Saturday, December 31, 2016


 “There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake
Christmas morning and not be a child.” ~ Erma Bombeck

My husband, Babe suggested that we sleep in on Christmas Day. Our grown children were in South Carolina with their little ones, so St. Nick had no logical reason to drop down our Georgia chimney. We decided to sleep as long as possible since the kids were coming to visit after the live greens were wilted and the fat man had flown back to the North Pole.
Early Christmas morning as I dreamed of sugar plum fairies and stockings hung by the chimney with care, my two hungry cats turned my stomach into a pincushion. Dragging my sleep-deprived body to the kitchen, I searched the pantry for a can of non-smelly cat food. Since it was a holiday, I would treat the kitties to turkey ala Fancy Feast instead of mystery fish parts.
As I was leaving the kitchen I saw Babe sitting on the floor in front of the Christmas tree. He looked like he was in a trance.
“Whatcha doing, Babe?”
He looked at me like I had glitter for brains. “What do you think? I’m waiting to open presents.”
I sat down, leaned over and kissed him smack on his smackers. He grinned. “Can we open ‘em now,” he asked. “Can we? Huh?”
“What are you, five? All right, let’s do this thing.” My Starbucks was kicking in so I could handle pretty much anything.
Later, after expressing our gratitude for socks, ties and perfume we didn’t need, we were hungry for something out, food that didn’t need cooking in my kitchen. We got dressed and hurried to the car.
 “Where to,” Babe said playing taxi driver to his lone passenger.
 “Waffle House,” I replied. “They never close.”
The diner known to every man, woman and child South of the Gnat Line was packed, the parking lot jammed with cars, motorcycles and pickups.
A family of four got up to leave just as we arrived, so before it could be cleaned of leftover waffle crumbs, we commandeered the abandoned table.
“Cheese omelet,” I declared to Donna, the server dressed in a red T-shirt with Merry Christmas, Y’all stamped on her bosomy front. “And leave the coffee pot.”
Donna looked at me like the aforementioned brain glitter was leaking out of my ears. “Not gonna happen, Girlfriend,” she said. “Not today.”
Undaunted about that missing front tooth of hers, Donna grinned and then winked at Babe. He ordered one of everything on the menu and then winked at her.
I looked around at the assorted groups of people having Christmas breakfast at the little house of pecan waffles and enough fat fuel to power us all to Uranus and back.
Taking up two tables and hanging off the end, a group of bikers dressed in red leather were smacking on waffles, hash browns and milk. Milk?
A young mom and dad next to us were trying to keep their pajama-clad children from killing each other. My guess is that earlier Dad had said, “Let’s eat out at the place that’s open 24-7.”
Mom had replied, “You had me at eat out.”
I noticed an elderly woman seated near the back of the diner. She was wearing a red wig that didn’t fit and she was too thin. Her eyes matched her wig. She ate alone and looked sadder than anyone in the place. It broke my heart.
Donna refilled our cups, spilled some on the side. “Oops,” she chirped and Babe winked at me. There was a lot of winking going on that morning. ‘Tis the season …
Old friends stopped by our table to offer holiday wishes. It had been much too long since we had seen them, and I wondered where the time had gone.
My omelet arrived loaded with cheese and too much animal fat. Babe dug into his eggs, waffles, bacon, sausage, grits and hash browns and then asked Donna to bring him some whole-wheat toast. Go figure.
Between bites, I became more aware of pajama-clad kids and exhausted parents, evidenced by a Dad’s blood-shot eyes or a Mom’s droopy ones. I thought about when my children were that young and how we were up late on Christmas Eve searching for misplaced nuts, bolts and missing screws for all the unassembled toys from Santa.
Had it been that long ago when instead of cats jumping on my stomach, tiny hands shook me awake with, “Let’s go see what Santa Claus left!” Where had the time had gone?
We never went out for breakfast on Christmas Day when my kids were young. I made waffles and bacon and then yelled for them to put down their toys and come eat their breakfast. Family life is different now, but that’s not a bad thing.
As I looked around at all the kids in pajamas eating breakfast at the Waffle House it brought a smile to my face.
Donna, proudly showing off that Merry Christmas, Y’all T-shirt, made me happy and it made me glad to be exactly where we were that morning.
And when Babe ordered every item on the Waffle House menu and the paramedics did not need to be called, I smiled and asked him if he'd saved room for fruitcake.
He swallowed a mouthful of hash browns and said, “The Waffle House doesn’t serve fruitcake. Even on Christmas. But we’ve still got a few slices at home, don’t we?”

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hop, Hop, Hopping Around for Good Luck

How did Hoppin’ John get its name?
One theory is that it originated from the Creole name for pigeon peas, “pois a pigeon,” pronounced “pwah peeJon.” Close enough for Southerners to say Hoppin’ John from that point on.
Some believe it originated with a children’s game similar to musical chairs where kids hop up and down at the table, hence the name. Duh. The Grandkids from Hell love to jump up and down at the table as though they’ve swallowed Slinkies … even when it’s not New Year’s Day.
Babe claims that in Pennsylvania people eat pork and sauerkraut to clean them out in preparation for the coming year. Yuk. Homemade colonoscopies might pass as Yankee logic, but I’ll settle for kids jumping up and down at the table like Jack (on Crack) in the Box.
Believing that it will ward off bad luck, Southerners adhere to the tradition of eating pork, collards and Hoppin’ John on New Year’s. I am Southern to the bone, but I was not always a believer. I am now.
In 1960 I said to my mother, “No Hoppin’ John for me and certainly no collards. I hate greens.” So I ate no peas and rice or collards on that first day of the year over fifty years ago. Big mistake.
Mama roasted Boston Butt pork to a fair-thee-well and had her collards swimming in ham pot likker like Esther Williams. I didn’t believe for a minute that a year of good luck depended on certain veggies eaten on January first. But I never met a pig I didn’t want to take home to Mama, but after downing three pork sandwiches — my one nod to tradition — I was struck with the bellyache from hell. I thought I was dying. A stomachache was only a hint of what was to come. Had I but known, I’d have seriously considered mainlining leftover collards.
Obviously I didn’t die, but the very next day my dog blitzed a can of Alpo, looked up at me, and croaked. It is true that she was old, but her death was still a shock. I was a kid and that dog had been begging for table scraps all my life. Her high-speed exit made me think that she, too, should have eaten collards.
Susie Q was buried in the back yard. Mama and I watched and cried while passing each other the Kleenex box. Daddy was a policeman and the gravediggers were prisoners from the jailhouse. He wore a dark suit and tie and stood at the gravesite with his hands clasped in front of him. I said, “Daddy looks like a preacher,” and we laughed through our tears.
On January third, I set the kitchen on fire. I didn’t do it on purpose, it just happened. That afternoon, I’d been craving French Fries. After pouring lard in the frying pan, I realized we were slap out of potatoes. 
Forgetting that I’d turned on the burner under the lard, I grabbed my pocketbook and walked to the Piggly Wiggly for a five-pound bag of potatoes. I was dilly-dallying back home pretty much like Prissy in Gone With the Wind, when the sound of sirens stopped me. Turning the corner, I saw not one red fire truck, but three of those bad boys parked end to end in front of my house. Smoke billowed from the kitchen door and open window while neighbors gossiped and gawked on the sidewalk.
Mama’s kitchen was toast. All of the cabinets had be repainted; the new wallpaper smelled like a campfire. Mama stayed mad at me for twelve months.
I dreaded January fourth. Would it bring even more bad luck? I wondered if the calamities I’d dealt with for three days were only teasers. Turned out that’s what they were. 1960 was the longest year of my life. A new piece of bad luck pounced on me every day of that year.
Bottom line? I learned to respect traditions, why they were established in the first place and why we must honor them no matter what. These days I think nothing of hogging down Pork, collards and Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day. In fact, I totally look forward to that particular meal.

I promised myself then that every year while my jaws can still go up and down in chew mode, I will cover my sassy southern you-know-what by gobbling me up some Hoppin’ John, collard greens, pork and even some of that boring Yankee delight, sauerkraut. All cabbages and their cousins are my BFF’s come January first.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


“The best gifts are wrapped in love and tied with heartstrings.

In this special season of giving I invite you to join me in creating a living symbol of what Christmas is all about
By pulling together, we can build a huge Christmas tree designed and adorned by the power of love. We can trim it with people of all sizes and colors, and then light it with the brilliance of their imaginative ideas.
The gifts underneath the tree are plentiful because there is more than enough to go around.
Peace of Mind is in the large white box and Health is wrapped up in pink.
Talent is bursting from its confined package like multicolored confetti!
Faith, Hope and Love all bask in the glow of gold and silver, while a bright yellow box of Enlightenment opens up right before our eyes.
Contentment? It is packaged in many different colors and designs.
At the top of our tree, a brightly shining star illumines each gift, each life and each open door. That star is called free will.
The largest gift of all is an unfilled box of Christmas Spirit. If we put ourselves inside that box, we can fill it with food for hungry people, solutions for drug and ecology issues and freedom for those living behind walls of fear, hate, and ignorance.
Charles Dickens wrote, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
Let’s do it! Let’s wrap up that thought with love, tie it with heartstrings and place it under our tree so that everyone in the world can have a Dickens of a Christmas!

—Cappy Hall Rearick