The Bedroom Where It All Began: A Truly Magical Memoir Moment

Remember those Dick and Jane books in first grade?

The happy family of the 1950’s?

My mother’s name is Barbara Ann.

My father’s name is Richard, but she called him “Dick.”

So I was more than casually interested in the characters Dick and Jane.

I asked my mother how she met “her” Dick.

It all began in this bedroom.


This room is now called The Count’s Room at Forgotten Seasons Bed & Breakfast in Lititz, PA. Count Nicolaus Ludwig Von Zinzendorf slept in this room in 1742. But for our family, this room carries an even more significant history.

Don’t worry, the story is very chaste.

The event was a “singing” for Mennonite young people held in various farm houses and hosted by parents of teenagers.

He was tall and handsome and had to stoop to look in the door of the “cloak room” –the bedroom designated as a place for guests to store their coats.

My mother was getting ready to go downstairs, looking in the mirror at precisely the spot on the wooden wall where that hook is now located.

She glimpsed a tall young man stooping and pausing at the threshold of the white door beyond.

She lifted her eyes and smiled, a story I recounted in Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World. It later became a joke because Mother thought her eyes hooked him. Daddy said it was her smile.

Not exactly How Harry Met Sally.

But that’s how Richard met Barbara Ann.

Forty six descendents and in-laws are grateful for that place, that moment.

Do you know the Magical Memoir Moment when your parents met? Do you have any such “meeting” stories of your own?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Joan Z. Rough on August 19, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Lovely story. Everyone has there meeting stories, Shirley, and your parent’s story is very romantic. I can’t imagine that Dick and Jane or their parents were ever romantic. They were far too boring for me!

    • shirleyhs on August 19, 2015 at 12:58 pm

      Ha, Joan. I love it that Dick and Jane bored you. I was actually fascinated by them, and by the whole family. They didn’t live on a farm or go to a Mennonite church, so they fed my imagination about my classmates’ lives. Quite falsely, I’m sure.

      I remember loving that honeymoon picture of you and Bill. Have you told how you met? At a ski camp, maybe?

      Thanks for starting the conversation today. And I’m so glad you got a clean bill of health to celebrate.

  2. Janet Givens on August 19, 2015 at 11:03 am

    What a lovely, romantic story. A storybook story. And well told: I was a tad anxious at exactly which major magical moment we were going to relive. :). Saving that one for a future post?

    • shirleyhs on August 19, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      Ha, Janet. I left quite a few double entendres on the cutting room floor, but thought the ones remaining would add a little spice. πŸ™‚

      No, I don’t plan to go into any x ratings, but I am fascinated by the combination of chance, fate, destiny, or providence (depending on your point of view) that brings any of us into this world.

      You have a great meeting story. Have you written a blog post about it?

      • Janet Givens on August 19, 2015 at 10:44 pm

        Smiling. No, not a blog post, a book (well, a chapter or two anyway). We do have a great story! I hope someday you’ll get to hear him tell it.

    • JOYCE MECK on August 20, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      My mother lived in Akron,PA and my dad lived on Cherry Crest Farm, Paradise,Pa. They met on a 4-H bus trip to State Days at Penn State. My mother was friends with Dad’s youngest sister and sat with her on the bus. Dad couldn’t resist the temptation to let my mother know that he was interested in her attention.

      • shirleyhs on August 21, 2015 at 5:14 pm

        Joyce,so good to see you here again. We lived close to each other. I had a friend in elementary school named Betty Meck. Is she a relative of yours?

        Isn’t it interesting how younger brothers and sisters get to be carriers of the love interest? These kinds of stories always remind me of the poem “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” Do you remember that one?

  3. Linda Z on August 19, 2015 at 11:04 am

    Fast forward some years, I remember when Richard (our Daddy)
    tore down the plaster walls to reveal the exposed wooden beams and walls!, at the same location!!

    I love our heritage, and history!

    • shirleyhs on August 19, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      Linda, you actually slept in the Count’s Room yourself. So you got to see its transformation. None of us could have guessed it would become a bed and breakfast.

      I never knew the location of the mirror and the door even though I knew this story. Mother showed my friends and me when we visited Forgotten Seasons last time.

      Thanks for your comment. I love when family pop in for a visit. These stories are intended for the benefit of the other 45 family members. We all have heard different stories and need to weave them together.

  4. Marian Beaman on August 20, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Who doesn’t want to read a love story about two Mennonite young people whose first meeting occurs in a (gasp!) bedroom.

    You have written about your parents’ strong physical and emotional attraction in BLUSH, but it’s nice to read more detail here.

    I believe my parents met after a church service, a common occurrence for young people in the 1940s. Connections must have been made with eyes and smiles too as you mention here. Mother said Daddy told her later his impression about their first meeting, “You are the most beautiful girl I had ever seen!”

    You asked about “meeting” stories of our own. A few weeks after I began blogging in 2013, I wrote this story which you may have read back then:

    Bring on your double entendres – readers here can handle them! πŸ˜‰

    • shirleyhs on August 21, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      Thanks, Marian, for having fun with this post. Your own story is amazing to anyone who grew up wearing a covering. Thanks for including a link here. I hope readers who get Magical Memoir Moments, some of whom have begun leaving comments here, will locate your great stories. If they enjoy mine, they’ll really enjoy yours.

  5. melodie davis on August 20, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    I love seeing the spot–with the hook! Makes it real. A very romantic meet up, I’d say. I need to ask my mother how she met Dad; I know I’ve been told, but it is fuzzy now!

    Not as fuzzy as my own meet up, which I shared not long ago (and you read & commented):

    Our spot was somewhere on that light on the skating floor. πŸ™‚

    • shirleyhs on August 21, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      I want to say the same thing to my readers about your blog post as I said above about Marian’s. I know they will enjoy reading about how you skated into the arms of love in the link your include.

      Thanks for checking in. Hope you get to hear your mother and dad’s love story at least one more time.

  6. Linda Gartz on August 20, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    My parents first met on November 19, 1940, at a dance.My mom was immediately smitten, but their story doesn’t really take off until the following May, 1941. Mom had told me a little bit about their meeting, but I didn’t get the details until I discovered her diary, just a few years ago, many years after she passed away. In the diary She goes into adorable and vivid detail about the events and her feelings.
    I posted the exact link (above) to the 2nd of the entries where she mentions “Fred Gartz,” above, because it’s the first one describing their time together.
    You can follow their romance by following the story, post after post. She’s a great writer and will take you back to those heart-thumping days of falling madly in love!

    Sorry for the long URL. I simply could not get the HTML tags to work for this title. Let’s see if it works here: Betcha he won’t call

  7. Linda Gartz on August 20, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Well, re comment above, it looks like clickable text, but it didn’t take me to the site. If it’s the same for those of you, Shirley, and your friends reading this, here’s the full URL:

    • shirleyhs on August 21, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      Linda, I’ll have to ask my computer expert about how to allow HTML tags. I have no idea how to use them. I see them on other sites, but you’re the first person who asked me about them here. I’m glad you included the full link because that took me to a very interesting story.

      The fact that you have your mother’s journal means that you have her own young voice, something that would otherwise fade with time. What a treasure, and thanks for sharing it with us today. I hope my readers check out your story of a smitten young woman who doesn’t trust herself to her own desires–a feeling most of us experience at one point or another in our lives. Great story.

  8. Barbara Guy on August 20, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    I am a Barbara Ann and learned to read using the Dick and Jane books. My parents are Gladys and Oliver. It is my understanding they met through church. My mother was raised on a 300 acre farm near Elverson in northwestern Chester County, PA. Her family was not Mennonite, but thoroughly Pennsylvania German. By the time I was born the large farm had been sold and my parents had a much smaller 22 acre chicken farm. Lots of memories….

    • shirleyhs on August 21, 2015 at 11:58 am

      Hi Barbara Ann, so glad you offered this comment. We share a lot in common, apparently. Are you on Facebook? If so, you might enjoy the group “I Grew Up Country” that another farm girl memoirist, Carol Bodensteiner, and I started there. It’s a good place to hear and share stories.

      Please come back again and share more memories. A 22-acre chicken farm. Now that can be a lot of work, and a lot of feathers, too!

  9. Kathleen Pooler on August 21, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    What a sweet story, Shirley! I love these “meeting’ stories. My mom tells a story of knowing she would spend the rest of her life with Dad the first time she saw him. She even wrote a note that I found while digging through an old box of photos in preparation for their 50th anniversary:”I know that 50 years from today I will love him as much as the first time I saw him.” It’s in my memoir,too! Thanks for sharing your story. You always get me thinking of my own stories when you do. πŸ™‚

  10. shirleyhs on August 21, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    Hi Kathy. You found the original love letter. I can imagine the electric feeling you had when you picked up that note. I remember being impressed when I read your memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead, that you had an image of life-long love to guide you even when you despaired of finding it yourself. You knew it was possible because of your parents. And now you know it in your own life. These traces of long-ago love leave deep impressions. Thanks for sharing yours.

  11. Elaine Mansfield on August 22, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Your story gave me the most lovely physical sensations–a full feeling in these old breasts as though milk might let down, an open heart, a relaxing sigh. Oxytocin-inducing, I’d say. It brought me back to love at first sight with Vic. I’ve been gathering photos for a blog about him today. We met in a motorcycle shop and he was working on a motorcycle he’d reduced to a skeleton. My eyes reached out to him and these words went through my mind, “he’s like my father, and I want to marry him.” I hadn’t spoken to him although my friend knew he was a graduate student. I had no idea if he was like my father, but he was.

    My parents met in Toledo, Ohio. My mom was working her way through college as a beautician. She did a woman’s hair. The woman had a boarding house where a young man from Missouri lived while breaking into his new job. The woman introduced Mom to the young man. Dad said he knew immediately that she was the one.

    • shirleyhs on August 26, 2015 at 9:04 am

      Thank you, Elaine, for sharing your visceral impressions from reading this post. I love when words take us to the same places in the body that were affected by these first meetings.

      And to think, some people don’t believe in love at first sight. πŸ™‚

      First sight, of course, needs to be confirmed by more experience, as your first glimpse of Vic and your dad’s first meeting with your mom was.

      But electrical sensations in the body remain!

  12. Tracy Lee Karner on August 23, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    My parents knew each other as children, when they attended a small parochial school together. Not a very exciting introduction to me when I was a child, attending that same school, where everyone in the whole school knew the name of everyone else, and I was bursting to learn something of the bigger world out where strangers, and possible adventure existed.

    I, too, read the Dick and Jane readers. And then I lived in the town in New Hampshire, where the illustrator of those books retired, and fell in love with them all over again.

    • shirleyhs on August 26, 2015 at 9:12 am

      Thanks, Tracy, for offering another kind of meeting story — the kind that grows from an unknown seed long ago. Something comforting about that story, but I can also understand a craving for more exciting adventures, wider landscapes, and more tall, dark, and handsome strangers. We share a taste for both.

      Loved the detail about Dick and Jane’s illustrator. I think the pictures in those books were more important than the words. When we think of boring, we think of those too-simple, repetitious sentences. But most of us have nostalgia for the pictures.

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