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Mysteries and Memories Blog

Before the Dance (a short story)

*An excerpt from an historical fiction work in progress ("WIP")

The boy from her high school inhaled the heady pine of his aftershave as he paused on the front porch to calm himself before ringing the bell. He arrived right on time smartly dressed in a navy blue suit; a crisply pressed, sparkling white dress shirt; and a new, silk, blue striped necktie and highly polished black wing-tipped shoes. He nervously held a cellophane windowed box containing a wrist corsage of spicy smelling white carnations tipped in pink and tied with light green and pink satin ribbons.

Betty anxiously waited at the top of the stairs smelling of gardenias and looking down at her white satin, kitten-heeled pumps. She wore a Christian Dior style formal party dress, that she finished sewing earlier in the day, of the palest pink chiffon over a darker pink satin lining with a meadow of embroidered pink flowers and light green leaves dancing along the hem and waist.

Betty silently hoped that her Papa would be the first to reach the door. She loved Mama but was constantly embarrassed by her. If Mama wore her usual outfit of stained house coat, torn hose and tattered house slippers she would be mortified. She understood Mama had what they call "difficulties", but it was hard for her to share Mama with others.

Mama had grown up on a farm in rural northwestern Ohio. The only child out of three to have survived past the age of two. Both her sister and brother died before she was born. Her sister died from Pneumonia. Her brother died 10 days after his birth from some then unknown reason called crib death. Most likely it was what they now call sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Mama's parents are both descendants of a long line of Mennonites. Grampa and Gramma had been serious, sober parents who maybe on account of losing children early on were overly protective at every age of her growth, yet also emotionally distant.

Just like many young farm girls of her time, Mama learned to sew, cook, clean, garden, keep chickens, preserve food, butcher pigs, throw hay and muck stalls. She was expected to keep up with her piano lessons and school work, too. This was where Mama excelled. Considered "unusually" bright (apparently young ladies were not expected to be bright back then!), she studied and did well in calculus, Latin and chemistry. Mama also loved sketching and designing all the new styles in fashion for herself, and her female cousins and friends. Mama created original new dresses or blouses as gifts that were well received. Betty could not understand what had happened to change Mama so much.


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