used to describe a brief period of cold weather that coincides with the time the blackberries are in bloom. This site put the time frame as typically in early to mid-May, but that’s too late for Arkansas. We have it around Easter time, which, of course, can be in March or April.
I’d like to know how the blackberries know when it’s time to bloom every year, whether March or April, but that’s one of the miracles of nature.
This particular season at our house also is marked by changes in two different spots on the front yard: a circle of purple irises that surround the birdbath and an adjacent patch of coral-colored lilies.
Both sets of flowers are special because of their link to two special women in our lives, Ed’s mother and my mother.
The irises, plus the bird bath, were transplanted from the Pine Bluff lawn of the late Winnie Hollenbeck. We can count on them blooming a few days before the lilies, which initially came as an expression of sympathy from Doyle and Barbara Webb when Mamma died.
Each year the lilies get fuller and prettier, but they always follow Winnie’s irises. (I didn’t set the schedule for this. I just recognize what’s happening when I observe it.) It would thrill me for the two to bloom simultaneously, but it’s never happened.
As a matter of fact, it took several years for the irises to bloom at all. We wondered about it for a long time, then more or less forgot about them. Ironically, the blossoms came after we moved Winnie’s old bird bath to our yard, a short time after her death in 1995.
Explain that one however you want to; I have my own personal theory and it shall remain mine alone.
Back to the cooler weather that takes place around Easter. This was especially significant in earlier years for me. When I was a kid, sometimes it was too cool to wear my new Easter dress, but, of course, I wore it anyway.
There were a couple of years when my new Easter finery constituted what best would be described as an “ensemble” because there wasn’t just a dress, but a matching coat as well. I remember one princess-style frock in robin egg blue faille with matching coat that was set off with really pretty rhinestone buttons. It was a lot like the stuff Doris Day used to wear in some of her movies.
I thought I was a real fashion plate in that get-up.
My mother’s dresser used to hold an Easter Sunday picture of me wearing one of her favorite outfits. The photo was taken on the sidewalk in front of our house in Cotton Plant, shortly after we had been to Easter events at the Cotton Plant Methodist Church.
Mamma had picked out my outfit unassisted, which was one of the weird things about our relationship. When we shopped together, I never liked her choices. If she shopped alone and bought something for me, it would turn out to be a favorite dress. Go figure.
I was in college by the time the dresser picture was made. The dress was a sleeveless, V-necked brown and ivory silky print — again princess-style — with full, gored skirt. It was paired with a midriff-length, long-sleeved, ivory linen jacket — sort of like a shrug. My accessories were 4-inch, pearlized, bone-colored sling pumps, matching purse, gloves and hat. I considered myself fit for the runway.
A little fantasy is good for the soul.

Lynda Hollenbeck is associate editor of the Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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