I grew up with a very funny, liberal, southern mother… in the Midwest. Manhattan, Kansas did not know what hit it when Margaret Ann moved to town in 1977. Daddy settled in quickly to the geology department at KSU. Mama? After a rather frosty reception by a local, she decided to host a tea to meet the ladies of the ‘hood. Folks quickly fell for her southern accent/hospitality and sense of humor, if not her political leanings. Mama made many friends, and eventually became involved at First Presbyterian Church. She was a deacon for many years, and she organized so many meals for so many new mothers long before e-mail and websites existed. Her heart was as big as, well, her ta-tas.
As a junior in high school, with both older sisters already away at college and Daddy on a lengthy fieldtrip overseas, I was home with Mama one evening when the doorbell rang. I answered the door to find Mr. Perry, our neighbor, good friend and fellow Presbyterian, with a rather sheepish grin on his face. Other church friends stood in the shadow of our crabapple tree as Mr. Perry said, “Hi Beth. Is your mom home?” “Sure,” I said, and I called for her. As Mama entered the foyer, I wandered into the kitchen when I heard these words: “Margaret Ann, we need your bra.” I froze as I heard Mama exclaim, “Why Bob Perry, you should be so lucky!” Then Mr. Perry explained that his fellowship group from church was having a scavenger hunt that evening, and one of the items on the list was the church’s biggest bra. He and his group headed straight for our house.
Now let me tell you, God endowed Mama with a big ole’ bosom and then decided to divide her size by three for her daughters. I always marveled at just how many hooks Mama’s brassieres had- six!! Who had six hooks??? I was lucky to have two- and even then, I think the seamstress was just trying to humor me. Anyway, Mama said, “Let me go get an extra, Bob.” She was very business-like about it, almost as if she was expecting them. Partly horrified and partly in awe that Mama was thought of as the most-endowed Presbyterian, I watched as she handed over her mound of white cotton, lace and hooks (six of them!!) to Mr. Perry. With a quick thanks and a promise to return it the next day, he yelled, “Got it!” to his team and ran across our yard waving Mama’s undergarment like a victory flag. They all cheered. Mama closed the door, sighed and said, “Bessie, you didn’t know that your mother was a celebrity at church, did you?” How does a daughter answer that?
I had no time to respond before the doorbell rang again. Another team had arrived to collect the church’s biggest bra. This time, Mama said, “It’s a good thing you came when you did. I’ve only got one more bra besides the one I’ve got on, and I’m not parting with it!” Sure enough, the third and final team arrived several minutes later. Mama answered the door and simply said, “Sorry folks. You should have come sooner. I’m wearing the only bra I have left, and I’ve got to keep it for church tomorrow.” I wonder if God appreciated Mama’s sentiments as much as I did. The thought of Mama arriving at church free and easy was almost too much to bear.
Later that night, Mama and I chuckled over her notoriety. As I donned my nightshirt and tossed my dirty clothes, including my measly 2-hook bra, down the laundry chute, I said a prayer that I’d never be a part of a church’s scavenger hunt for brassieres. I also thanked God for my big-hearted, big-chested mother who handled her new-found First Presbyterian fame with ease, flinging her bras at the folks lucky enough to reach her in time.
Postscript: The next morning at church, Mr. Perry gave Mama a little thank you treat for being such a good sport: a big ole’ bag of Whoppers.