July 28, 2007

You could almost smell the pimento and cheese sandwiches. Many years later, now leaning down to see the length, the wooden planks were much shorter. As a child, the table went from Palestine Cumberland Presbyterian all the way to town. Or at least, it seemed so.

First Sunday in June was decoration day at our church. People came from everywhere. From exotic far off places I’d never been, like Missouri.

What you did NOT see were kids playing alone with Nintendos. You didn’t see teenagers, or adults for that matter, walking around with ear plugs from their Ipods separating themselves from the world. Nobody there was important enough to have a need to talk to anyone on a cellphone, even if they had been invented in 1970.

It was hot, but the kids didn’t really care. We played by the spring. There was always the stern warning “DO NOT get wet” by the spring. And usually we heeded, but occasionally, water demons arose from inside and we absolutely could not help ourselves. It’d be worth being screaming at to get our shoes wet.

There wasn’t much individuality then. Everybody had folding lawn chairs with green webbing, I do remember some brown that came later. But intitially, it was all green and white striped that was bought at Western Auto or Sears. No cupholdes, or pockets to put stuff in. There wasn’t much to choose from really. Clothes were the same. I remember a story about daddy going up to a woman in Piggly Wiggly and asking her why she bought that? It was then that he recognized that she was NOT my mother. But, a lady, who had the same black and red checkered box coat like my mother.

The checkered coat confusion brings to mind our unsaid dilemma of setting ourselves apart today. So what if you have the same red and black checkered coat??? Is it that important that we be so individual? “You mean, now don’t tell me, YOU shop at Walmart TOO!! OMYGOSH (clueless tone inserted)..and I thought I was the only one!”

There weren’t any garbage cans sitting about the long table at the dinner on the ground. Didn’t need em. You didn’t throw everything away. NO such thing as disposable anythings except napkins. Knives and forks and spoons were put back into metal glasses and taken home to wash. Melmac plates were scraped off and put back in the wicker basket that we had.

The long wooden table that the food was served on ran to infinity, or at least it seemed, to the kids as we tiptoed up and peeked over it’s wooden edge. There were rainbows of colored table clothes splayed out down the river of table. As we leaned up we could see the homemade buffet of fried chicken, vegetables and pies and puddings. Yes, we could also see the flies. Even though you don’t really WANT a fly on your food, it seems expected outside. If a fly lands on a cookie inside of our house. We flip the main breaker to the house and nothing else is done until that offending vector has been sufficiently smashed. But outside, the same lucky fly gets a simple “shoo”.

No boxes there on the outside table. All of the food came in in bowls or baskets. It seemed, there was more time then to cook. There wasn’t karate to take the kids to. There wasn’t a recital. There wasn’t church meetings or youth trips to Florida to arrange. The only tv was channel 7, or 5 if the weather was good. So, “bought food” just wasn’t there. There was time to cook. There was time to sit awhile and talk to friends.

There was even an usaid heirachy to that table. The so and sos were in a spot, and the so and so’s were in THEIR spot. Every year, they were in that same spot, those so and so’s.

It was an incredible ritual that was created who knows how long ago. We never stayed for the singing but a couple of times. That was ok by me, we went home and turned the antennae toward channel 7 and watched some tv. We went back later in the evening to get the flowers that we put out early that am.

As I’ve grown to adult status, as I’m gonna get, the ritual does make more sense now..as a whole. Even though I still don’t loose a nite’s rest the nite before going to the graveyard like I would with Santa or vacation, I do see maybe why we go there now.

One reason I’m not giddy with excitement over going there is maybe over the preparation of the graveyard. Because hating manual labor as a small child as I did, I vividly recall having to use the grass cliippers to trim around each and every headstone in preparation for the first Sunday in June graveyard extravaganza. Our family would help get ready for it and the men were always sent to the graveyard for mowing and trimming. It was HOT, sweaty and my ever dramatic mind was in fullblown overload as I had to sit on the grave and clip around each headstone and read the dates and just imagine……

Come to think of it, if you need me, I’ll be at our local psychoanalysts working thru graveyard issues.