Here is a Wisconsin farm girl’s story from 1922, sharply recalled eight decades later.
The storyteller was my mother, Helen Williamson, who grew up in this region and attended a one story country school, very similar to the Camp Nine School at our Heritage Center. I love to picture her as a sensitive young girl, so very troubled by the theft of a pin. – Sara DeLuca
The Hat Pin
I got my first real dolly on my seventh birthday. Until that time I had played with corncob babies wrapped in scraps of cloth, but now—a doll with facial features, life-like hair, soft body, arms and legs! I named her Emily. Mama sewed a dress for her— a plain blue serge that seemed to beg for decoration.
At Christmas time we went to town, five miles by sleigh, to visit Great Aunt Bertha. She had a taste for finery—lace doilies, china cups and saucers, porcelain figurines. (No touching, Mama said.) Great Aunty also had an indoor bathroom— running water, flushing toilet—and I used it frequently that afternoon. From there I slipped into the bedroom, admired a rack of fancy hats, beaded and feathered, and a tiny cushion on the bureau studded with sparkling pins. Standing tiptoe I could barely reach. I fingered one with crystal roses, another topped by an emerald butterfly. The one that really caught my eye held a small glass bluebird and it seemed to fly into my hand, nest in my pocket.
(The perfect ornament for Emily!)
All the way home it poked me painfully. That night I tried it on my dolly’s dress and it looked fine. But who could I show it to? I hid the pin beneath my mattress, out of sight,
not out of mind. It pricked my conscience until spring.
Our Easter horse-and-buggy ride to Great Aunt Bertha’s house was long and bumpy, sharp with misery. Again the hatpin rode in my pocket. Finally I would have a chance to make things right. I watched and waited nervously, then stole, like the thief I was, into the bedroom. I had grown over winter and could reach the pincushion easily.
I let the bluebird go— dropped it deep into that glassy forest. I was free.
image credit: “hat pins” by Jean L. is licensed under CC BY 2.0