Mother always said she and Mae Morton could walk all the way to church and back and not say a word. They were perfectly content in their silence.
Mae was our next door neighbor whom Mother had invited to church one Sunday, and bless Pat, if the whole family hadn’t started attending. Eventually, they all got saved in the finest New Testament tradition. Chalk up several more to my mother’s heavenly recruiting account.
Mae was a trifle younger than Mother and could drive. That alone qualified her as Mother’s best friend because Mother liked to go, go, go. The time came when Mae’s car gave out and they walked everywhere, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Early one Saturday morning the phone rang and Mother heard Mae ask breathlessly, “Alma, how soon can you be ready to drive down to Athens? They’re selling apples for fifty cents a bushel.”
“Oh, my word! The last time I bought some Cortland or MacIntosh apples, they were $7.50 a bushel.”
‘Bring all the baskets and boxes you have over to my car. The apple truck will be at the corner of Spruce and Elmira Streets at 9:00 this morning. We’ll have to hurry.”
Mother raced to the cellar and gathered up several empty bushel baskets, along with four liquor boxes. She kept the liquor boxes on hand, she would explain, because they were sturdier than regular boxes. And don’t go teasing my Baptist, King-James-only, teetotaler, once-saved-always-saved, no-movies, no-dancing, no-smoking, no-card-playing, no-lipstick, no-earrings Mother about having liquor boxes in her cellar.
I never could figure out why Mother couldn’t wear earrings but could wear a gold watch. It took her years just to agree to a haircut. She’d started reading a book about Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers and slowly realized she'd been “majoring on the minors.”
Daddy said that Mother was so turned off by the book that she had her hair cut, got a lovely permanent and even attended some services to hear May Decker, a lively Irish woman preacher who could shout and pound the pulpit with the best of them.
But I digress.
On this particular Saturday morning, Mother and Mae loaded the car with an assortment of boxes and baskets and high-tailed it to the corner of Spruce and Elmira Streets.
To their astonishment, there was no truck, no crowd, and no apples! Mother glanced at at her watch: 9:16.
“Mae, are you sure this is the right address?”
“Yes, I’m sure. I read it in the newspaper again just before we left. I can’t understand where everyone is.”
“We might as well stay since we’re here. Someone is bound to show up. I wish you’d brought the paper.”
“I was busy looking for boxes, Alma. I didn’t want us to be late.”
“Piffle. You still could have brought the paper.”
Mother walked halfway down the block, looking for anyone who might know about the apple sale. Making her way back, she muttered, “Any other time men would be out mowing their lawns but when you need them like today, they’re nowhere to be found.”
Mae and Mother sat in the front seat of the car in silence, inspecting every vehicle that passed. Nothing even resembling a truck full of apples appeared on the highway.
“Mae, it’s almost eleven o’clock. There’s no point in waiting any longer. Let’s go home and check the newspaper and make sure we have the right address.”
They rode home in stony silence. Mae pulled into her driveway, eager to show Mrs. Know-it-all the newspaper clipping about apples being sold for 50 cents a bushel. She was wishing her friend wouldn’t be so aggravating when she was just trying to be helpful.
Marching with the folded newspaper back to the car, Mae thrust it at Alma and said impatiently, “You’re so smart, you read it out loud, ok? It’s on page 3 at the very bottom.”
Mother began to read aloud. “This morning at 9:00 o’clock, Jim Burney’s Orchard will be selling Northern Spy and Cortland apples at the corner of Spruce and Elmira Streets in Athens for fifty cents a bushel. Please bring your own containers. These apples are freshly-picked, grade A.”
“See? See, Alma? What did I tell you? It’s there in black and white! You could at least apologize!”
Mother bit her lip to keep from laughing aloud. “For heaven’s sake, Mae, will you look at the title of this article? ‘FIFTY YEARS AGO TODAY.’ ”
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