Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Easter Part Two: Flaming Fish Houses and Required Ministerial Obligations for Lottery Winnings

“That hussy is staring at me!” my sister Dawne seethed at me through clenched teeth and with eyes becoming increasingly hazy.
Um, okay, I thought to myself. At first, I was unaware of the quickly escalating situation. I merely knew that she was addressing this comment to me, and apparently the glances of the rest of the table turned toward me in wonder… Presumably wondering what the hell I proposed to do about it. Clarification: Not what I proposed to do about said hussy and her stares, but about my sister and her second outburst at dinner.

Allow me to back up and catch you, Gentle Reader, up on what had transpired to this point…

My sweet and endearing mother, LaNita had agreed to host all of the children and family for a multi-birthday + Easter celebration weekend at her home in rural, southern Mississippi. En route to Hattiesburg to pick my eldest sister, Dawne, up: I had already had multiple conversations regarding appropriate presents, the presentation of said presents, and exactly what the weekend of “spontaneous” fun would hold. Dawne and her son, MY amazing nephew, Devin, piled into Big Red so we could haul our asses to Sandy Hook, MS.

Armed with instructions from my mother, we make a pit stop to do a bit of light shopping* before we arrive at the Parsonage. [Note: Light shopping here is a misnomer. It wasn’t easy, lazy, or fun. It wasn’t light. Dawne was having back issues and wanted to be let out at the door. This is the only open place in a small town. Everyone was there. Also, it was a WalMart, which I am morally opposed to supporting, but am smart enough to know when I’ve been bested. Thirdly, as noted from the multiple calls from multiple family members, this pitstop and shop session was no longer optional, it was clearly mandatory.] So, I drop Dawne off at the door and drove off to the empty end of the parking lot. Now, I am a reasonably secure person, and I am tall and beefy – so people don’t generally intimidate me, but WHY would a car with Esse-scripted writing on the windows and a white thug, his skank, and their babies pull up RIGHT beside my truck and park? Dude, you have like, 8 spaces around here. Then (no lie) he gets out of the car, pulls his cargo shorts up, buttons them and off the family traipses into Wal-Mart. Now, it is truly none of my business if a man wants to drive his family around in a Rice Rocket with his pants down. But this entire non-exchange from myself to them gave me many questions – what were they doing? Was he getting road head from the skank while toddlers were in the car? Was he just hot-natured and needed to cool off? Why in the world would he do that? I don’t ride in my underwear (when I wear underwear) with other passengers. That’d just be weird. This whole thing was perplexing me and giving me pause. Then I thought to myself, “I’d never see this kind of shit at Target.”

As I thought about this, and sauntered lightly towards the door, my nephew was waiting for me, and Dawne had procured her hov-a-round. I walked briskly past and loudly stated, “Excuse me, ma’am” and promptly stomped off to the housewares department. The extremely well-stocked housewares department. I was more than a bit impressed for a Wal-Mart in BFE, MS to be stocked so well for kitchens and the like. Then I remembered that I was in BFE, MS where kitchens and the joys it brings are to be celebrated as only the truly Southern know how. I perused the aisles of pots and pans, of utensils for every imaginable purpose in a kitchen. I found silicone heat resistant spatulas. I found cupcake tins, mini cupcake tins. And I found micro bite sized cupcake tins. I found bundt pans of all shapes and patterns to produce impressive desserts for when it would be the user’s week to assist with “Dinner On The Ground”. They were all impressive. Well, except there was a shocking lack of cast iron available, but this is fucking Wal-Mart, not Le Creuset. We live as best we can…

Having fondled and imagined myself using almost every piece in lots of scenarios (one of which involves me cooking with Meryl Streep as Julie Child – don’t ask) I finally found the Coffee Pots. And now that I had EXACTLY what the Rolands needed in their coffee pot, I began narrowing down the choices. Let’s just heave the small carraffed coffee makers off of the shelves. Nope, not you. You don’t have a timer to make the coffee for waking up. Not you, either. You don’t have an independent water supply filter. Oh, you have all three, but not a mesh coffee filter that’s green and reusable. Aha. Found it. Into my buggy it goes. I go back to daydreaming about Meryl/Julia and wondering what I might cook for this weekend when my phone vibrates in my front jeans pocket. I giggle because it’s dangerously close to being erotic.

It’s just Dawne, “Where are you?”

“I am at the house/coffee pot section. I am done when you are. But I need a gift bag or something. I’ll meet you at the cards and bags.”

“Okay…” and I hear the whir of the electric scooter taking flight.

[Note: I do not make fun of my sister for using a hovaround. In a small town. At the Wal-Mart. I make fun of her because she uses it as a weapon and to run people over. I should have known this from Christmas. I should have known this from years of assessing her personality and psychological skills. But she is very, very crafty in molding others to her will and causing you to temporarily forget any past injustices.]

I heave my buggy back into one of the crowded main arteries of traffic flow and deftly merge into the Wal-Mart patrons. I am a bad driver and I am horrible at things like “rubbernecking”. I am reading the unfamiliar aisle signs and trying to find D & D.


Well, nearly success. I am ready to get to the aisle and I can literally see the items I need, plus I see the back wheels of a hovaround. Dawne is near and I want to hurry up. Why is no one moving? They see that I need to get by and get to the aisle. One lady glances over, mistakenly does not acknowledge me, and then continues to browse while not giving right of way. Lady, you just fucked up. I push my buggy into this older lady to get her to move. She glares at me and I (with some bravado and without any remorse) curl the right side of my own lip up into a snarl.

“Pardon.” I stalk past. She doesn’t move her buggy. So I stop my buggy, and physically push hers to the side so I can continue. I’ll eat her for breakfast. Fucking sow. Oh, and Happy Easter, you hateful, country bitch!

Undeterred by this small fray, I bravely carry onto the gift/card aisle and meet Dawne. After 0.2 blistering seconds of contemplation, I have a beautiful gift bag, and tissue paper thrown into the buggy and have loudly and deftly announced:

“I’m ready to go.”

“Me too, I’m almost done.” Dawne chimes.

Hmm. What the hell does almost mean? It's time to get up out of this Wal-Mart. What would people at Rainbow think? What would my friends say? Okay, let me rephrase this,

“I’m ready to go. Now.”

And then, my gaydar-spidey sense begins tingling. Something fun and fabulous is near… I reach out into the unknown with my subconscious – spinning glitter, hope, and rainbows into a web…. AHA! Located in the card section, close by, but hidden behind ugly and non-matching envelopes was “Pocket Unicorn”!!! I became immediately enamored of this small, wonderful device. “Come Prance With Me!” “Unicorn Loooooovees you! Do you love Unicorn?” I almost clapped with delight, right there in a country ass Wal-Mart. How did God know I’d need a quick pick me up after a long, delayed work week, and an eventful and tedious ride? I am reminded of the old song, “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know”. Well, I knew it because he gave me a gay ass Pocket Unicorn Card of Awesome. Happy Resurrection, Jesus! Eventually, everyone is ready to pack up, pay, and get back on the road. Oh, and I turned that Unicorn Card into several notificaton and ringtones on my phone. Oh, Unicorn…

Now, if you have never been “received” or if you have never been in a big ole Southern family, you don’t understand how we all greet one another. It’s an art. It’s a balancing act. It’s delicate. Hug too little or in an incorrect order, and you can go HORRIBLY awry. Hug too much, and in an incorrect order, and you can be accused of hiding something.
Typically, hugs and obeisance should go in this order:
  • Oldest Matriarch
  • Her peer siblings and peerage equals (same level on the other side of the family)
  • Next generation, (generally the daughter of the Oldest Matriarch or the next oldest in line)
  • Mother
  • Female Siblings
  • Oldest Patriarch
  • His peer siblings and peerage equals (same level on the other side of the family)
  • Father
  • Male siblings
  • Anyone younger than you or the equivalent of NEXT generations (your siblings offspring, their offspring, and so on)

That seems like a lot. But it’s a time honored ritual and it’s practiced without hesitation and without discussion. The only time it’s ever really mentioned is when you DON’T do it correctly. Usually a well meaning Great Aunt or Uncle will visegrip your upper arm as you are pulled aside and reminded to immediately go speak to “Aunt So and So” since she’s waiting for you. Small children are generally excused of this behavior until they are of an age to drink coffee or when they are too old for the children’s table and begin learning the family trees. I’ll conclude your mini lesson on etiquette and true southern manners now.

Back to the riveting story: We arrived and the elaborate dance of getting out of the car first. Going to the door, going inside and making the proper and appropriate greetings. ONLY then returning to your vehicle to unload your luggage acceptable. Plus, at that point, you have family to help carry things. If you are like me and many other southern belles, we don’t pack light or travel easy. We pack for every conceivable occasion and travel like we are in first class on a Cruise Liner. And we expect to be offered refreshments upon arrival. It’s not only practical to those that have traveled and fought their way to your home, it’s customary and polite to make sure that you present your guests with a buffet of choices.

“Son, do you want something to drink?”
“No ma’am. I need to get my thangs out of the truck.”
“Are you sure? We have coke, diet coke, sprite, apple juice, some fresh orange juice, water, and sweet tea.”
“Mama, I need wine after the drive and Wal-Mart.”
“We have white, red, and that awfully nice box of zinfandel I like.”
“Maybe just a touch of sweet tea”

This conversation is then rendered completely pointless when a BubbaKeg of ice and sweet tea is presented to the new arrival. This is also why I love being born, raised, and PROUDLY a true genteel Southerner. You can’t learn, practice or fake this. It’s bred generation after generation on gentility and quiet, unwavering, hard as nails, Southern etiquette and manners.

Mamaw Sue was there. She was stunning in her own electric mobility chair. She had cut her hair shorter than normal. Normally, when you have beautiful white hair, I enjoy a bit of length and “fluff” to it. But she had cut it very short, and permed it. It was cute, but it was only “Little Old Lady” cute. It wasn’t may favorite. Loved her little outfit that I am sure Mother bought for her and she waved at me and motioned for me to come and hug her neck.

Annie Doris was there (this would be considered almost a peerage equal, and crosses over to next generation) Annie D was on the other side of the family, but she is also not as old and is the sister of my mother’s husband. Old than them, younger than Mamaw. And she is a total hoot. She’s not quite there for the Little Old Lady status, but she isn’t in the Momma/Daddy stage.

Of course my Uncle Larry was there. Physically. He’s already clocked out a bit, mentally. He means well, and he will pipe up and join random lines of conversation here and there. I don’t say that to be unkind or make fun, but he is HORRIBLY Epileptic and cannot help but stop in mid-sentence and stare off into nothing for tens of minutes and then finish his sentence like nothing had ever happened.

LaNita (my famous mother) looked FABULOUS. Well, to me she looked a little thin, but not so much that I was worried. But her style is amazing. She never let’s me down.

Curtis, the preacher, my stepfather, was in a white tee and shorts. Classy. HAHAHA. It was casual and we were all ready to lounge around.

Well, everyone else was ready to lounge. I was ready to eat lunch (in the South, lunch is called dinner, and dinner is called supper.) There was a hashbrown casserole that would make a Pentecostal woman wear lipstick! My word, it was FINE! Annie Doris had fried up a couple of chickens and Momma had made a broccoli/vegetable salad that I could have eaten thirds of! Not to mention that Annie Doris had baked up her FAMOUS pecan pie. Pie so good, it was worth fighting my sister Melanie for. Pie so good we hid one of the extras so that people would be forced to only enjoy the one pie, and then eat other means of dessert. Mel and I were no fools about pie. I sat there and ate two entire plates of food. Even my fat was disappointed in me. Maybe you didn’t catch that the first time you read it. Even. My. Fat. Was. Disappointed. In. Me. That’s a terrible feeling to know that your own body is angry at your choices in diet (and sometimes life, but that’s another story…) Melanie, Dawne, and I sat on the back porch at the “kids” table and caught up. Fun.

After the food was completely consumed, dishes were washed and the appropriate amount of appreciation was shown to the cooks – we got to some important topics as the children. What were we doing next and to survive?? Clearly our next stop was Angie, Louisiana – BUT, how? How were we to pile into a vehicle all together and without much notice? How would we explain where we were going and what we were doing?

Oh, you as the reader don’t know either – Angie has Lotto tickets. It has Powerball. It has MegaMillions. It has the little individual tickets that are the “scratch off” kind. It has so, so many different kinds of tickets. And, as such, we want to go and give them money in the hopes of winning more money back from them. It’s called gambling. The Bible called it “casting lots”. I call it foolishness. It’s silly really, and no one I have evern known in my life has won. Except for everyone in my family EXCEPT me. Melanie wins regularly like 5-20 dollars. Dawne wins. Others win. I never win. Never. An interesting point in this story is that while this little rinky-dink store in a “one STOP sign” town is that they have at least thirty kinds of lotteries to play, and will not take a debit card. Just an observation. So, what did we do? Well, we DIDN’T tell Mamaw, we mentioned it to Curtis, who politely ignored his heathen children, and told Momma that we just simply HAD to go out for a bit: As with any trip in our ministry-oriented family, the children all piled up together to go get lottery tickets. Hurrah!

Scratched out, we naturally ended up around a piano and practiced for our songs at Church. But that’s boring. I mean, we had fun. We all teased and sang, and we laughed and did good. We usually do. But so many things happened this weekend. So, so many. So, rather than bore you with minutia... Let me just get to one of my personal favorite highlights of this weekend: Mamaw ran over Dawne with the hovaround. I can’t even sit here and type it nearly a month later without laughing out loud. Apparently, Mamaw needed to use the restroom. She's old and she needs assistance walking, sitting, etc. And the old thang just up and decided to wheel herself to it. That's her first mistake and caused quite a ruccus about us putting her in a home. Now... unbeknownst to poor old Dawne, and also, at some point, Mamaw had taken her shoes off and was in slippery stocking feet. (That’s important. ;)) So, Dawne offers to help her and take her to the bathroom while we were all fooling around during music practice. Well, Dawne is a strong woman, but she’s had two hips replaced and a bad back due to necrosis of her bones. So, when sweet Mamaw’s feet the floor, she began to slip and hit the button on the hovaround.

Picture this: Dawne, behind the chair, helping Mamaw from behind sit up and then stand up. Mamaw's feet, starting to skid... Then. Mamaw hits the button on the arm of her hovaround. The hovaround begins backing into Dawne and knocking her into and down the wall of the restroom.

This would be funny enough. But there's more: Dawne, having been thrown to the ground, is no longer holding on to Mamaw, who is now clutching the hovaround even tighter and has thrown it into a higher gear, further running over Dawne and pinning her against the wall. Dawne later told me that "from what she could see in her vantage point" that Mamaw was trying to help and “her little feet were just a-kicking". I had to leave the room, I laughed so hard.

Oh, and where was my mother during this? Laughing. I am truly that woman’s son.

We get home and get ready for dinner out. This is going to be fun, and also, Gentle Reader, where YOU came into this story. There are about 15 of us sitting around a large, long picnic style table and eating some DELICIOUS fried catfish, hush puppies, and tater logs. I know this isn’t the healthiest food, but my GOD, it was truly unreal. Momma sat in the middle, Curtis, and then myself. Then down was Devin, Melanie, and Annie Doris. Across from me was my hilarious sister, Dawne, then some church people, then Larry (an uncle) and down from Momma was Mamaw. Now, I didn’t realize certain things had transpired at home AFTER Mamaw viciously ran Dawne down in her mobility enhancer also commonly called a hovaround. So, when things started going down, I was shocked. Well, more accurately, I was slightly dismayed at first, but shocked mostly. Then it started slowly clearing up as the fog lifted. Momma had given Dawne some old pain meds from a surgery for her back since Mamaw had run her over. Dawne decided that one wouldn't do, and after finishing off several pills and a glass of wine, those meds had decided to kick in during dinner.

I had already had a glass of sweet tea and a refill, and had received my all you can eat platter of fried catfish goodness, when… I notice Dawne is not moving, holding a piece of fish in midair near her face, and GLARING off at another table.

“That hussy is staring at me!” my sister Dawne seethed at me through clenched teeth and with eyes becoming increasingly hazy.

Um, okay, I thought to myself. At first, I was unaware of the quickly escalating situation. I merely knew that she was addressing this comment to me, and apparently the glances of the rest of the table turned toward me in wonder… Presumably wondering what the hell I proposed to do about it. Clarification: Not what I proposed to do about said hussy and her stares, but about my sister and her second outburst at dinner. So, I looked at Dawne’s glassy, large-pupiled eyes and said, “Have some frieds, love. The starchy goodness will help your mood.”

“Michael, she IS SO looking.”

“No one is looking. Except me. And everyone at this table. And the two people behind you that clearly heard you.”

“No, that bitc…”


“…uh, lady… is staring holes through me. What is her problem? What is YOUR problem?” Oh, lord. When a country girl feels insulted and quits talking about you and begins talking TO you. Things have deteriorated in your situation. She has started saying it over Momma and Mamaw to the lady she swears is looking at her in a non-flattering manner. What do I do with this? Now, I had gotten her to quiet down a small, teeny, tiny bit. And then Annie Doris chimed in and said, “Well, it does LOOK like she’s staring over here.” Thanks, Annie D...

Hmm, Dear Readers... what would YOU have done? Would you have looked? Well, let’s see, the only pastor in town at a table with his hot wife, her trail-riding-grandaughter-mowing-hovaround mother, her weird and mildly mentally retarded brother, several loud church members, a high-as-shit daughter waving fish around, sweet old Annie Doris, gorgeous Melanie, Devin, and a tattooed gay son all at one table talking VERY loudly and looking around. Who the hell WOULDN’T look around. I say no one. Because I know I SURE would have looked, and maybe even commented to my own dinner companions.

Hindsight being 20/20 for my sister, that, of course, is the kind of logic that will escape you when you do your Momma’s old surgery drugs. Don’t do drugs!

The rest of the weekend is pretty normal and kind of a blur. It was SO good to see family, friends, church family, and to be in service with my Momma and Mamaw. It’s rare that I get to go to church and cry, pray, and sing with my family and those times are some of the best and most precious times to me. Truly. I am loud and vulgar and don’t always make the best choices, but my word… my lord and God, I love hanging out with them and just going to church. Now I will say this one thing, Curtis Roland preached his guts out that Sunday. We all sang our hearts out and then he left every gut he had on the floor of that pulpit. Much respect for a great sermon. (I doubt he reads my blog, BUT if he does, then I hope he knows I am TOTALLY stealing a sermon for a book idea I have. Deal with it, Pops…)

I can’t wait to see them all again, soon. Oh, and PS – I didn’t win a damn dollar in that lottery! I guess no tithe is necessary!



  1. Michael I don't know you personally, but I do know you through Dawne. I have to thank you for giving me a good pick me up. I about peed myself laughing. Also you are SO correct about Dawne and the hovaround. It is a WEAPON

  2. Haha, thanks Raven. THANK YOU! No one seems to believe me that she will MOW you down. Seemingly innocent of course, but she will take an eye out when she gets to going on that thing.