Seems like ‘fore I was born, there were three things I knew; that the Ball family had land, the Ball family was and will be, and that Sunday dinner would be served promptly at 11:30. I didn’t want to miss it.
Sunday dinner in the country was a feast set on a while damask cloth. Pa Gene had told Mammy when they married that he’d never eat off oil cloth. Imagine, two meats instead of one! ….fried chicken and fall apart roast with gravy, rice, candid sweet potatoes, tiny butter beans that were grown in the garden, stewed corn, green salad, rolls, hoe cake all nice and crusty and hot from the griddle, chocolate pie—the chocolate so dark it was ebony—not to be confused with the pale imitation mocha stuff. Then came the most delectable of all desserts-- “pudding pie”—banana pudding to anyone but me and always gigantic glasses of iced tea with mint and lemon.
Conversation lagged as we ate our way through the bounteous spread of food. “Pass the butter beans.” “May I have the butter?” was the extent of it. Puss, My maiden aunt, (known to the rest of the world as Carrie) would hover over us exclaiming, “that’s not it to eat!” –never would she join us at the table after cooking the wondrous repast. I wonder if she really convinced herself that “it wasn’t fit to eat” after the whole clan heartily devoured nearly every morsel in the briefest of time. Anyway, she would pick over what was left as she set it in the cupboard where it would be available later for the first person with the urge to nibble .
Gradually everyone would struggle out to the large screened porch that ran the side and front of the house. Rocking chairs lined up like lonely sentinels came to life and matched their groaning to the occupants as they rocked their dinner away.
I would race to the swing and curl up on the pillows and gradually lapse into a daze as I made the wooden womb move from side to side.
The vacuous conversation would drift over my head—I could hear my Aunt Fay talk about her “regularity” and another aunt mutter in polite response. Uncle Henderson would talk about the swamp and how the cows were doing and how many mules were left or how the oil well crews were ruining the land. Pa Gene would say, “You chaps don’t know a thing,” and proceed to tell them what was needed to be done. Mammy would just keep her peace, rocking and reflecting.
As I would near sleep, I would want to ask Mammy to please stick her teeth out at me tonight before we went to bed. Everyone quieted down—semi asleep in their chairs, a lone car breaking the silence rudely blowing dust clouds as it raced down the gravel road.
I lay there motionless nearly caught by sleep, seeing the oak trees dance—their garlands of Spanish moss gently moving as a summer breeze comes into maturity as a rain storm.
And I am gone—back into today—a world apart but yet still a part of me.
Jane Robbins Kerr