Not really sure yet, but by the time you read this, I might be on my way down home to Georgia to visit with Mama for a few days.
My many sisters with their babies and husbands will be there and my brother will be there, too. Mama will cook a lot, then she’ll cook some more, and she’ll probably make an extra trip to Piggly Wiggly. God forbid she run out of Crisco.
One of my younger sisters will (hopefully) bring a homemade, five-layer caramel cake the rest of us will fight over. And another one of my sisters (I won’t say who) will end up pouting a little bit because we didn’t eat all of her banana pudding.
Most of one whole day will be spent rocking or swinging on my eldest sister’s front porch because the annual Peanut Festival will be happening on Main Street, just a few steps away from her house. We’ll be able to see everything from there and everybody’ll be able to see us and there’ll be a whole lot of waving going on and a lot of people hollering out “Heeeey!” before hopping up on the porch with us and sitting down and talking for awhile.
Most of those people will come over and give me a hug and tell me how good it is to see me and say something about how they’re so glad I’ve finally come home. I’ll hug them back and pretend I’m so glad to see them, too, but I won’t really remember a lot of them because it’s been so long since I’ve seen them. Mama and my sisters will get a little disgusted with me for my memory lapses and say things like: “Oh, you remember Miss So-and-So! You went to her house when you were in the first grade and pulled up all of her tomato plants! She’s the one who made that chess pie that time and wouldn’t let anybody eat it because when she took it out of the oven it had an image of what looked like Jesus riding a bicycle on it! I think her granddaughter’s dating that boy from Atlanta! His mama’s got diabetes! You remember Miss So-and-So!”
I’ll finally agree if for no other reason than to keep peace on the porch.
After awhile, I’ll get up and stroll across the road to the park to see what kind of booths are set up and then I’ll walk on over to Main Street and wait for the parade to begin. The covered sidewalks will be draped with red, white and blue bunting and the ends of Main Street — one mighty block long — will be closed off with hay bales instead of garish orange cones and barricades. That alone has, oddly, always been somewhat of a comfort to me.
The men from the Lions Club will be selling barbecue by the plate and all the churches will have their grills fired up, too. I’ll keep bumping into people I grew up with and have many of those moments of panic in which I know who they are but can’t recall their names for a few seconds. Then I’ll remember, and we’ll talk about things like how we got whippings from Miss June when we were in the third grade or how terrified we were at the thought of having Miss Baldwin for a teacher when we finally made it to fifth grade or how we used to ride around town on our bicycles thinking that other people were thinking how cool we were.
Then we’ll talk about our kids who just graduated from college or the ones who just got married and some will talk about grandbabies. Then we’ll shake our heads about the passage of time and part with promises to keep in touch knowing full well that the next time we speak again, if we ever do, will be a year from now on Main Street waiting for the parade to begin and blinking through the smoke from all the barbecue grills.
Throughout the day, I’ll spot one or more of my many nieces or grand-nieces roaming around and be rewarded with a hug just for being there. They’re all just prissy as hell but have a perfect right to be because as far as nieces go, they are the prettiest I’ve ever seen.
As always, I’ll drive a mile outside of town to the cemetery and sit with the old man for a little while — 31 years now, he’s been gone — and find myself, again, shaking my head at the passage of time. But then I’ll begin to smile at some small, good gift of a memory and I’ll feel good knowing that there is no possible way for me to take a step along the streets of my tiny hometown without retracing the same steps my Mama has taken or my Daddy or my sisters or my brother, and I’ll think about how good it would be if my boys came back one day and walked that same walk.
As always, before I go, I’ll leave a penny, heads up, on the old man’s stone.
By the time you read this, maybe I’ll be well south of here, neck deep in the way things used to be and continuing my lessons about how life goes on and how great and good it is that it does.
I’ll give Miss So-and-So a hug if I see her and I’ll tell her that y’all said hey.