If I had to pick the best friend of my childhood, the winner would have to be my cousin Mary Ann.

She appears in both photos and stories in Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World.

She’s there in the very beginning of my life, having preceded me in life by nine months, a fact that was very important in childhood (she entered school a year earlier and got to do some things earlier). Look at her in this picture. She’s already instructing me about the world. I’m the one in the gauzy little head covering, taking it all in.

Aunt Jane (my father’s sister), Mary Ann, me, Mother, 1949
Today Aunt Jane and Mother both live at Landis Homes.

Mary Ann appears more often than anyone except my brother and our Fresh Air Girl Vicky in my childhood photo album. Here are the other photos in which she appears in the book:

In some pictures, Mary Ann is frowning or reflective while I am beaming. Here I am showing off my flashy Easter clothes. Mary Ann had to wait a few more years until she got her first store-bought dress. Her mother was an excellent seamstress. Mine preferred to shop. Below: Shirley, Aunt Ann, David, Mary Ann.

at Aunt Ann's wedding
playmate cousins

Above: Henry, Mary Ann, and me. Is that a cap pistol in my hand? Did our parents allow us to buy one??

Mary Ann lives in Pennsylvania. I live in Virginia. We haven’t lived in the same state since 1966.

She sent me a lovely letter after she read Blush. With her permission, I quote:
I read the book from cover to cover and loved, loved, loved it!  I couldn’t put it down, waiting to see which story that you would tell next.  I knew the stories, but the added dimension of feeling the feelings made it real and captivating.  It truly did bring back many memories of those years that we knew each other well.
I also realized that I have missed those times of sharing through the years since high school days.  Even though our lives took different tracks, we have still remained connected.  I would love to sit down with you some day (when your life settles down after all the book promotions) and share some stories and become reacquainted as “older” adults.  Perhaps, some time that you are in the Lititz area we could meet at Tomato Pie Cafe, Cafe Chocolate or another place of choice.
I do wish you all the best in this huge undertaking of “Blush” and may it be a success in every way.  I’m looking forward to seeing you and your family and learning more on Thursday night.
By the way, the suit that you wore on the Olin Mills photo was the one that we bought together at Ormond’s in Lancaster for Mark & Marty’s wedding.  Correct?
I am proud (is that allowed?!) to be your cousin.
Mary Ann
Mary Ann also sent me a photo because of the description I included in BLUSH about the high school jackets we wore. Here we are:
school jackets

This is the only picture I have of my Warwick 1966 jacket. Mary Ann's is Conestoga Valley 1965

Writing a memoir has many benefits one can’t predict ahead of time.

Renewing a friendship with a cousin is a sweet reward.

Do you have cousin friends? Have you connected lately? Tell us about it below and then pick up the phone.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Marian Beaman on November 18, 2013 at 10:00 am

    My best friend cousin is Janet. We connected because of age, I guess, as most cousins do. As little girls, we visited each other’s homes during summer vacations and did odd things together like collecting paper napkins, often flowery and quaint, in a box. We also corresponded by mail. One thing she often wrote at the end of her letters was this: “Fly, letter, fly, come back with quick rely.”

    I saw Janet most recently at the Metzler Reunion in June; in fact, I believe she’s pictured in my reunion blog post.

    By that way, that is a fancy Easter bonnet you were wearing!

    • shirleyhs on November 18, 2013 at 11:08 am

      Great memories, Marian. I do believe I remember reading about Janet. Did you also have a Words of Cheer penpal? We children used the U.S. Postal Service as a way to spice up our country lives. Blog post topic for you?

      Oh yes, that Easter Bonnet. How I loved it. Mother probably bought it at Charlotte’s store in Lititz.

  2. Kathleen Pooler on November 18, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Shirley, you show how the gifts of memoir writing keep giving. What a beautiful testimony to the power of sharing our stories in honoring the people and events that have shaped us while also reconnecting and re-igniting these connections. I love your pictures. Lovely!

    • shirleyhs on November 18, 2013 at 11:23 am

      Thanks, Kathy. The response from readers, both the ones close to me and ones I never heard of before, has been so very gratifying!

      I hope the same thing happens to you as you write and publish your story. It’s really the best reward of memoir. You are right.

  3. Elfrieda Schroeder on November 18, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Shirley, I do have a cousin friend from childhood. She was actually my mom’s cousin, but she was two years younger than me because my mother’s mom and her mom were the oldest and youngest of a large family (do you get it?)! She and my sister and I did everything together. I was overjoyed when her family moved to another farm closer to where we lived and she came to our school. She was in my class and we did everything together. She loved coming to our house in town and my sister and I loved going to her place on the farm. Memories they “bless and burn” don’t they?

  4. shirleyhs on November 18, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Those large families can produce “cousins” in more than one generation! Yes, I know exactly what you mean.

    And when one lives in one kind of place and the other in another, cousins can serve as entry points into unknown worlds. Wonderful that you had yours also.

    Strong memories always leave an impression deep in our spirits.

  5. Tina Fariss Barbour on November 18, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    It’s wonderful that you were able to reconnect with your cousin. I have many cousins because my parents were from large families. But I spent a lot of time with my cousin Pat growing up. She’s just a few months older than me. We played and argued and leaned on each other. I don’t see her very often now, but I have many good memories. I’m glad that I had a cousin to grow up with like that.

    I haven’t been commenting much, but I wanted you to know that I think about you and your journey with the publication of Blush. I look forward to reading it.

    • shirleyhs on November 19, 2013 at 10:44 am

      Tina, how good to hear from you again. Glad to know that the post shook loose a few memories of your own. I’m off to check in on your own blog. All best always.


  6. Laurie Buchanan on November 19, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Shirley – I thoroughly enjoyed the photographs you shared in this post.

    My best cousin friend is Ronnie (short for Veronica). And though she lives on the east coast and I live in the midwest, we stay in touch via email and FaceTime. My dad is her mom’s sister so we have the opportunity to share eldercare tips with each other.

    • shirleyhs on November 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm

      Laurie, yes, eldercare is something Mary Ann and I have in common also. Fortunately, our mothers are in the same retirement community. We had one lovely visit together with the four of us and hope for more.

      Wishing you and Ronnie a Happy Thanksgiving.

  7. Richard Gilbert on November 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    This inspires me, Shirley. I am going to use my book as an opportunity to reach out!

    • shirleyhs on November 19, 2013 at 4:02 pm

      Something to look forward to as you solve the technology problems! All best, as usual.

  8. […] written a story and have sent it to Miranda. It’s about my cousin Mary Ann. I rewrote an excerpt from my book Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World to fit […]

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