ladies who lunch in the South

“I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered,
it is most certainly Christ-haunted.”

Flannery O’Connor


(one of the many blue plates at Rachel’s in Watkinsville, Ga )

I’m not certain what exactly Ms O’Conner meant about us here in the South
being ‘Christ haunted’, but I suppose it has something to do with just another
thread woven into our long and at times, tragically sad past as Southerners.

But that past has much more happy than sad…it’s just that the sad gets more coverage

May it be known that I have always had a deep respect and affinity for the older residents
of our beautiful South.
And it probably should be known that possessing manners and respect seems to be just an innate
quality we Southerns seemed to born with…or maybe it was something that simply came from our grandmothers.

Today, I finally felt like I might live from the first dose of that blasted Pfizer vaccine.
The jury has been out since Saturday afternoon.

And since I did feel as if I might actually survive today, we went to visit a new dentist.

New doctors of every shape, size and description now seem to be filling our dance card.

Ode too moving.

And so since we now live in a place that is a bit “out”…
we’re within about 10 to 15 minutes to several nice little cities and towns.
One being the home to my alma mater.
But that once small city I knew 40 years ago, is now a massive teeming sea of humanity
all with a massive sea of speeding reckless cars.

The dentist, gratefully was in the opposite direction…located in a
delightfully charming small southern town.

When the hygienist was almost finished, I asked if she could recommend
a nice little place for lunch.

She asked if we liked southern cooking.
You know, those blue plate special places of yore.

“Well, yeah”, was my snappy response…as if my southern drawl didn’t give that away.

She recommended a place that was in a small shopping strip on our way back home.

When we pulled into the parking lot, it was full.
As in packed.

We spied the restaurant across the parking lot as there was even a line of cars
pulled up alongside the drive through window.

We made our way inside behind a line of the hungry myriad of lunch folks.

The young lady at the door took our name but shortly directed us to a long table
of about 8 chairs with two older women sitting at the opposite end
as we saddled up on the other end.

The place was packed and folks just kept pouring in.
Social distancing, I suppose, was in the best effect it could be.
There were plastic separators between booths and folks at the long tables
were spread out…

They had a dry erase board boasting the day’s delectables.
Fried chicken with white gravy
Patti melts
Meatloaf
Country fried steak
Grilled flounder
Grilled salmon
Chicken tenders
along with every vegetable and casserole imaginable.

One of the older women sitting at the end of our table asked if we were new visitors to
the restaurant.
We explained that we were new to the area so she immediately called over our waitress, Susan,
explaining that we were new and she needed to be nice to us.

Susan looked at us and winked, noting that her name was actually Suzanne.

Susan/ Suzanne immediately reappeared with a basket of hot, melt in your mouth, corn bread.
She then took our order.

The older lady at the end of the table asked if we liked banana pudding.
I told her that I was not a fan but my husband loved it.
She explained that this place had the best banana pudding out there.
It must, because I had overheard her when she ordered three to go.

The ladies proceeded to get Susan / Suzanne to come give us the run down
of hours of operation and the days with the best offerings.

After we had eaten all that we could manage to eat, a banana pudding magically
appeared in front of my husband.

We both turned and looked at the ladies.

They each immediately raised their hands in the air as if they had no clue as to
how a banana pudding could miraculously show up.

From the oohs and ahhhs, I think the whole place knew my husband loved his
banana pudding.

Susan /Suzanne came by and thanked us for visiting, telling us to please come again.
A little confused, we asked for our ticket so we could pay our bill.
Susan / Suzanne explained that our bill had been taken care of.

Again, we turned and looked at the ladies, who again, threw their hands in the air.

We profusely thanked them, offering to at least pay the tip, but they
happily chirped that that had been covered.

“Just come back” they joyously responded.

Southern charm and hospitality…our heritage.
And I for one, am thankful.

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship,
and he who plants kindness gathers love.

Saint Basil

to be kind

“Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush,
anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on,
so that children have very little time for their parents.
Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the
disruption of peace of the world.”

Mother Teresa

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us.
It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain
of someone unloved in our own home.
Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

Mother Teresa


(the wee one letting her feelings be known during a shopping outing / Abby Cook / 2018)

I would wager that most of us would agree that it’s pretty easy to be kind to a baby
or for that matter, a small child.

That is unless you’re some kind of depraved individual but those are sad thoughts for another day.

Babies just seem to have a way of drawing us in…into their little worlds.
They do so with their large inquisitive eyes, their sweet and heartwarming smiles
and their openly unconditional acceptance.

You have a bad hair day — a baby doesn’t care.
You have visible scars — a baby doesn’t care.
You have internal scars — a baby doesn’t care.
You have issues, a baby simply doesn’t care.

They smile, they coo, they draw us in…

And suddenly we have no cares.

We don’t care about much of anything but for this exchange of warmth and kindness.
We are lost in the kindness.
It just feels good.
No cares, no worries…just basking in an exchange of endorphin pumping feel good
between two individuals.

That is of course until said baby or small child decides they are displeased with life’s
current circumstance.
All of which could be due to hunger, teething, a soiled diaper, colic,
too hot, too cold, too tired…you name it.

And it is at these very moments that our own capacity for kindness seems to quickly
dissipate as our nerves take over and kindness takes a back burner.

So we ask ourselves…does kindness come naturally?

I’m no psychologist or anthropologist or neurologist.
I don’t study people’s brains or actions or reactions.

Rather I am just a wife married for 35 years, a mom to a 30-year-old, and now a grandmother
to a 5-month-old. Plus I was a high school teacher for 31 years…
so I kind of know people and I often know myself…be that for good or bad.

Kindness seems to be more of a reciprocating response.

Now granted there are certain folks out there who just seem to be more innately
kind than others.
Think Melanie versus Scarlett.

And yet I’ve observed some really gruff individuals lose some of that bristled gruffness rather
quickly when met with pure kindness.

In our day’s quote, Mother Teresa observes that we often tend to be more gracious,
more kind to strangers much more readily than we do to those actually closest to us.

An odd human condition.

She notes that perhaps it is easier to be kind and gracious to those we don’t know rather
then those who actually deserve our kindness the most….those who are closest to us
in our lives. Yet it is those individuals who we often look over, take for granted or
just assume they care despite our brusqueness, attitudes, selfishness, curtness,
rudeness, and self-absorption.

I know this to be true.
I recall now in hindsight my days as an adolescent and I feel the constant need to offer up
my apologies to Mother.

I also know that during 35 years of marriage, I’ve had a lot to learn in the way of kindness.

Two imperfect people are joined in the union of marriage…to have and to hold…to
love, honor and respect, to live with until death does them part…
all the while, the perfect union and marriage is being lived by two very imperfect people…
a bit of a blind leading the blind.

I know that I tend to be a bit hard-headed and stubborn. I blame an Irish heritage.
I know that I tend to be the one who is always more right than wrong despite my
husband not yet figuring this out.

And yet I also know that I can be more Scarlett than Melanie…
wanting things my way…
I can be selfish, snappy, short-tempered, overwhelmed and moody.

And I also know that my husband has a high frustration level,
very little patience and is a 69-year-old by-product of a very abusive alcoholic father
who left deep lasting scars.
Add in the fact that my husband is nearly deaf so he can misinterpret, misunderstand
or miss everything I say…talk about over the top frustrating.

And so often in this life of ours, kindness has sadly taken a backseat.

And yet kindness seems to be a glue.
It is a binding agent.
It can bind two imperfect people together placing them under the blanket, or yoke if you will,
of the One who casts the perfect light of hope and healing over our human brokenness.

And yet we know this act of kindness must often be learned as well as worked on.
It is something I have learned that is a grace that more often than not
must be prayed for, cared for and nurtured.
It is a grace that God will and can work in our hearts.

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost;
he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.

Saint Basil

What is the fruit by which you are known?

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”
Saint Basil

DSCN1976
(Photograph: Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2013)

You may have noticed from a previous post or two how much I love nature….trees in particular….so massive and majestic. I feel embraced by their sheer stature. Living in the South as I do, I’m not a fan of our ubiquitous pine trees–tall sticks with needles–and they seem to exude heat which only compounds the heavy air we breath 4 to 5 months of the year. It is however our gracious oaks that speak to my soul.

I suppose I should one day write a post about trees. How I really love the western birch and Aspen trees with their silvery smooth bark and their leaves flickering in the wind like little muffled chimes— there are the beautiful northern firs that signal that I am “home” in the mountains I dearly love. And yet there is just something about the southern oaks—be it white oak, black oak, red oak or water oak… Stately and yet lazily offering delightful shade and respite from sun or rain.

They, the trees, have always provided us humans so very much–everything from shelter to food. And sadly we have taken them for granted just as we have with most of our natural world…but today is not the day to bemoan our poor stewardship of our natural world but rather a day of thankful reflection–as this is Sunday—a day of rest, a day of worship, a day of thanks and a day of reflection.

As blessed St. Basil reminds us, today, as well as any day, is the day that we should plant in order to reap. And yet we must be mindful of what it is that we plant. We have a lovely colloquial expression here in the South—you get a whole lot more with honey than you do vinegar…..Meaning a kindness usually generates a returned kindness…like for like…and so on…..

So on this beautiful Fall day of reflection, contemplation, rest and joy–consider what it is that you plant–if you are not pleased with the harvest you may need to check your “seed”
Happy Sunday