Friday, December 11, 2020

To Tree or Not To Tree? That Is the Question 

By Cappy Hall Rearick

 “Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.

In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.” ~Larry Wilde

As soon as the turkey carcass is history, Babe and I begin our annual debate over what to do about a Christmas tree. How big should it be? Do we buy a real tree or go with a fake one? We even explore the idea of not putting up a tree at all. 

Babe never fails to vote for a pre-lit tree, direct from China, often flocked with asbestos-looking white pellets. He wants his fake tree to be the biggest one since the invention of plastic.

That is not now, nor has it ever been what I want, so in previous years when I won the debate, I high-tailed it out to Happy Pappy’s Fresh-Cut Tree Farm on the edge of town. Last Christmas, however, it all came to an end when Pappy got busted.

The rumor going around was that his customers were lighting up and spreading joy, but it wasn’t Pappy’s fresh-cut trees that got lit. So, when this year’s Christmas Tree Debate began in earnest, I concluded that, like  a lot of things in 2020, my trip to the fresh-cut tree farm was a no-go. Thanks to Pappy, I was fresh out of options. Pun intended. 

Babe said, “Hey! Here’s an idea. Let’s buy six small trees and place them throughout the house. We can trim them with leftover decorations from the giant tree I bought last year when I won and you lost the debate. Won’t that be fun?”

Babe doesn’t do decorating or much of anything that involves getting up from his recliner. His energy level spikes after two bites of a protein bar and nosedives after adjusting his La-Z-Boy. When he suggested buying and decoratingsix Christmas trees to put all over the house, both his mental and physical well-being scared the Dickens out of me.

Did you say WE,” I asked while looking around for my mask. “Babe, are you nuts? Running a high fever? Please tell me you didn’t catch Covid.”

“I’m fine as wine. This can be the year of the Christmas Tree Compromise,” he added, his eyes bright as that famous Star in the East.

 “Compromise as in give and take? Who are you and what have you done with my husband? Give him back. I promise you’ll thank me later.”

The silly smile pasted on his face made him look like Bozo the Clown which made me wonder if he had a Pappy Powwow while I was Christmas shopping (on line wearing a mask).

 “I say we buy six small trees —three for you and three for me. You want to sweep needles off the floor every day? Knock yourself out. I opt for three pre-lit fake trees that, as you often remind me, come from a hallowed place in China known the world over as Zhejiang. Six trees will make the house feel so Christmassy.”

By this time, I was pretty sure he was hallucinating. While visions of sugarplums were spinning in his head, images of a vodka crantini pirouetted like Baryshnikov on crack in mine. 

“Babe, you must have a high fever and/or COVID because you’re delusional if you think I’m going to put up and decorate six Christmas trees.”

He threw up his hands. “I can’t imagine why not. It’s a perfect solution.”

I stared at him and prayed he wasn’t contagious. “Solution to what?”

He sighed. “Six small trees means we can both win the debate.”

“Wait here,” I said. “Don’t even blink till I come back. I need to look for a thermometer and the biggest bottle of vodka in the house.”

“Well, it sounds to me like you’re gung ho to take my temperature,” he said, “but what’s up with the vodka? It’s not even noon.”

 “But it’s five o’clock somewhere in the world. I just texted Santa to drop down the chimney with a load of Prozac for me and a straitjacket for you. He texted back and said, “Drink crantini’s till Christmas Eve and save one for me.”


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Sitting Shiva with Miss Fancy

  Sitting Shiva refers to the seven-day period of mourning which takes place following a burial. During this time, family members suspend all worldly activities, and devote attention to mourning the deceased. 

“I aughta wrap myself in cellophane like Kathy Bates did in Fried Green Tomatoes,” said Shelby, “and tie a red ribbon around my neck.
“Personally,” I said, “as a fashion accessory, I seriously doubt it will make it to Vogue. What’s up with you and cellophane?”
She batted her eyes and grinned. “I’m a sucker for sick kittens so why not look like a big fat lollipop.”
You can’t make that kind of logic up. It’s true that Shelby tends to transmit a signal directly from her house to all stray cats. I’m told that cats, like kids, have an instinct for sniffing out the best neighborhoods. Shelby’s home is the CAThedral while she’s the feline answer to Mother Teresa.
“What’s going on, Shelby?”
Her shoulders slumped. “It’s a long, creepy story. You sure you want to hear it?”
I wasn’t sure, but I nodded anyhow.
“A kitty with feline leukemia showed up and I took her in. The poor lil’ thing wasn’t long for this world and I wanted to send her to the next with good memories.” 
(In order to have that kind of compassion, one needs to believe that a cat’s memory storage rolls over into the afterlife.) 
“Did you name the poor lil’ thing?”
“I called her Miss Fancy because while she was here, she made a big splash. She had permanent “eyeliner” around her eyes and a beauty mark on her nose and was the neighborhood starlet.”
 Shelby got teary-eyed and had to stop and blow her nose. 
 “Well, it finally happened.” She blew her nose again and wiped her eyes. “Miss Fancy died and we buried her in the back yard.”
Shelby said she left town the following week. When she called home, she was told that Okay, the cat from next door, and Shelby’s other cat, Bailey, perched on top of Miss Fancy’s grave. 
She said the two cats sat Shiva with Miss Fancy for seven whole days. Shelby’s son took photos on his cell in case he needed to prove that he was not on hallucinogens again.
When I discussed the phenomenon with the local cat vet, Dr. Lisa, I told her about the two cats sitting Shiva with Miss Fancy and asked if that was normal cat behavior. 
Dr. Lisa said she had heard other stories about cats visiting graves. She offered the medical explanation that cats continue to give off oxygen even after they die. She said there is supportive evidence regarding feline sensory perceptions. “It is being seriously considered,” she said soberly. (I didn’t ask by whom.) 
“Research,” she continued, “has determined that cats, being super-sensitive, are lured toward other sick, dying or dead animals.” 

Although Shelby still mourns Miss Fancy, she told me last week that yet another under-the-weather kitten showed up at her house right after Miss Fancy had left the building, so to speak. Sick with an upper respiratory infection and way too thin, she was appropriately named, Twiggy. 
The kitten was barely breathing and her sense of smell was totally blocked. She had no appetite, so Shelby taught her how to eat again. That was before Dr. Lisa waved her magic antibiotic wand.
Twiggy sniffs and smells the whole new world that is open to her, thanks to Shelby and Dr. Lisa. 
“She eats like a truck driver so I might have to rename her.” Shelby said wearing a big, fat grin. “I’m thinking Mama Cass.”
“What does Miss Twiggy look like,” I asked.
“She has black, mink-like hair, with white on her face. Like the U.K. Twiggy, she’s a fashion plate. Get this: she’s got teensy white gloves on her paws with scallops around each pad. She also wears a white slip with a pilgrim collar.”
“Sounds to me like,” I said, “Twiggy’s basic wardrobe has a better chance of making the cover of Vogue than you all wrapped up in cellophane.”
“Yep,” she replied. “I’ve heard that we have a lot to learn from animals, but I never thought it included fashion tips.”
I looked down at my ragged jeans and USC sweatshirt, circa 1960. “You think Twiggy could teach me a thing or two?
Shelby looked me up and down and shook her head. “Stick to Vogue, girlfriend. It’s got pictures and everything.”
So advises the Celephane Queen.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Take a Message

“For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue
to grow, but phone calls taper off.” — Johnny Carson

Something is inherently screwed up in my husband Babe’s psyche. A math whiz and consummate bridge player, he never makes mistakes balancing the checkbook. So why can’t he write a simple phone number on a Post-It note?
I arrive home from my high school reunion (not saying which one, so don’t ask). Babe is waiting for me with a chilled martini and a hug. I embrace them both with more passion than he has seen in a while.
I listen with feigned interest as he details every golf shot he took for the 72 hours I was away. 
“... I took a divot on my first shot and it fouled me up big time. I bogeyed that hole and the next one, too. I was jinxed.”
“Uh huh. Those freaking divots!” I don’t know a divot from a diving board but I respond  appropriately as if by rote while I unpack.
“Jack and I came in first at bridge. I bid and made two slams ...”
“Great.” Before he autopsies every card he played, I jump in. “Did I get any calls I need to return before this martini kicks in?”
I look up at his frozen face. Take off fifty pounds and a hundred years and Babe could pass for Rodin’s “The Thinker.”
“Yeah ... you got a call a little while ago.”
“From whom?”
 “A classmate.”
“And that would be?”
“Uh ... a woman.”
“Her name?”
“Uhh ... it started with a ‘B.’ ”
“Think harder, Babe. Was it Barbara, Betsy or Brenda? I don’t know a Betty Boop.”
 “Wait! It wasn’t a ‘B,’ it was a ‘J.’ Like Janet.”
“Maybe. Yeah, I guess so.”
Janice and I said goodbye earlier and promised to stay in touch. Why would she call so soon? 
“Babe, what did Janice want?”
“Somebody’s missing or not missing or dead.”
I drop the suitcase and yell a stream of unprintable words. “Somebody died? Was it a wreck after our reunion?”
“Uh. I can’t remember.”
“For heaven’s sake, Babe. Janice said somebody died. You can’t remember who?”
“Now, you said her name was Janice. I said it might have been Janice. It could have been Janet or Jeanette.”
“I know one Janet and she lives two blocks away; I know one Jeanette and she lives in Atlanta. It had to be Janice. Think, Babe. Who died? When, and how?”
“She, Janet, Janice or whoever, said you listed her as address unknown and then somebody mentioned she might be dead, but Janice thinks she lives in Columbia and she’s Loony Toons.”
I’d created a class bio booklet to update contact info but some classmates had vanished since we took that Pomp and Circumstance group stroll. 
“Loony Toons? But Janice said she was dead.” 
“Janice isn’t dead. It’s the other one — the loony one.” He giggles. I think I’m caught in the middle of a “Who’s On First” skit with a Lou Costello look-alike.
“I fail to see the humor in this, Babe.”
“I just remembered she said the woman in question is a few peas short of a casserole. That’s pretty funny.”
“The woman in question. Her name?”
“I dunno. It started with an ‘L,” I think.”
“What’s up with you and the alphabet, Babe?”
My mind races down the L’s and stops when it gets to Lorenna. No surprise there. The cheese slid off her cracker in kindergarten.
“Was it Lorenna Gaskin?”
“Yeah! That’s it! Lorenna Gaskin.”
There it was, miraculously unveiled in alphabetical order.
He’s suddenly alert, happy to have contributed. He chuckles. Janice said she was ...
“Yeah, I know. A few peas short of a casserole.”
He yuks a few more times.
“Babe, is Lorenna dead?”
“Ummm. I don’t think so. Naah. Just, you know … whackadoodle.”
I gulp what’s left of my martini, take Babe’s hand and lead him to the kitchen. Switching on the overhead light, I point to the wall telephone and the yellow Post-It pad just below it. I lift the large cup brimming with pens patiently waiting for a tender human touch. 
I pick up a pen and bring it close to his line of vision. 
“I never thought my mission in life was to teach you how to take a phone message with a pen and Post-It note. I was wrong. Now, watch closely because I’m only going to do this once.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

My Fair Lady

When September 27 rolls around, my mother would be one-hundred and five-years-old if she were still alive. I am the self-appointed sentry of her memory and I think about her often as I try to safeguard bits and pieces of her life. So many things remind me of the years she spent on earth, forty-eight of which was as my mother.
I recently saw a play called Love, Loss and What I Wore. As the title suggests, it was about clothes worn on memorable occasions and the emotional attachment to each garment. It got me to thinking about how my mother made all of my clothes until I got to be a smart-ass teenager with little or no respect for her labors of love over the years. Now that she’s gone, however, my appreciation seems to know no bounds.
There is an old Olan Mills black and white portrait only slightly tinted in color that I keep in a memory box on the top shelf of my closet. Two five-year-old girls smiled for the birdie as a flashbulb popped. The girls are dressed identically in red and white checked taffeta pinafores with matching white blouses. The photo is of my cousin, born eight days after I was, and me. The pinafores were ruffled around the shoulders and the sash was generous, tying nicely into a bow in back. We had matching ribbons in our hair. Mama made those outfits and now seventy something years later, her labors survive only on photo paper. Lord only knows what happened to the pinafores. My guess is that they were handed down to other cousins or sold in a rummage sale.
My cousin’s daddy owned his own business so he had money. No way was he the proverbial rich uncle everyone wishes for, but he had lots more than my daddy who was a policeman for the city. My cousin had store-bought clothes and for all of my teenage years, I was jealous. She died with Alzheimer’s a few years ago and the one thing she seemed to remember and clung to is the photo of the two of us taken when we were kids. 
Since our little town was the county seat, every October a parade of carnival rides, game booths and greasy food made its way from Florida to the fairgrounds just outside the city limits. Since the same carnival outfit came to town through the years, Daddy was friendly with some of the “carnies” and their families. I wouldn’t call it a fraternity reunion when the county fair people and daddy made contact, but it was a reunion, of sorts. 
Daddy’s career rose from flatfoot to detective and eventually to Police Chief. Needless to say, it was advantageous for fair folks to stay on the good side of the Chief. Because of that, when I was sixteen, I became the recipient of the most glamorous clothes I had ever seen.
My benefactor’s name was Ava, the wife of the man who ran the Bingo games at the fair each year. She was a tiny little thing, as was I in those days, so Ava, who had always wanted a daughter, would leave some of her expensive clothes at our house for me to wear. They were absolutely not like the hand-me-downs from my cousin.
Ava loved black, the slinkier the better. She adored spike-heeled shoes. Ava was in love with bling long before it was a word. Seeing the flashy clothes she left for me, I thought I had died and gone to serious fashion heaven. The clothes fit my slim body as though designed and tailored especially for me. I remember slipping into a black silk blouse with pearl buttons and leg-of-mutton sleeves. I then put on Ava’s tight-fitting red satin skirt and a pair of her red sling-back high heels with open-toes. I couldn’t stop looking at myself in the mirror. 
Staring at my reflection, I realized that something was still not quite right. What was I missing? And then it hit me. Mascara. Eyeliner.
It was the mid-fifties and I was a teenager. I might have curled my eyelashes from time to time, but eyeliner? Mascara? Nuh uh. 
I sneaked into Mama’s bathroom and looked around for her box of cosmetics, and for the next hour, I went through that box like Sherman through Atlanta. 
Satisfied that I had been transformed from plain to devastatingly gorgeous, I went down the stairs as gingerly as possible to tell my parents that I was leaving for a young people's church meeting.
“I’m going now, y'all. Be back in two or three hours, probably.”
My mother looked up from the dress she was hemming, one of the many outfits she had sewed for her only daughter. I will never forget the look on that woman’s face. Horror doesn’t quite capture it, but it comes close. Her mouth was wide open. 
Daddy had been reading the paper and when he looked up to say goodbye, the breath he sucked in sounded pretty much like an advanced case of emphysema. 
It occurs to me now that they both may have been wondering why the voice of the hussy standing before them sounded so much like their teenage daughter. Still, they kept staring at me as though I were an apparition. 
Perspiration began to collect in my armpits and I remember thinking that sweat was bad for a silk blouse. The strap on my left shoe decided at that moment to flop down and when that happened, my legs wobbled. My parents continued to stare. 
“Well, okay then. I’m off.” My bravado was so fake that even I was embarrassed.
Mama, having finally found her voice, cleared her throat. “Uh-uh. You’re not going anywhere dressed like a streetwalker. You march yourself back upstairs and take off those clothes before I snatch you baldheaded.”
I couldn’t believe she didn’t approve of my new look. How could she not?
I went on the attack. “Ava gave me these clothes because she wanted me to wear themAva’s not a streetwalker. Well? Is she?”
Mama sighed. Daddy coughed. 
“No, Ava is not a streetwalker. Ava is thirty-five years old and down in Florida where she lives, people dress like that. We don’t. You don’t. When you are her age, you can dress any way you want to, but not now. So, get your butt back upstairs and put on something decent.”

The following October, Ava left a light blue cashmere sweater-set for me before the fair headed back to Florida. Mama let me wear it as often as I wanted to. She even made me a skirt that picked up and enhanced the color. The first time I wore it as an outfit, she smiled in total approval.
“You look so sweet, honey. Just like a teenager.”

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Where Angels Gather

Christmas angel Graphics
Nowhere is God's grace more evident
than when a Hospice Angel walks through the door.

When Tom's daughters had a heart-to-heart talk with him last April, he was the epitome of a man at the end of his rope. Five months of caring for his wife, Jenny, had kept him awake most nights. Occasionally he catnapped in the afternoons, but it was never a good rest. The love of his life was dying; his own discomfort could not compare with hers.

Daughters Susan and Carol gazed lovingly at their father, a man whose looks normally belied his definitive age. Months of worry, chemo, and hope had stolen his vitality and lined his face with the weight of concern.

"It's time, Dad," Susan said placing her arms around him. 

"Time?" His puzzled face expressed an inability to think beyond the moment. 

"We're worried about you," Carol said, following her sister's lead. "Mom's many needs these days are too much for you to handle alone and you need help. It's time for Hospice."

Tears pooled in Tom's eyes. "They are just as blue as a robin's egg," Jenny told him on their first date.         

"Hospice," he said, "is for later, when there's no hope, no reason to..." his voice trailed off as tears slid down his sad, sad face. "She's my wife, my life." 

In his heart, Tom knew he couldn't do everything for his wife, but Hospice? Jenny might think he had given up on her.

After his daughters explained how Hospice could insure Jenny's ultimate comfort and care, Tom was better able to come to terms with that which he had not wanted to face. With the help of Jenny's oncologist, the family reached out to the local Hospice workers.

The children and Tom were there the day Linda came into their lives. She wore no wings, no long flowing gown, no halo. In fact, she was dressed in a cheerful pair of yellow pants topped with a bright blue smock. But she wore a sensitive smile on her face that completely overshadowed the intensity of her clothes.

Tom greeted her with a responding smile. "Come in, Linda, and meet my beautiful Jenny," he said. 

Jenny grinned at her new caregiver and said, "Your blouse is the exact color of Tom's eyes." At that moment, Jenny and Linda bonded. Jenny was assured that, no matter what, she would be cared for with love, compassion and excellence.

During the time that Linda was with Jenny, she did so much more than was expected of a Hospice nurse. True, she met all of the patient's needs, but beyond that, she sipped coffee with Tom and his daughters and listened to them tell the story of Jenny's life—the third-grade students Jenny had taught who kept in touch even after they were grown, the tennis trophies won four seasons in a row, the prize roses Jenny had grafted and named after her two daughters. There was so much to recount.

Linda laughed out loud when told about the Halloween Jenny dressed up as the Jolly Green Giant, slathering green food coloring mixed with cold cream all over her body.
"She scrubbed and scrubbed" Carol said, tears of laughter streaming down her face, "but no way could she get it all off. She had to go to school the next day looking more like a hungover leprechaun than a jolly green giant."   
When the time came for Jenny to leave this life, her family were all there: Tom, Susan, Carol, and also Linda, who had become so close to them all. They circled around her bed while Jenny gazed deeply into the robin's egg blue eyes of the love of her life before she swept the room for a goodbye look at her two devoted daughters. 
When at last her eyes came to rest on Linda, Jenny smiled, not one bit surprised to find that Linda's always vibrant clothes had been exchanged for a long, flowing pale blue gown, a shimmering halo and a perfect pair of angel wings.
Jenny's story is repeated every day due to the gathering of Hospice Angels caring for our families and friends. It is so important, even in these economically stressful times, for each of us to support these wonderful people who are devoted to helping others in need.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Drop Back One and Punt

When it comes to food, Babe doesn't dare complain about my cooking. Why? Because he doesn’t do kitchens, he does football and golf. His remote control speed-clicks to ESPN. He easily swings a golf club and can catch a football with one hand, but so domestically challenged is he that he could apply for and receive government assistance.

B.C. (Before Cappy), he was the Go-To guy who knew all about microwavable food. The day he married a Southern gal who could cook was the day his epicurean fantasy came true. He hasn’t strolled down the frozen food aisle since strolling down that other aisle with me over twenty-five years ago. Generally speaking, his culinary lack of interest doesn’t matter to me, but today it does because a horrible stomach virus hit me twelve hours ago.

Having finally managed to fall into a fitful sleep, I am startled awake by Babe who is not so quietly pacing back and forth at the foot of my deathbed. It could be delirium, but I have the insane notion that he may actually be concerned about my health or lack thereof, as the case may be.

“Babe, it’s only a bug. I’ll be okay by tomorrow.” My tone is sugarcane sweet but weak as a water sandwich. I sound like Melanie Wilkes in GWTW begging Scarlett to take care of dear Ashley when she goes to that big plantation in the sky.

When I look up, I catch Babe sneaking a glance at his watch.

“I’m sure you’ll be fine, Sweetie,” he says. “But, um, I was just wondering …”

“Wondering what?”

“Well, maybe you should eat something,” he says.

The man owes his life to the fact that he is pacing at the foot of my bed and not beside it. I shove the covers back faster than the speed of light and dash to the bathroom, breaking Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s world record.

Five minutes later, crawling on my hands and knees, I reach my rumpled bed while holding a small plastic wastebasket clamped between my front teeth. Babe, on the other hand, is walking the floor as if he has become the title of a country/western song.

“What do you want, Babe? Tell me quick so I can die in a quiet room.” I pray to the Kitchen Goddess that he won’t say anything else about food, at least before I can get a better grip on the wastebasket.

“I realize you’re not feeling a hundred percent, but I’ve got a nine o’clock tee time and I was thinking maybe …”

I glare at him through sleep-encrusted, scary eyes and a mouth so dry it could hold a flame. Does he notice? Get serious. Indifferent, he hums to himself while trying to sink a practice ball into my bedroom slipper with his putter.

“Tell me what you want, Babe, then go play golf so I can die in peace.”

He pauses in mid-putt. “You wouldn’t consider fixing me some bacon and eggs before you croak, would you?”

Back in the day, Babe was a college football linebacker and that may well have saved his life for the second time in less than five minutes. I reach for something heavy to throw at him. He dips left and then right as if he were Peyton Manning avoiding a block. I don’t know what it was I threw but it sounded like glass when it hit the wall. I hope it wasn’t my Waterford.

While rushing from the room (as if going for a touchdown), he yells, “You could go to jail for that.”

For a tiny fraction of a second, I pondered what he would find to eat, but that thought flits through my mind faster than all the other things had raced through my body in the last 12 hours.

When I hear a noise in the kitchen, I think maybe the man had figured out how to pour cereal into a bowl. Turns out, it is only the sound of the back door slamming as the ever-resourceful Babe makes a bump and run to the nearest Waffle House.

Huddled alone and experiencing what feels like my personal end zone, dying thoughts quickly turn to payback. If there is justice in this world, then Babe will catch my contagious bug and gain plenty of yardage running back and forth to the loo. When that happens, I will stand on the sidelines and yell like the cheerleader I used to be. 
You got the power,
You got the beat,
You got the spirit,
Now get on your feet!
Go team! Go!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Hoppin’ For Good Luck

By Cappy Hall Rearick 

Ever wonder how the New Year’s tradition of eating peas and rice got the name Hoppin’ John?Well, wonder no more.
Some say it originated with a game similar to musical chairs where kids hop up and down at the table. Duh. The Grandkids from Hell jump up and down at the table as if they’ve swallowed a Slinky. Up North, people eat pork and sauerkraut to clean them out in preparation for the coming year. Yuk. Homemade colonoscopies might be Yankee logic, but I'd sooner have kids jumping up and down at the table like Jack on Crack in the Box.
Thinking it will ward off bad luck, most Southerners adhere to the tradition of eating pork, collard greens and Hoppin’ John on the first of the new year. I am a true Southerner but I have not always been a true believer. 
On New Year's Day many years ago me and my big mouth declared, “No Hoppin’ John and collard greens for me.” Big mistake.
Mama had roasted a Boston Butt to within an smidgen of cremation. Her collards were swimming like Esther Williams in ham grease. I didn’t believe that a year of good luck depended on which veggies I ate on January first. That said, I never met a pig I didn’t want to take home to Mama. So, after downing three pork sandwiches— my one nod to tradition— I developed the bellyache from hell, the first indication of more to come. 
The next day my dog blitzed an entire can of Alpo, looked up at me and promptly dropped dead. Yeah, she was old, but I was just a kid and that dog had been begging for table scraps all of my life. Her high-speed exit made me think she should have eaten my share of collards.
Daddy buried Susie Q in our back yard while Mama and I cried and passed each other one Kleenex after another. He wore a dark suit and tie and stood at the gravesite with his hands clasped in front of him. When I said, “Daddy looks like a preacher,” Mama and I laughed and cried all at the same time.
On January third, I went to the kitchen, poured lard in a frying pan and then realized we were slap out of potatoes. Totally forgetting that I’d turned on the burner under the grease, I walked to the Piggly Wiggly and bought a five-pound bag of potatoes. I dilly-dallied back home much like Prissy did in Gone With the Wind, when I was stopped by loud sirens. Not one large red fire truck, but three of those bad boys were parked end-to-end in front of our house. Smoke billowed from the kitchen door while neighbors lined up on the sidewalk and gawked. 
Within minutes Mama’s kitchen was toast. All of the cabinets had to be repainted and her new wallpaper smelled like a Boy Scout Jamboree. She stayed mad at me for the next twelve months. 
Fearing the next day might bring even more bad luck, I didn’t want to wake up. What if the calamities over the past three days were only teasers? Hello ... I should have stayed in bed because that year was the longest one of my life. One piece of bad luck pounced on me every single day.
Bottom line? I learned more than I ever wanted to know about traditions, why they were established in the first place and why it is necessary to honor them. I’ve been known to eat myself into belly bloat since becoming the poster child for New Year’s Day cuisine. 
I promise you this: until my jaws no longer go up and down in chew mode, I will cover my sassy southern you-know-what by hogging down pork, Hoppin’ John and collard greens on January One. I’ll even eat some of that boring Yankee delight sauerkraut. Who am I to mess with tradition, even when it originates north of the Mason Dixon Line?