Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Take a Bite Patricia

My sister loved to host family dinners, especially during the holidays and birthdays. Many Thank giving, Christmas and birthday celebrations were held at her house. Her taste, like my mother's, was flawless. Her holiday decorations could easily have been featured in House Beautiful. The entire house was filled with the colors of Christmas. The tree, of course, was gorgeous - full of twinkling lights, multi-colored bulbs and presents galore.
The dining room table, with its fine-boned china and silver goblets, was picture perfect. And then there was the food- turkey and dressing, of course, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and deserts to die for. My sister was an excellent cook. I loved her chess pies and Italian cream cheese cakes.
Dinners at my sister's house were wonderful except for one minor flaw-Patricia's eating habits. I came from a family of fast eaters. We would talk politics, current events, books we had read, movies we had seen, etc., while shoving food into our constantly moving mouths. I learned to eat fast in grammar school. I would gulp down the food in the school cafeteria so I would have more time for the playground. Nothing was more important to an eight-year-old than playtime. The one exception to the family's eating habits was Patricia. She liked to draw out culinary experiences. A perfect example of this is the story of the two ice cream cones. My sister was five and my brother Larry was three and a half, at the time. It was in the middle of the summer. As a treat, Mama bought them both vanilla ice cream cones. Larry wolfed his down in a matter of minutes. Patricia, on the other hand, decided to savor her ice cream. She slowly licked each side and took a small bite off the top. Larry, who was watching her performance with great interest, suddenly grabbed the cone from his sister's hand and gobbled the ice cream down in a matter of seconds.
My sister was not only the slowest eater in my family; she was the slowest consumer of food I have ever known. At every family dinner, my sister would talk non-stop. What drove us all, especially my father, up the wall was that she would raise a morsel of food to her mouth, talking incessantly but never taking a bite. Finally, my father, losing all patience, would raise his voice and say "Take a bite Patricia!" She would, but then the whole process would start all over again. After about twenty minutes of this, everyone but my sister and mother would leave the table and wander around. Some would check the sports scores on television. Those of us who still smoked would go outside and have a cigarette or two. After a forty minute recess from dinner, we would all return to the table for desert. By that time, Patricia would sometimes have consumed the main course, but not always.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Trips to the Beach

Every summer my family would take its annual vacation to the Alabama beaches. When I was not more than six or seven years old, my father started a ritual that drove all of us crazy and literally exhausted my mother. He insisted that everyone be up, packed and in the car no later than four-thirty in the morning. He wanted to get to the Grand Hotel early enough to check in and play at least nine holes of golf before dinner.
He had all five of us scurrying around like rats after cheese, trying desperately to finish our last minute packing, get dressed and load the car, while my father shouted orders like an angry drill sergeant. The sun was rising as we entered the outskirts of Jackson. Straight to the Toddle House we went for our favorite part of the trip. There would have been a mutiny if my father had forced us to drive all the way to Point Clear on empty stomachs. We loaded up on scrambled eggs, pancakes and big fluffy biscuits. Before we left the eatery, we were warned to make our bathroom runs because my father wasn't stopping until we reached Hattiesburg. Remember folks, this was when Highway 49 was still a two-lane road! We literally held it until Hattiesburg with eyes watering and legs crossed. As we entered Lucedale, my father would regale us with facts about the tunnel in Mobile, the history of the Grand Hotel and all the good seafood we would be exposed to. As we hit Fairhope, the younger siblings would start the familiar chant all parents will recognize, "Are we there yet?" "Almost" my parents would say with a terse smile.
After we had checked in and unpacked, the family would scatter in different directions. My father would hit the golf course, my sister headed to the beach, and I would explore the grounds on my rented bike. Only my mother would stay put. She collapsed in a lawn chair outside our cottage and didn't move until it was time to dress for dinner.
Everything changed with the arrival of my baby brother. No more getting up at four-thirty and no more waiting until Hattiesburg for a bathroom break. My little brother tried out every bathroom from Yazoo City to Point Clear, Alabama. It didn't matter how small the town or how inconvenient the accommodations - stop we would. My father complained bitterly but it didn't change anything. Ironically, Jimmy turned out to be just like his father. If you rode anywhere with him, it was one bathroom break per trip!