While in Jacksonville, Florida, I met Mother Darain Brown. She was in Publix Supermarket, a shop the Floridians compare to New York’s Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.
She was standing behind me and when I backed up, I bumped into her.
Oh, sorry! I mumbled my apology.
I could not stop looking at this stunning lady.
She smiled and turned down the aisle.
When Mother Burks finished looking for her items, I told her I wanted to find the pretty lady we had ran into a few minutes earlier. Mother Burks knew just who I was talking about.
When I approached her, I asked her if I could photograph her and she automatically stroke a pose.
I’m 96 years old and my name is Mother Darain Brown. I am a mother at church.
You look so beautiful!
And guess what? I still wear stilettos!
Mother Burks and I were astonished…and I think I’m still astonished.
When I was a little girl, the ushers would walk up and down the aisles looking for people sneaking candy in church. If caught in the act, children would be forced to spit it out immediately. That’s when and where learned how to eat discretely. Not in class. In church.
I remember, all children would enter the sanctuary with mini brown paper bags filled with peppermints, Choward’s Violet Mints, mini gummy hamburgers, mini gummy pizzas, war heads, tootsie rolls (only chocolate), sour gum, winter-fresh, and the list goes on. The girls would hide the bags in their purse and the boys would place it in their suit jackets.
In those days, you only needed a dollar or two to fill a brown paper bag. Offering money went to the man at the store across the street (we never said corner store because it wasn’t on a corner and we had to stress that it was across the street because only certain children were allowed to cross the street). If you were like my friend Angela who could not go across the street, then you went to Mother Woods who was the alternative. She ran her own candy store inside the temple. Which was where you got more for your money. She supplied everyone with candy for Sunday night service.
We ate so much candy, rules were created. Gum chewing was the greatest sin. Teens would chew gum and place it under the pew. Then, children would scratch the chewed gum off and place it in their mouths. If caught in this act, you were made into a laughing sport and everyone crossed their fingers and whispered cooties. This only lead to someone being escorted out of the service to be spanked.
There were also ways to pop candy into your mouth- act like you are coughing and then put the candy into your hand and place it in your mouth or bend down like the adults would do. And the instructions to how to eat a huge peppermint ball some still follow now. Find someone with strong teeth (those days my strong person was Patrick ) and ask him to bite the mint. This rule was created because of kids choking on hard candies.
Finally, the demographics of the church changed and the new temple was built and just that fast, the store across the street went out of business.
I remember my last talk with the man across the street. I was now a teen and could go across the street anytime. He said to me, after your pastor died, not many people come anymore. Why?
I don’t remember my answer. But I remember a feeling of sadness being washed over me as I walked back into the temple.
A couple of years I stopped eating candy. This doesn’t stop people from offering or asking me for candy. Every Sunday after church, my purse has five more soft peppermints; which I save until Sunday night broadcast, for choir members who ask for candy.
We drove past a sign that said Blackberry farm.
We backed up and made a U turn and drove down the road.
We expected to see blackberry bushes but my Aunt said the berries were in the fridge, which indeed it was.
There was a metal box attached to the side wall that asked the buyer to pay 5 dollars. We didn’t see any cameras making sure people paid but we suspected there were. We paid our money and left.
The next night, we made blackberry dumping and ate it with butter pecan ice cream.