Been thinking about Mom this week. Hard to believe she’s been gone since 2004. Where did those 16 years go? She died when she was 77, following her third bout with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Ugh. Awful. My sister Mona died two years ago when she was 75. As I zip towards my milestone birthday of 70, I ponder my own longevity because the numbers are not encouraging for the females of my family. Looks like 76 might be a done deal for me. Dad made it to 91. Can’t factor Larry in this equation because he was killed when he was 12. Hmmm.
So my complicated mom. She was a loner, but friendly. Kept her problems (and grief) to herself. Had a difficult time letting acquaintances become something more in her life. Her inner circle was the same size as mine apparently. Minuscule. She was overly kind and compassionate to the elderly, they were her people. She doted on them her entire life. Mom’s mom died before she and her twin brother were 2 weeks old. Perhaps being raised by two sets of grandparents set the tone in her life at an early age.
I remember this particular Sunday as though it were yesterday. I’m snuggled up on Mom’s right at Calvin Christian Reformed Church for morning services in the mid-1950’s. We kind of had our own ‘pew’ area. Looking from the Narthex, on the left side, a few rows from the back. After we left Calvin and joined rival First Reformed in 1961, (insisted by me, an 11 year old brat) Mom and Dad chose the same general vicinity they would call their pew home for the next 50 years.
Mom (gloves included), Mona, Ed & Dad, Calvin Christian Reformed, 1960
Why do people gravitate towards a certain area in the sanctuary week after week, year after year? Something familiar that is a comfort to them? The same folks sitting nearby? I think my parent’s decision to always sit in the same area was based on Dad finding us amongst that big congregation. He was voted as an elder multiple times and the Consistory met for a few minutes before the morning service. By then, Mom and I had been seated for several (long, very long) minutes. If we were always within a row or 2, with Mom posted in the aisle seat, (waiting to move over when the elder arrived) Dad could easily spot us. Here we lived 3 blocks from church yet Dad insisted we arrive before 9 am when church didn’t start for another 30 minutes. Even back then, I understood their reasoning, but wasn’t crazy about sitting quietly for an extra half hour.
Mom rarely carried a purse but had her own version of toting essential items to church. Dad kept our weekly monetary gift in our family’s numbered church envelope, secure in the inside pocket of his suit coat. He would often hand me some loose coins before the deacons got to our row to add to the collection plate. The rules for this were explained beforehand. “Don’t you dare throw the change in and make a lot of noise.”
Mom’s wearing a pretty dress, modest length below the knee, nylons with a dark seam down the middle of the back of her leg. (girdle too, what a struggle on Sundays, although it was pretty funny to watch her gyrate around their bedroom, trying to tug it on. I think it was made of flubber. Vowed at a very young age never to put myself through that miserable ordeal-even for God. I would soon become less than enthralled with skirts/dresses/nylons/garter belt/heels in general). Then Mom would add clip on earrings, maybe a necklace and high heels, pulling the whole ensemble together. Making her even/steven or a titch taller than 6 foot Dad.
She would have shopped for the dress in Sioux Falls, (probably Shriver’s) hoping (praying fervently) no one else in the congregation had picked out the same lovely frock because that would definitely put a damper on the service. She never wanted to see the same outfit she bought (or wearing at the time) on someone else, especially someone she knew and attending the same service. If that happened, she would be less inclined to ever wear that particular dress to church again. I never thought of Mom as remotely vain though she might have been about her Sunday wardrobe.
If it wasn’t hellfire hot she’d be wearing a pair of short gloves, perhaps a hat, but on this day in my memory bank it was stifling in church. Benout. Dutch word for hot, humid, airless. She was holding 2 items in her hand. One was a freshly laundered, crisply ironed, sparkling white handkerchief which was beautifully bordered with colorful tatting. One corner of the hankie bulged out with a large, loose knot securing a couple of pink peppermints inside. Not the white ones, they were too strong and minty. The pink ones were perfect. They were not shared nilly-willy with her youngest child just yet. The peppermints were doled out as a distraction during the lengthy sermon/scripture/prayer part of the church service. And I was forewarned before getting out of the car to suck on the peppermint, not to bite it, disintegrating it in less than 30 seconds.
I was fascinated with the object in her lap at the moment, since the peppermints were off my snack list for the time being. In her hand rested a lavender patterned metal object about the length of a teaspoon and not very wide. There was a seam down the middle. Although both ends were closed, one end was clasped together and could be separated. When unhinged and spread apart a thin pleated accordion type colorful paper appeared, making the perfect Sunday-go-to-meetin’ fan. To aid in drying up any perspiration that might appear on Mom’s scorching forehead, rendering it shiny from her face powder, which had melted away in the heat. Although she wouldn’t let me play with the fan, (I would have wrecked it in a New York minute. What fun) there was an added bonus. When the heat became unbearable, (usually just before the long prayer) she’d open up her magical fan as unobtrusively as humanly possible and start waving her right hand, causing quite a stir. Like manna from heaven the air surrounding Mom and her unruly child would instantly drop a couple degrees. Actually caused a sigh of relief.
I’m constantly amazed at the obscure memories that niggle their way in when I’m thinking of Mom. Something I hadn’t thought about in ages. Our first church. Mom wearing fancy dresses that she prayed were not duplicated. Dad with the collection envelope in his jacket pocket. A precious, purple magical fan that cooled us on a sweltering hot Sunday morning. Extremely long prayers which meant sucking (not chewing) pink peppermints…
5 thoughts on “Pink Peppermints…”
I remember ladies having those fans. The low-tech ones didn’t fold; they were just a piece of laminated cardboard with a handle. And I remember those long-winded prayers quoting the scripture to God, as if He needed reminded. Some of my unruly cousins and I called it “preaching God a sermon”. We got really fidgety and fanned ourselves with the hymnbook covers. Wow, I’m glad we don’t have to go back to those “good ol’ days”.
You have such vivid memories! You are 10 years older than me, but still brings back memories but I must say not sure I’d remember such details. My mom and dad passed in 2003. Miss them, definitely. But they are together and were inseparable. Thanks for sharing. Great read!! ❤️
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Haha Diana, you’re just a baby!! While many of my memories remain crystal clear, I’m often at a loss why I walked into the pantry. Sometimes it might be hours before it hits me “ah, a roll of paper towels.”
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Well, you were married the year I was born, so that firmly plants me in the “youngster “ category for you. However, my dad was the next to youngest of 9, so several of my cousins were quite a bit older than me. We split my growing up years between the air conditioned former theatre First Christian church and my uncle’s Friends church at Homestead. As in Kansas Flint Hills. The basement was cooler, but the upstairs wasn’t air conditioned until the late 70’s. Sweaty hands in the prayer circles on Sunday evenings, wiggly younger cousins (this was my mom’s side) being whisked outside at the first peep, and my cousin who was two years older than me and I giggling during youth meetings. No pink peppermints for us; we had sugar free Certs mints. (Mom always watched her sugar intake, and I had braces, retainers, and bridgework which made anything sugary anathema.) I am pretty sure the memories my girls have of church are not nearly as sentimental.
Loved this piece!
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Hey Shauna, that makes you about the same age as our daughter, so while some church antics were different, yours sound familiar. My folks didn’t join a church until I was almost 3 so I can’t ever remember being “taken out of church,” but there was a “cry room,” for babies and toddlers with a large window so mom’s with unruly ones could still see the the minister and I believe the sound system allowed the sermon to be heard in there. I don’t think sugar free candies were around when I needed them in church, it was pink peppermints or Anise candy which were individually wrapped in noisy red cellophane which was discouraged by mom and dad during church. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I really appreciate it…dvb