My mother Louise is in the middle of the back seat. Mom is brown and medium height for a woman of her time. Today she would be considered shortish, or maybe the years have taken away a little of her height. Ms. Jean is fair-skinned and legitimately short for any age. Ms. Jean rides shotgun next to Ms. Betty up front. Ms. Betty, the driver, is tall and her skin is a deep shade of mahogany. Mom sits in the middle of Ms. Jean and Ms. Betty in church. Mama Louise is holding on to as much of her original black tresses as possible without coloring the encroaching white and gray hairs that reproduce weekly. Ms. Jean has a very short mane of well-coiffed white and grey hair. Ms. Betty doesn’t show any signs of aging as her perfectly permed long black hair doesn’t seem to want to change color any time soon. I am a son to all of them in some sort of weird, indirect way.
Three friends who met in a neighborhood church in their later years. They sat together. Ms. Betty drove my mother Louise and Ms. Jean to countless church functions as neither Mama Louise nor Ms. Jean ever drove a car. Bear in mind that my mother Louise worked at the Division of Motor Vehicles for nearly 40 years. Mom has processed a mountain of paperwork for the state but never felt it necessary to learn how to drive. I drive Mom to church on Sundays. Sometimes tempted to go into the sanctuary myself, but never tempted enough to get dressed for it and sit for a few hours when I can tune in gospel music on the internet and read the Bible at home. Ms. Betty drives Mom home and Ms. Jean drives shotgun at all times. I am a son to all of them in some sort of indirect way.
If Ms. Betty was the greeter at the door to the sanctuary for Sunday service and Mom was running late, diminutive Ms. Jean would save their seats on either side of her. A pew in the middle of the sanctuary on the left hand side. Ms. Jean secured the seats, Mama Louise supplied the mints and butterscotch treats during the sermon, Ms. Betty supplied the transportation home. I am a son to all of them in a way.
Two is better than one, and in this case three were better than two. “Who’s making the mac n’ cheese? Ms. Louise. Who’s making the fried chicken? Ms. Jean. Who’s making the potato salad? Ms. Betty.” The other two who were not making a particular dish would respond in unison that the third was responsible for the mac, the fried chicken or the potato salad. With that trio, you have filled up the basement of the church where they worship with some glorious vittles. Not one of the triumvirate could ever and would never divulge what their secret ingredients were. I am a son to all of them.
And I would get the leftovers. After a fellowship meeting. After the repast following a funeral. After a picnic where too many invited guests didn’t show up or didn’t eat enough, there were always leftovers. Specifically for me. “What, Ms. Louise, your son don’t like my potato salad no more? You mean to tell me he’s not going to taste my fried chicken today? You better take your boy home a couple of plates from here. Yeah, I know he can cook and eats a lot of healthy stuff, but put this in front of him and maybe he’ll fatten up a little, Ms. Louise.”
Louise, Jean and Betty. Walking in with their purple robes for a special church function. Sitting together through countless meetings, dinners and fundraisers for the church. Riding home together after visiting a faraway church. After service, saying long goodbyes to each other in the hope that they would all wake up tomorrow and call each other and talk about all of their yesterdays. The power of friendship and faith has not been lost on this son. I am a son of Louise, Jean and Betty.
During the completion of this writing, Ms. Jean passed away suddenly on October 22nd, 2014. My mother Louise, Ms. Betty and I (although not as close to Ms. Jean as these two ladies) along with the congregation of St. Phillips Baptist Church will miss Ms. Jean quite a bit.