My Sister's Big Fat Pearls
There was five of us girls growing up together as siblings. I was the youngest. That means I wore a lot of hand-me-downs. I watched them paint their fingernails and put on rouge and lipstick and go out on dates. I also hid behind the dresser and heard some grown up girl talk, and later they would wonder how I knew so much about life.
Each one of us had our own personality. Nettie Frances Geneva, my oldest sister was bossy and was in charge. Carmye Evelyn was a dude. We called her that. Even though she was a little on the plump side we thought she was cool. The name 'Dude' stuck. She was the primpiest person you could ever meet. Her makeup was always perfect. Her shoes matched her purse. Wouldn’t go anywhere without her little pillbox hat with a matching veil. Her gloves smelled of lilac, and she topped all that off with one of her many strands of pearls. Bernice Lee and Benthol Emma were so close in age they were like twins. Fiesty fighting girls, cute as bugs. Then there’s me, Laura Ann. Notice I’m the only one with a modern name. Seems it was a tradition for big families to give their children 2 or 3 names back then. Mostly Bible names or kin folk from generations back, and I’m thinking that’s why every one of them had nick names, but me.
Sunday Morning Church
Sunday morning was church day. We packed into a Ford car with crank windows and headed through our quaint small town to a Baptist church. It was a pictuesque little church on a hillside with a cross as a steeple. Inside was a single isle with long pews on either side. The floor was a beautiful dark hardwood with wide slats that slightly angled down to a pulpit built on a small ledge. Dude was always the first one out of the car because she sat on the outside so as not to be in the middle and get a wrinkle in her dress. While we were piling out she checked herself in the car window, straightening her pearls, and the seam in her silk hose. I remember she wore her 5 string necklace that day. I’ll have to say her southern charm and social grace was something to behold. She stuck her hand out first to shake the hand of Reverend Anderson. On down the isle she went, smiling and waving to both sides, while Bernice, Benthol and me just politely straggled behind .
Big Fat Pearls
The service began with a prayer and we all stood as we sang When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder. After a round of throat clearing, Mrs. Frances Ward sang a solo while the offering plate was being passed around. She had one of those trained voices with a slow vibrato, and listening to three verses of In The Garden, struck everyone solemn and ready for the message of the day. About 10 minutes into the sermon, Dude reached up to straighten up her pearls. That’s when things went bad.
The bottom string broke. Several beads hit the wooden floor and toppled the long incline, gaining speed before settling at the foot of the pulpit. First one, then another and another. Bernice and Benthol were holding in their hysteria, shaking the pew with their muffled laughter. I looked around them to see Dude cupping both hands on her breast trying to keep the beads inside her dress. Beads were inside the crease of her breast and inside her dress. A bead would escape and she would try to catch it to keep it from hitting the floor and that caused others to fall. What a sight! Her face was red as a beet, her eyes agitated, embarrassed and holding both breast in her hands in a Baptist Church. She sat perfectly still in that position until the first song at the end of the service, and she headed for the back door, a few beads falling, but the music helped to muffle the strays.
When the service was over, she was already in the car. A few parishioners came running out to the car, “Oh Miss Dude! Here! We picked up some of your pearls.” She said thank you, and dropped them in her purse. I thought for sure after that, she would surely be done with those big fat pearls. But you know, she just had them restrung with stronger thread. However, I did notice that she didn't pull at them anymore.