Hunter’s Dime Store in Wendell (North Carolina) was my favorite shopping place when I was a child.  The store was small with two aisles that was really just a long rectangle, which ran down one side, along the back, and then back to the front.  Items were random and there were so many they defied the eye to take them all in with one glance.  There were plates, bowls, cups, miscellaneous serving and baking dishes, cookware, linen cloths, handkerchiefs, jewelry, toys, hats, clothes, handbags, creams, lotions, perfume and countless other items – all of them stuffed here and there and everywhere – high and low.  In the middle of this merchandise madness sat tiny Mrs. Hunter surveying her kingdom and ringing up purchases on her ancient cash register.

When I was very little I was accompanied by my mother and forbidden to touch anything, which was pretty hard to do as we squeezed down and around the crowded aisle.  One Christmas Daddy gave me some money and allowed me to take my little brother into Hunter’s and shop without adult accompaniment.  Mrs. Hunter watched us like a hawk but finally decided we weren’t planning to wreck the place.  The two of us searched for Christmas presents for our parents and left proud of ourselves and our newly found independence.  After that Mama would frequently let me shop there unaccompanied while she did errands.  Of all those shopping trips I can only remember 3 distinct purchases.  One was a pink sectioned dish that I gave Mama for Christmas.  The other was a purchase for Mama’s birthday and Mother’s Day. 

On her birthday I had a hard time deciding but finally settled on an embroidered linen handkerchief and a bottle of perfume.  All of the perfume came in small bottles of various shapes and colors.  I chose a striated glass bottle with an indigo colored top.  “Ben-Her” it said.  To this day, I have no idea why I decided that was THE perfect gift for my precious mother.  Perhaps I thought it had something to do with the handsome actor Charlton Heston.  Lord only knows!

Mama opened my gift and exclaimed how beautiful, how wonderful, how much she loved it.  I was pleased with myself and my little chest puffed with pride. And so, of course, I bought another bottle of perfume for her at the very next occasion – Mother’s Day.  Blue Danube it was called. It was in a heart shaped glass bottle with a pale blue top. I had a pink music box that tinkled out “The Blue Danube” waltz and I was sure the heady perfume was every bit as feminine and lovely.

Mama kept the perfumes on her dresser forever.  I would ask her occasionally if she was wearing the perfume and she would say, “Oh, I’m saving it for a special occasion.”  I never wondered that the level in the bottles did not dwindle.  Many years later I ran across the perfumes.  I opened them and took a sniff.  No wonder the levels had remained unchanged.  I chuckled to myself and was touched how my mother had cherished these gifts.  Blue Danube still looked lovely.  But Ben-Her had now become a mystery to me. Why had I chosen such a masculine sounding perfume? What had I been thinking? All I could think of was a brave and daring Charlton Heston racing those white horses around the Roman coliseum.  That vision had nothing to do with my sweet, delicate Mama.  I shook my head and laughed.  It is only now, having seen my mother do battle with Ovarian Cancer, that I know what lay underneath her seemingly soft exterior.  Perhaps as a little girl I sensed the strength that lay beneath the surface of her love.

8 Comments

  1. heimdalco says:

    What a lovely post. As often happens when I read your posts I thought of my mom & a birthday gift I got for her when I was maybe 7 or 8. I saved my allowance, went to the local Kresse & found the perfect gift … a pair of hoop earrings with a petite little yellow canary sitting on the hoop. with movement the hoop would swing & the canary would swing on the hoop. I LOVED those earrings & she was so excited to get them. She LOVED them, too. Like your mom & the perfume, my mom never wore those amazing canary earrings. When I asked her about that she said, as did your mom, she was saving them for a very special occasion. Mothers just know how to say the right things. This is a lovely memory for me, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And the best moms make you believe that it’s true! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. quiall says:

    It has always fascinated me how perspective changes over time. What doesn’t change is the reason for that perspective. This was a lovely story.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Judy says:

    Oh, goodness! That reminds me of a time Julia & I, both about 9-10 years old, took our quarter each to Pope’s in Zebulon. There, we bought handkerchiefs for our mothers for Mother’s Day. One was beautifully stitched w/white lace, the only one of it’s kind in the store. Both of us wanted that one! We alternately chose one w/blue & pink flowers – but we both wanted that white lace one. I can’t remember if it was Ercelle or Mozelle that assisted us that day, but she was aware of our dilemma. She smiled, took our quarters & wrapped our gifts beautifully to take home for our special mamas. Wise woman that she was, she “forgot” which handkerchief was in which box, as they were wrapped identically. We were both dismayed but a bit excited to see what our Mama’s opened that Mother’s Day. I was disappointed when Mama opened the one w/flowers but she made me feel like that was exactly what she wanted. Funny thing…I don’t remember my Mama ever using handkerchiefs!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is the sweetest story. What a testament to wisdom – especially found in a small town where a sympathetic store owner reached out to solve the plight of two little girls. I loved it. Thank you so much for sharing it. 🙂

      Like

  4. Celia Hales says:

    Lovely tribute to your mother!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. My mother deserves much praise – she was a wonderful mother. I was so lucky.

      Like

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