At home, at Sunday dinnertime

Published 11:00 pm Friday, June 24, 2016

After church Sunday, I hopped in the car and rode across the county line to have lunch with friends at a meat-and-three restaurant. I slipped casually into a booth and into easy conversation.

I ordered four veggies for four dollars. The waitress promptly served the table with fixed plates of more food than any of us could eat. She kept our tea glasses filled and received appropriate tips for her courteous and friendly service.

We left the table for someone else to clear, the dishes for someone else to wash and the floor for someone else to sweep.

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I paid with a five-dollar bill and spoke to folks on the way out, at least to those who weren’t texting or Facebooking or whatever the heck it is they do with their electronic brains.

We drove home through the clear-cut countryside and got home in time to watch the U.S. Open on a flat-screen color TV.

Later in the afternoon, I “harvested” the limbs that had fallen from the trees during a recent windstorm. Hot and tired, I sat down on the porch steps to enjoy a frozen sucker and watch the 18-wheelers zoom by.

I sat there remembering how simple life used to be.

Sunday was church day and it was Sunday dinnertime.

Mama cooked dinner every day of the week, but Sunday dinner was always extra special because Daddy was there to eat with us. All the other days, he was at work. Most always, we had fried chicken with a pulley bone that got pulled. The one with the longest broken bone would have their secret wish come true.

Some Sundays we ate across the road with my grandmother. Everybody in the family came to eat, and the children sat at a small table set up in the living room. We were there to be seen but not heard.

After dinner, the children were sent outside to play while the ladies cleaned up the kitchen and the men sat on the porch and rocked.

My grandmother and granddaddy took naps on Sunday afternoon. When they woke up mid-afternoon, they would take us children on a Sunday afternoon drive to look at the crops, to learn where everybody lived and where all the rivers ran.

Pop would tell us stories about the people and places. Sometimes, we’d get out and pick plums or stop and watch a farmer plow his field or wade in the creek.

When I got old enough to stay in the kitchen with Mama and the other ladies of the family, I experienced this strong sense of belonging. I was a part of something special.

One of us would wash the dishes; another would dry. Someone would wipe the table and sweep the floor. Another would put the dishes away and the leftovers in the oven. And, all the while, we were talking and laughing about things we had done, about things in our lives. Munching on yet another piece of Mama’s sack cornbread or dipping another spoon of her banana puddin’ and just one more yeast roll.

Aunt Eleanor would tease me something awful, then she would slip her arms around me as I stood with my hands in the soapy dishwater.

“You know I love you,” she would say.

“I know.”

Oh, how I miss home at Sunday dinnertime.