Insomnia plus nostalgia equals this post.
I had wonderful times with my family when I was growing up, and some of the best ones were Sunday dinners, after church, at my
In the springtime, the small front yard with its lovingly tended flowerbeds and rosebushes smelled of hyacinths and green grass. In the summer, the heat slowed you down enough so that you watched the tiny much-loved hummingbirds at their feeders and bird bath, and the world smelled of magnolias and hot pavement. In the fall and winter, you heard the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot, picked up pecans, and breathed crisp clean air. But always, the smell of Uncle Cecil’s cigar smoke greeted you, as he’d stand in the yard with the men, talking and laughing. The greetings started there, warm and heartfelt, hugs and gentle touches that let you know you were precious to those who surrounded you. People would say hey as you passed the porch swing and walked through the front door.
Inside, the house was filled with ladies, working and talking and laughing, caring for babies, spoiling the ones that didn’t belong to them. The house smelled old in a good way, just a little bit musty with aged wood, and always the floury frying smells of food lovingly prepared. At any given time, the small wood-framed house welcomed close to forty people, and my Mam-maw managed to carry on
conversations with all of them, from babies to the elderly, making each one feel that they were the center of attention, even as she timed fifteen or so dishes to come out of one little oven so that we always ate at noon.
We said a prayer before we ate. The men filled their plates first, not because the women felt inferior as today’s feminists would have you believe, but out of respect for the hard work that the men did all week to provide for everyone. The women took pride in their tables, and they showed their love through the food they served. Traditions were strong then, good and old and sweet like the matriarch who brought us all together.
The sweet tea was legendary, so smooth and refreshing that the inexpensive plastic glasses we drank from may as well have been crystal goblets of champagne! The dumplings that took hours to roll out by hand were gone in minutes. The corn was fresh and good, it tasted golden yellow. The green beans tasted like they came straight from the garden, even if they had come from a can. The hot rolls were fluffy and buttery and gone before you could blink! Chocolate pies had flaky crusts that melted in your mouth, and filling so delicate it was like eating something from Heaven, with just the right amount of sweetness. At every dinner, every person seemed to get at least one thing that was specially made for them, even if my Mam-maw had to fry up a hamburger for a tiny fussy eater.
After dinner, the men were so stuffed, they fell asleep, unless there was some outdoor project Mam-Maw needed help with, because they were gentlemen, the men in my family. The whirr of the ceiling fan and the hum of window units formed the backdrop for soft talk, as the women passed around sleeping babies, and made plans for any number of parties, church gatherings, baby showers, weddings, etc. The times were slow and good, and those Sunday dinners felt worlds away from school and work and lights and noise and hustle and bustle that made up the rest of the week. It was always kind of sad when you had to leave everybody, even though you knew there’d be another big dinner in a few weeks. Those dinners reminded you that you had a fortress of love and family surrounding you, never very far away. They reinforced traditions and values, helped you stay connected with family, and acted as a tangible embodiment of every blessing you knew you had. Like all who are young, I believed that everything I grew up with would never end. But it’s been fifteen years since those dinners. The food, the love, the laughter, and so many of those sweet people are now precious memories I carry in my heart. But I think I’ll know right away if I make it into Heaven. It won’t be because I’ll hear angels singing. It will be because I will find myself on that short little sidewalk, with the smell of flowers and Uncle Cecil’s cigar smoke to guide me up the steps, onto the porch, through the front door, where I’ll hear my Mam-Maw call out, “Hey baby! My, don’t you look PERTY today. I made you a chocolate pie,” in her gentle brittle sweet old Southern lady voice. Then I’ll know I’m home, and this time, . . . I can stay!
Insomnia plus nostalgia equals this post.