Sunday, October 21, 2007

Firing Dormant Neurons

I couldn't help it. On the plane ride out here, Johnny and June kept singing to me, "I'm going to Jackson..." It was an unexpected trip, to attend the "home-going" to heaven of a very good man who's most likely right now doing a two-step with his love Ruth and roaming flat fields that look a lot like Kansas.

It's always such a lovely thing to come here and soak up my uncle's story-telling; the conceptual, often absurdist humor of my friends; the velveeta-laden casseroles and butterbeans. Today for lunch, I had a pimento-cheese sandwich and "Tipah-County Caviar" a.k.a. black-eyed pea salad. I bought my own copy of The White Trash Cookbook and Deep South Staples: How to surivive in a southern kitchen without a can of cream of mushroom soup written by Robert St. John, chef of my favorite Hattiesburg restaurant, Crescent City. If you come to my house, I'll made you some buttermilk chicken and hoppin' john.

Here's what my lunch looked like today: Last night, my sister, neices and I drove to rent a movie and to two grocery stores where we kept running into people we knew, including my sister's high school boyfriend (who is now married with kids) who talked to me in the greeting card aisle about his love for Slavic culture (they lived in Russia for years). Then we ran into my sister's neighbor's brother who had two big dogs in the back of his pick-up and told me in the seafood aisle all about how much better key west shrimp is to "that stuff they import from China with all them chemicals and sh*t."

And I've heard the best maceroni-n-cheese recipes and tried to keep my manners and talked one at a time at the dinner-table and sat in Krispy Kreme donuts with one of my oldest friends wearing the paper hats and singing "Digging up Bones" by Randy Travis as we talked so long about years past that he said, "It's like all these dormant neurons in my brain are being fired off!"

I've remembered how much it means to have people in the church bring by food made in their own kitchens with their own loving hands brought over after a funeral for the family to eat on. This stuff you can never get as good in a restaurant. There were home-grown butterbeans and home-grown corn, home-made rolls, and all kinds of casseroles. And I also made sure not to eat that last piece of ham on the pretty glass tray, no matter how good it looked: in the South, you don't eat the last of anything. You leave it in case somebody else wants it. So usually it gets discreetly eaten by the person doing the dishes a couple of hours later.

This is what it looked like as we were getting ready to eat (and don't think it's just that everybody was full--these ham rolls were an apetizer and most of us were really hungry):

Sometimes it's good to have some dormant neurons fired off, to remember our manners, to take things slow, to shut up and listen to each other, to sing some Randy Travis, to practice saying, "Oh, I'm sorry, you go on ahead," to tell stories, to save that last piece of ham for somebody else, and to hug each other and gently say goodbye when a loved one goes on Home.


Anonymous said...

Hi. I'm sorry for your loss. Being home at a time like this should bring extra comfort.

Like the food... I love pimento cheese sandwiches. You know what else I love?! Sounds crazy but... my Granny's potato salad piled between two slices of white bread. Sounds absolutely disgusting, I know. But it always tasted so good. She always makes it with dill pickle relish and extra mustard. Yum. Tarty. :)

Your home stories sound like mine. *Sigh*, how I miss home. Oh, way to go on the ham piece. That takes self-control!! :) Bless your heart. And might I say, that I ALWAYS do the dishes at family gatherings. :)

Love, Steph

Tara said...

Ummm, thanks for making me sooo hungry right now. I just ate lunch and yet I want to lick my computer screen.
(ew. I am sorry that I said that.)

Jana said...

I have been to such funerals in northern LA.

hey, I don't think I've told you, but my great-grandparents went to Mississippi College, and helped found Louisiana College, its sister school--which is where my grandparents went. So I got me some deep Southern roots.

Anonymous said...

lovely tribute. hope your trip goes well. enjoy the velveeta, i can relate!