When I was about four years old, I can remember going to Resh's Red & White store in Indian Head, Pennsylvania. (That chain is now Shop'n Save) I was with my dad. I don't remember what we went to the store to buy, but I do remember meeting Aunt Jemima.
In the niche at one side of the store, she was standing behind a gas heated griddle. The grill was about eighteen inches by twenty-four. She waited until I approached and asked if I would like to try the pancake mix and syrup. I looked at my dad. He gave me a nod of approval. I felt tongue-tied and could only nod an assent with my head. I was a bit nervous. This was the first black person I can remember meeting and I wasn't used to being addressed by strangers.
She quickly and deftly poured three small rounds of the pancake batter onto the hot griddle. She smiled and began to talk to me as I stood there watching the silver dollar sized pancakes bake. (There were no protective barriers to keep my hands from the grill. Back then, people assumed that children were intelligent enough not to touch hot things and to keep our hands to ourselves).
She seemed to tower over the griddle. As my shyness waned, I looked at her. Aunt Jemima had deep golden skin, a warm smile, and dancing brown eyes. She was wearing a red and white gingham dress and a bright read head scarf. Around her ample waist she had a sparkling white apron tied in the back. It wasn't that she was fat, but rather full bodied.
With practiced and deft movements, she flipped the small pancakes over. As she did, the aroma seemed to fill the area and made my mouth water. I can remember seeing steam rising from those three golden brown discs. They were baked to a color several shades lighter than Aunt Jemima's skin.
She talked as the cakes continued to bake. I can't remember what she said, but I can remember her sparkling teeth and her beautiful smile. She had a wonderful laugh that seemed to tickle, even though she never touched me.
I watched her as she reached for a small, white paper saucer. Holding it near the griddle, she waved her metal spatula, scepter and the golden coins were moved to the plate. Laying her scepter aside, she picked up a tall glass bottle filled with Aunt Jemima pancake syrup. Unscrewing the cap, she drizzled the thick, brown sweetness over the cakes that were nestled on the saucer. Setting the syrup aside, a small fork seemed to magically appear in her hand. She placed it on the saucer with the pancakes now covered in the syrup. Handing the plate to me, she said, "Here you go. Taste them, but be careful. They are still hot."
She smiled. I recall that the cakes and syrup seemed to taste wonderful. I never saw the woman again, but this is a tribute to the impression that she made on me with this brief encounter. She has imprinted herself on my memory.
I am rhymed out and must substitute stories of my memories until I can write more poetry.