ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: It's spiffy
© Another Day in the Country
I’m not sure the word “spiffy” is commonly used any longer in the lexicon of communication.
So much interaction has been overtaken by new words like “cool” and “rad,” and “dope” (that I don’t even understand) which supposedly denote complimentary approval.
“Spiffy” seems to be a word that went out of fashion along with my mother’s generation — who are now mostly gone. That said, my mother had several “spiffy” sisters who she admired.
Anna is the first of her sisters who comes to mind. My mother always thought that this particular older sister was the prettiest of the Schubert girls, although they all were a pretty good looking bunch.
Fondly, I remember Aunt Anna stopping by our house in Ramona when she was deep into her 80s, all dressed up, make-up on, hair done carefully, on her way to some gathering of Lutheran ladies. She was usually dropping off a loaf of her homemade bread.
Everything about her looked “spiffy.” Her maroon car was polished to a high shine — as were her shoes. Her dress stylish, and her jewelry tasteful. If she were on her way to church, she most often wore a hat — even in an era when hats were out of style.
One time, my sister and I were out at her house and for some reason — probably at our prompting — she was showing us her hat collection.
“Try them on for us, Aunt Anna,” we coaxed, and she complied. I brought out my camera and started taking pictures of her reflection in the mirror.
My favorite photo is one of her regarding herself, while she finds the proper tilt of the hat. As she concentrated, the tip of her tongue was visible touching her top lip as she scrutinized the hat — such a familiar look, my mother would do that same thing. That unconscious movement, tip of tongue on top lip, meant that attention to detail was in progress. The outcome? “Spiffy.”
“Spiffy” connotes some extra care given, to how a person looks.
Aunt Gertie would often stop by on her way home from the “beauty parlor,” after getting her hair done on Friday. She was also in her 80s. She always looked “spiffy” then, and she knew it. She’d be dressed for the occasion, usually have her red earrings on.
Those earrings were an inexpensive but “spiffy” piece of jewelry in and of themselves and came to represent her undying attempt at looking her best no matter her age.
“Spiffy” didn’t have a price tag attached to it. You could look “spiffy” on a low budget. My preacher father had always looked “spiffy,” according to my mother, even in high school. That quality was what drew her to him in this farming community. His hair was always carefully combed, his nails groomed, and his shoes shined, even in poverty.
While the word “spiffy” has faded from our conversation, the look still exists. I have friends with that “spiffy” flair, and I see it continuing through the generations in my relatives.
It would be safe to say my sister enjoyed going back to work in an office partly for the chance to get dressed up and look “spiffy.”
I believe my cowboy cousin, in his retirement, manages to look “spiffy” whether he’s on a horse or in the hardware store.
I think it has something to do with the particular cowboy hat he wears and the cut of shirts he favors. Gary told me that he had an old team roper friend who used to say, ‘If you look good, you’ll feel good, and you’ll rope good!”
Another family cowboy, LeeRoy could have worked all day, be tired and dirty, but still carried that certain flair, a certain style of boot or jaunty scarf that says “spiffy” even though he may not be aware of it or even know the word.
His little boy has a taste, too, for that unique something or other that I’m labeling “spiffy.”
He will purposefully change his clothes, get dressed up, when Jess and I are coming over to play games in the evening with the family. Often he’ll choose a shirt with a tie clipped on or it could be some new outfit he’s received. He’s dressed to impress!
And, we can tell he’s been watching for us to arrive. He’ll meet us at the door, open it wide, hold it against the prairie wind, and welcome us! Come to think of it, holding the door for someone is a “spiffy” gesture in and of itself that is also fading in our culture.
Looking “spiffy” stands out! It’s a great trait. I’m thinking it’s taught and that our kids deserve to learn it from their elders. But then again maybe it’s caught! “Spiffy” may be an attitude. For sure, I don’t want to see it fade away — like the word — on another day in the country.
Last modified Oct. 10, 2019