Overprotective mom reached for meat cleaver in defense

Published 12:37 pm Saturday, August 11, 2018

Sometimes out of the blue a letter arrives for me. I recognize the handwriting. I know it’s from Janie. Yes, Janie, a friend to remember. A friend I have cherished since I was around 11 or 12. In my memory, she remains a girl of 18. Two things about Janie stand out in my mind: her beauty and her giggles.

Janie worked in a coal mining camp commissary my mother ran during World War II. I think she hired Janie as her store clerk straight out of high school. Janie worked hard. She had a pleasant manner and was always laughing and joking. Mother was not pleased at times when Janie’s laughter exploded into uncontrollable giggles, especially if she drew me into her gales of laughter concerning something a customer said or did. She immediately disappeared to hide herself under a counter to try to muffle her giggles. It was twice as hard if I was stuffed under the counter laughing my head off too.

I got to know her after the school bus let me off in the afternoons. I headed straight for the store. If she and my mother were busy with customers, I had to wait on one of them to get me my after school snack. It was either a vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate double dip ice cream cone or a soft drink with a package of cookies. The drink, selected from the bottom of the meat display case, was always so cold, just on the verge of freezing. If Janie had no customers to serve, we always found something to discuss.

When Mother corrected me for something, Janie was my comforter. She knew how to make my tears vanish and bring on giggles. Mother told me years later that Janie actually pouted when my mother scolded me.

I was an only child. Janie grew up with three sisters. When you saw them together, they almost always got the giggles about something.

Aside from Janie’s giggling habit, Mother had one other problem with her—her beauty. She had dark, curly, shoulder-length hair, long eyelashes, twinkling brown eyes, and a flawless peaches and cream complexion. Her teeth were white and even. Her smile was so winning she could have posed for toothpaste commercial. Every male customer who walked into the store couldn’t help noticing her. Some only admired her with a smile and their eyes. Several openly flirted with her.

Mother was protective of Janie. One day the Coca-Cola delivery man opened a swinging door to bring drink cases to the back of store. He just breezed on in without identifying himself. Mother mistook him for one of Janie’s amorous admirers. She reached for a meat cleaver on the butcher block seconds before she recognized him. It was clearly one of my mother’s most embarrassing moments. The delivery man always announced himself afterwards. I cannot remember if Janie got a giggle out of that. My parents and I certainly did.




Nina Keenam is a former newspaper reporter.