Unexpected Guests

I was born a few yards from where I am sitting writing this column. The birthday house, long gone, was built in 1926 and over the years was the home for 9 children and their parents. There are plenty of things I remember about my years (1928-1965) in residence there, but one recollection for some reason came to mind when I had a email about the reaction of a father of the household to the burned biscuits baked by the overworked mother. Instead of complaining, the man of the house helped himself to one of the biscuits, applied it with jelly and butter and after seemingly enjoying it, told his wife how much he enjoyed the meal. The daughter was surprised about his charitable comments since she undoubtedly questioned why anyone would brag about burned biscuits. She was too young to understand that the compliment had nothing to do with the improperly cook bread. But the story reminded me of an incident at our dining room table maybe 50 years ago, still lurking in my mind.

An aunt who worked most of her life in the Hamer Mill lived just down the road from us. She might have retired from her job but she never stopped working. Nearly every day, she would walk to our home during the morning and help with the household duties, something she found to be rewarding to herself and to our family. At the time, only my parents, my aunt and I were at home. It was in the summer, the un-air conditioned home was typically hot and there had been no special effort to prepare anything except a marginal noon meal: pork, cabbage and corn and fried cornbread. We had tea.

The meal had just about been finished when unexpected company came, two. The Presbyterian preacher and his Agnes Scott Phi Beta Kappa wife walked in and joined the family at the table. It was a somewhat embarrassing moment since there was nothing special to offer the two even if they had arrived earlier. The adequate but meager meal had been consumed, that is all except one lonely piece of cornbread. No one knew exactly what to say except to avoid at all cost any invitation to the guests to have something to eat. It worked for all except for my aunt.

During a lull in the conversation, she uttered the words that no one knew how to answer and did not.

“If no one is going to eat that last piece of cornbread, I am going to.”

And she did.

Obviously no one knew what to say, except my aunt, and she said a mouthful. Bless her heart.

Maybe the lesson learned was never drop in at dinner time uninvited.

“All (her) dealings are square, and above the board.” Joseph Hall

Bill Lee

PO Box 128

Hamer, SC 29547

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