Where's My Babushka?
by Amy Kenneley
Fall winds are blowing and it's time to find all the winter necessaries-coats, gloves, boots, hats.
Oh No! Where's my Babushka?
Every store has a sign offering "Scarves" for sale. I don't want any designer-labeled, expensive, specially-printed SCARF. Perhaps I should define babushka: a square piece of fabric in soft cotton or rayon, about 18 inches square.
The edges can be fringed a little, or have a small hem. Now fold one point down to the other, so the square becomes a triangle, with the open ends pointing to the back of your head. The folded edge is placed near the forehead hairline, the long ends going down each temple, and those ends tied in a knot beneath the chin. Now you have a babushka.
Mom would tie it backwards around her head, with the ends all gathered and knotted at the top. This was her "I'm doing something messy and I don't want my hair dusty" mode. It was the very popular Rosie the Riveter look.
On windy and cold days, Mom and I would be matching Babushka-teers. She with a vivid blue floral print, me in a bright red one. "It compliments your skin, dear," she would assure me.
Off we would go shopping to the grocery store or Bailey's or wherever. Around me I would notice other women and girls, all with different babushkas knotted under their chins, or---if not knotted, sailing away into the breeze with feet chasing after it as the babushka kited its way 'round and around and away.
Yes, I had berets and other little knitted goodies bestowed by indulgent and nimble-fingered friends of Mom's, but it was the babushka that carried me anonymously into teen years. When all the girls were having their fragile hair styles covered by reliable, utilitarian babushkas, who wanted to stand out of that safe crowd with the multicolored , tasseled, hand-knit ski cap ? Not me!
So a wardrobe of babushkas was essential. There had to be the cotton fabric one that wouldn't slip off your head. That tied up like Rosie's. At nighttime, when pin-curls and the new-fangled Spoollies created a robotic sculpture on my head, a babushka cushioned all but the most torturous curling devices.
There was the school babushka, too. That would get you from your door to the bus, the trolley, the transfers and the walk up to the large doors of East High School. After that, it would hang, wet and limp, in the locker until the 3:00 bell rang. Still wet and limp and now wrinkled, you put it on for another go-round home.
On days when the swimming lessons were required, girls had the blessed option of arriving for the rest of the school day with their hair in rollers or whatever gadgetry they needed to hide their chlorine-damaged manes. This was the Big Concession on the part of authorities. There might have been rebellion otherwise. Ah, those were the days.
Lastly was the "Going Out On A Date" Babushka. It had to be very nice, with no "runners" in the fabric if it were rayon, no stray threads dangling down. It was nice to have something to complement your outfit, but regardless, it was to be whipped off at the first occasion. Having spent some amount of time concocting a hairdo and wardrobe for the date, the babushka was merely a useful accessory to get from windy, rainy or snowy venues into snug and dry ones.
Fit for a Queen
I had considered the babushka a reliable thing-plain, unaffected, and very common. What was my surprise when, watching the TV one day, up pops a documentary on a day in the life of the Queen of England. There she was, Her Majesty Elizabeth, wearing wellie boots, and a very rummage-sale -looking car coat. She was poking sausages on the grill in a clearing at Balmoral….or was it Windsor?
Either way, she chatted away in her British accent while preparing "bangers" for her Royal Family. And what was she wearing on her head, you may ask? Well, you should ask-she was wearing --not her crown --but a babushka!
A very plain, very utilitarian babushka. So, if it is good enough for the queen………Now I am down to the bottom of the winter storage bin and….Aha! There it is! Tea and Scones, anyone?
Back to Top of Page
Back to Memories
Back to Amy Kenneley