When I was a plain, ten-year-old girl, I wanted to looked like Mary. My big brown eyes turned green with envy when Mary Martin and her sister Evelyn walked through the door at Grandma Fannie’s house for holiday dinners. Both were elegantly turned out, resplendent in clothes I could only imagine wearing.
I describe these longings in my memoir Mennonite Daughter:
This Easter, two years later, I watched intently for the entrance of two of my dad’s cousins, Mary and her sister Evelyn, nicknamed “Honey,” both decked out in fancy frocks, not like the plain duds I had been wearing since my baptism at Bossler’s Mennonite Church at age ten. They wore elegance: swooshy taffeta, rayon, or silk.
Mary walked in first with a chic outfit and open-toed shoes to match. Peacock-blue silk crisscrossed her chest, revealing a sweetheart neckline. I guessed she must be wearing a poufy petticoat under her swirly skirt, in contrast to her sister’s green one, which hugged her legs skin-tight. I was learning to sew now, but I couldn’t imagine finding dress patterns from Simplicity or McCall’s that looked like these, ones that could have come from Vogue. Grandma’s niece Mary, a member of the Assembly of God Church, had license to be stylish.
As they paraded through the front door, a picture of myself dressed up like that flickered in my imagination. I could never wear such bright colors, but I could compensate another way. I could create something beautiful. For now, I would content myself with stitching a design on a pillow top for my bed: a dazzling peacock fashioned from glossy strands of violet, scarlet, and ochre, already emerging from my embroidery hoops at home.
Excerpt From Marian Longenecker Beaman’s, Mennonite Daughter
Mary Martin married Howard Landis (senior) in her late teens. She loved her Aunt Fannie Longenecker and cousin Ruth, and she and Howard visited their house on Anchor Road often. This is how I picture them in those days.
I had the rare privilege of dropping in on Mary Landis, cousin Howard’s mother, when we visited Springfield, Missouri in July. She lives now in Maranatha Village, where visitors get to converse with residents outdoors under a canopy.
Of course, I didn’t expect Mary to recognize me, but I was ecstatic when I opened my memoir to the full-page photo of my Grandma. “Ah, that’s Aunt Fannie!” she exclaimed with a broad smile. She stared lovingly at the picture.
We talked about Grandma for a while and then I began to read a few paragraphs from the memoir chapter titled “Easter and Politics,” where her and her sister’s outfits are described in the excerpt above.
Before we left, Mary grinned when she showed me her pretty nails, painted pink.
Some time ago, Mary enjoyed lunch with son Howard and Faythe and his sister Sandi (Landis) Bongiorno, whom I met just before we left Missouri for Florida.
If you missed last week’s post, you can find it here: Trip to Missouri.
Have you re-discovered friends or relatives you knew in earlier days?
How have you found them–the Internet? visit to your hometown?