It was the summer I was 18 and just graduated from High School. I had trained for years as a singer and this summer I was working as a wedding soloist. It was also the summer I purchased the girdle from Hell!
Now, you ladies in my age group know when I say girdle I am not referring to those little elastic panties they pass off as girdles these days. In my day these garments had whale boning, zippers. Some laced up the front.
I saw a glowing ad saying our local department store was selling the perfect girdle to contain my thunder thighs. It reached from the waist down to the top of the knees. No inch of felonious flesh could possibly escape from this pantied prison.
Of course one didn't just don one of these garments and waltz out the door. Like a new pair of shoes, it had to be broken in. An hour here and there until you could bear it up to eight hours.
One Friday afternoon, I was due for a wedding rehearsal. What a perfect time to break in the girdle. I won't be gone more than an hour. So I poured my profuse poundage into the girth gooshing garment and donned a slim skirt. I peeked in the full length mirror. What a slender vision! Never had I looked so sylph-like.
I waddled out to the family car and drove to the Catholic church on the other side of town. On the way I was delighted to think that Father Steven would be my accompanist. He was known as the best organist in town. As yet I hadn't had the privilege of working with him.
When I arrived at the church, I entered the vestibule and found Father Steven pacing the floor reading his office. He greeted me warmly and ushered me over to the door to the choir loft. He opened the door and motioned for me to go up ahead of him.
One look at the steps sent my mind soaring. They were the highest, steepest stairs I had ever seen. I attempted to raise my right foot up to the first step, but I could barely get one toe up there with that constricting girdle.
Now I must tell you when I explained this story to my children, they said 'Gee, Mom, why didn't you just tell the man you had on a tight girdle and go into the restroom to remove it?'
"You can't be serious," I wailed. "Tell a priest about my girdle! Much less that I was about to remove it! I would have seen the fires of hell licking at my feet." No. I was a good Christian girl. I could handle this situation.
So, once more I stretched for that first step. Then I grabbed the railing on the right side and laboriously flung myself up onto the high stair. I repeated the challenge with my left foot. I continued the process until I reached the top of the stairs exhausted and dripping with perspiration.
Then I turned to see where Father Steven was. The man was plastered against the door at the bottom of the stairs with an incredulous expression on his face. 'Are you alright, Miss Holm?" he asked.
"Just fine, Father," I panted, running my fingers through my dripping hair.
I was sure he was thinking, 'they didn't tell me she was handicapped.'
He rushed up the steps and went to warm up the organ. I staggered after him trying to catch my breath. I could hardly keep my mind on the Ave Maria as we rehearsed. All I could think was how I was going to get back down those stairs. I finally decided if there was a problem, I would just sit on the top step and slide. Thank, God,there was no problem going down.
Father ushered me out to my car. I glanced at him as I drove away. He was standing at the curb, arms akimbo shaking his head.
Of course, I didn't wear the girdle the next day at the wedding. I chose a gathered skirt and summer blouse. When Father saw me dash up those choir loft stairs he grinned from ear to ear. No doubt he made a nine hour novena for me the night before and thought he witnessed a miracle.
I never had another chance to sing with Father Steven's accompaniment as I was off to college in the fall. When I told my dorm mates my tale of woe, they agreed I had handled it with great aplomb.