Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Growing Up Baptist: Mrs. DeYoung

Mrs. DeYoung sat in the front right pew of our Baptist church.
The only other person who sat up front was my dad, who played the piano. Mrs. DeYoung, our organist, was tall and thin in an angular sort of way. She had soft brown curly hair and glasses that dangled from a pearl chain around her neck.

Even as a little girl, I admired her meticulously composed outfits. She wore feminine suits and high heels, sometimes even a matching hat. My favorite of her outfits was purple - entirely purple. Mrs. DeYoung was a big believer in matching.

She would wear a classic purple wool suit, matching purple pumps and a small purple hat. Even her earrings, necklace or pin would have flecks of purple among the gold. Best of all, her husband would dress to coordinate with her. This particular time he chose a grey suit with a purple shirt, purple tie, and purple socks. But while Mr. DeYoung dressed to match, he sat a few rows behind his wife. Why, I’m not sure, other than the unwritten rule that Baptists simply don’t sit up front.

Mrs. DeYoung sat up front to be near the organ. She played the organ like she was at a roller skating rink, very oompah, oompah, speeding up with each verse. Between my dad with his rock and roll past, and Mrs. DeYoung’s roller-skating style, we had some very interesting church music.

When I was lucky, Mrs. DeYoung would allow me to sit by her during the service. Sometimes, my friend Janet would get to join me. We always, always wanted to sit by Mrs. DeYoung because she had a purse filled with candy and was willing to share.

I remember trying to open candy during the church service. The merest crackle of turning the paper was sure to attract attention in the silent church, so you had to be very sly. You could twist the wrapper slightly during loud congregational singing, or maybe even when someone coughed or sneezed. But, the candy was worth the patient work. Somehow, letting a hard butterscotch button melt in your mouth made the 40-minute sermons go by more quickly.

As a young child, I believed that Mrs. DeYoung embodied elegance and grace. She was color and festivity. She and Mr. De Young acted like they were young teenagers in love, still courting in the very best and old-fashioned sense of the word.

They had lived through the depression. They had raised chickens and sold eggs to make money when times were tough. Now they lived in a small home decorated with lots of fancy Victorian flourishes like a five-light wrought iron street lamp in front of the small brick home. They were a strange mixture between Dutch frugality and Victorian splendor.

I loved Mrs. DeYoung. She gave me a bit of sweetness – as heart warming as those butterscotch candies – that seemed to make our Baptist world a little bit better.
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