The Sweetest Moments

A lady walked into the bookstore the other day, cane in hand, adult daughter at her side, and announced, “My name is ‘Mary Elizabeth Mullins’ and I have $190 in credit.”

Jack hauled out our big blue ledger and thumbed through ‘M’. “Indeed you do, Ms. Mullins. Would you like a box for your selections?”

She smiled a regal smile. “Yes, please. And point me to your Christian fiction.”

Ms. Mullins picked out the life-among-the-Amish novels she wanted, chatting all the while with Jack. A retired teacher born, schooled, married and widowed in Big Stone Gap, she’d recently celebrated her 90th birthday, and was moving in with her daughter’s family. The family home had been sold, the wagon packed. The only task Ms. Mullins had left was to blow her rather hefty, three-year-old credit with us. Then they were getting into the car and driving  straight to Michigan.

“I saved this for last. I knew I had credit,” she said, “but I wanted to wait until we were actually leaving. I knew I’d want some reading to get me settled in, take my mind off the old home place, not drown in memories.” Her voice was firm and brisk as they selected titles, but her daughter glanced over at the “drown in memories” line, and a look of affection passed between them.

“No,” Mother Mullins continued, “no point in ruing what can’t be helped. Besides–” she rolled her eyes toward the woman at her side. “My daughter’s a lot of fun.”

The younger woman snorted. “By the look of this haul, Mom, you won’t come out of your room for the first month. Just don’t expect breakfast in bed.”

Mom patted her on the shoulder. “Only the first week.”

An hour and two boxes later, our entire collection of Amish romances, along with several other literary selections, were headed out the door. Jack and the daughter had their arms full, so Ms. Mullins with her four-point cane stared at the porch steps a moment, then raised her voice to the pest control men working in the bookstore yard.

“Excuse me, could one of you young men assist me?”

Immediately a flurry of activity ensued; one gave her his arm, one waited at the bottom of the steps, and the third ran for the car door. Ms. Mullins was soon enthroned in the passenger seat, the books shoehorned between sacks and suitcases in the back.

As Jack prepared to close the door, Ms. Mullins reached out and grabbed his hand. Tears brimmed in her eyes.

“I won’t forget you, or this place,” she said, voice shaking.

Jack bent his head and kissed her hand. “Nor will any of us forget you, madam.”

She looked forward and dropped his hand. “Now close the door.”

And away they drove.

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6 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, small town USA

6 responses to “The Sweetest Moments

  1. A little teary-eyed. I hope that I have her emotional strength when I am her age. I hope I reach her age.

  2. awesome blog to read…I enjoyed reading. Keep posting.

  3. I’d say she will be around a lot longer if`she moves around as much as she reads! Brings tears to my eyes as I remember my spunky Mother until she was past 96!

  4. Jennifer Mullins

    After a weekend of hearing some pretty awful things about what our fellow human beings are capable of, it’s nice to be reminded that goodness
    and generosity of spirit still abound.

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