Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Cooking or Baking (01/04/07)
TITLE: The Popcorn Lady
By Marlene Bonney
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It was fast approaching autumn, and we would have to return to school the following week. Throughout our summer, going to see the Popcorn Lady was a special treat my brothers and I pleaded for often.
Our father turned at the next stop sign and changed directions, so we knew he was going to grant our request. We excitedly squirmed in delight as we imagined sweet, buttery, hot popcorn tantalizing our taste buds. Two blocks later, we joined a small line of other vehicles parked at the side of our town’s main road, each waiting for its turn to drive up to the window ledge of the colorful old popcorn stand-wagon.
I asked my dad what he knew about the little old white-haired lady with the paper triangle hat perched on her head and he told me she was a widow who took on the business when her husband died to make ends meet. And, instinctively, I knew this was partly the reason we frequented her cart so often. I wondered if her legs got tired like my Grandma’s did on laundry day--she looked frail and weak as she scooped her wares into white lunch sacks, and that saddened me. Daddy let me hand the lady our coins for our three bags of steaming popcorn and our mouths watered as the heavenly smell swept through the car and we carefully savored each bite of the white fluffy kernels that were heavily salted and tinged with real melted butter. It was so delicious that we didn’t even mind being thirsty afterwards!
Unlike other times when other carloads of families were behind us, we were able to stay and watch The Popcorn Lady. She deftly twisted knobs and handles and reached for the large salt shaker each time a layer of popcorn dropped down, occasionally adding practiced amounts of the hot melted butter at precise moments. Every so often, a splash of butter would drip down the side of the pan onto her stained apron and I could see this upset her, for each drop that escaped was a wasteful one. I liked it that she smiled at us real friendly-like, even though I could tell she was hot and worried about making enough money. I wondered if she liked it when we smiled back with our mouths full of what she had made, showing plainly how we enjoyed it, or if she was just hoping to be done with her labors and didn’t really notice.
And as I continued to watch her in deep thought, an idea occurred to me. I whispered this to my father, and his eyes misted over like they did sometimes when he would watch me perform in a church program or school play as he slowly nodded his head in agreement. He pulled our car over into an adjoining lot and took me by the hand as we walked over to the quaint little stand.
“My daughter wonders if you would like some help,” he began, and then told her about my request.
The Popcorn Lady looked touched and relieved and apprehensive all at the same time, but agreed on arrangements that would involve my assistance for the three hours remaining of daylight. My younger brothers waved gaily to me as Daddy drove them back home.
It immediately got busy again at the concession window, and I felt very important and grown-up as I took customer’s change and handed The Popcorn Lady her salt shaker and kept the napkins in a neat stack on the ledge. We didn’t have much free time to chat, but she told me she didn’t have any grandchildren and how thankful she was for my help. I was popcorn-filled and gladly tired when my dad picked me up later on, and the popcorn lady gave me a tentative hug as we said good-by.
It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that my father had come back to watch over me from a distance as I worked at this first-ever job, making sure of my safety.
Isn’t it comforting to know that this is how our heavenly Father’s watches over us--from a distance--and yet we’re always under His care.
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