Mrs. Halleen Was Wearing Earrings!

by Graig Nordstrom

It's now more than fifty years ago.
It was perhaps 1938,
And I, a wide-eyed lad of five,
The drag-along kid with a mother
Attending a conference of some kind.
Of the event I retain only one memory:
Lucky, at the right time, right place, we heard,
"Doctor and Mrs. Halleen are arriving!"
And there we were, swept into a swelling crowd
To welcome the most important person I'd ever seen:
The President!
President of the Swedish Evangelical Free Church of America
(So it was called then.)
He was appropriately dignified and gracious
As he shook the hands of those nearby.
His close-cropped mustache spread wider
As he smiled and spoke greetings.
Though I cannot verify these ancient recollections,
Mrs. Halleen stood at his elbow, short and round,
But standing out
As elegant amidst this depression-ridden delegation.
Her coat was dark and long,
And a sophisticated-looking hat balanced atop
An arrangement of long, gray, up-swept hair,
And, flanking a courteous smile, earrings.
That's right:
At the center of each lobe,
A small red stone set in fine yellow gold.
I took it all in
Before pulling on Mother's arm
Who bent down while I, on tip toe, whispered
"Mrs. Halleen is wearing earrings!"
I was swiftly silenced.
And to my surprise, as quickly,
Mother recovered and resumed her attentive, ingratiating smile.
But I had scored.
I had seen it in her eyes.
(In our rural church and home,
Even to my five-year-old mind,
It had been made perfectly clear.
Christian women did nor wear earrings!)
Here was the wife of the revered Doctor E. A. Halleen,
First lady of the Free Church,
With her apostasy brazenly exposed!
And! My ever-conscientious mother
Stood there, smiling!
Inexplicable? Quite!
Incomprehensible? Then, most certainly!
Inconsequential? Hardly.
Mrs. Halleen, O that I might thank you!
So early you opened my eyes.
So unwittingly you gave pietism a new perspective.
Would you understand, I wonder,
How never again would I see
Church prohibitions, inhibitions,
Or absolutes
Apart from that glint of
Reflected in those tiny gold and ruby earrings?