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A visit with Mother

For many, the week after Christmas means watching football and not much else. People in my office were mostly taking vacations or were sick with the winter crud.

My phone calls and e-mails were down more than 50 percent, so it is likely that people around the country were also on autopilot as the old year wound down and the New Year began.

It is during this time frame that Mary Lou and I often go visit my mother at Bay Point in Panama City. This has been her home for 25 years and many of her friends are my friends now. They have watched my family grow up, and we have all shared life’s joys and sorrows along the way.

I tend to focus, rightfully so, on my children and grandchildren when writing, but it is during these visits to the beach that I get to hear the stories from my mother and her friends that remind me of how much fun they have all been over these many years.

We talked about the waitress, Mary Alice, who first introduced my children to cheese grits. She drove by my Dad’s house one day to ask him to check out her car. It was sitting very low to the ground in the back. He checked the tires and shocks before asking her to open the trunk. Imagine his surprise when he discovered that it was full of containers of loose coins. It seems that every night, for years, Mary Alice emptied her pockets of the change and tips she had received. I don’t know what the total was, but it weighed enough to make her car drag.

We talked about the sayings that we all used to hate to hear from their own mothers. Of course, they had all used them with their own children who hated them just as much.

“I wouldn’t make you do this if I didn’t love you”, or “I wish my mother had made me do this” or my all-time favorite, “One day when you have children, you’ll understand.”

The thing that is hard to admit is that most of the sayings were correct. There is so much I understand more clearly now that I have children. I still didn’t like hearing it but I have to admit my children heard the same thing.

Her friends talked about their visits to their children over the holidays this year. Several made visits up North, complaining that they couldn’t get warm the whole time. Others complained about the snow, re-affirming why they chose to retire in Florida in the first place.

We visited my mother’s Sunday school class, filled with long time friends, snowbirds and people of various ages.

I made the comment they were still on the same book they were when I visited the class last year. Sure enough, they had animated discussions that covered less than two pages. Never have I heard a class about “The Purpose Driven Life” or any other book take such a glacial pace of study, only to be filled with relevant comments from every corner of the room. There is chemistry in the room that allows them to discuss the fabric of their own lives. The book is only an outline for them; their comments are the words.

We went to lunch after church were we discussed the fiber content of each item that we were eating. Did you know that a cup of iceberg lettuce has 3 percent of your daily fiber needs? I suppose that is good news, but getting that other 97 percent can be a challenge apparently worthy of a significant part of the meal discussion.

Up and down the beach we rode, taking note of the massive condo towers built since our last drive. The economy has definitely put the brakes of the white-hot construction pace of a couple of years ago, but there seem to be glimpses of the economy coming back to life and that will be very good news to a lot of people who work in the hospitality industry in Panama City.

We finished the day reading the paper in front of a fire with a football game on the television in the background. Through the windows I had a great view of the Legends golf course, but not once during our visit did we see a golfer brave the record-breaking cold to hit that little ball. Dinner was at Triple J’s, where my mother apparently visits enough that the owner, bartender and cook all came out to speak to her.

So I am off to a good start on at least one of my goals for the New Year, to visit my mother more often. Since her great-grandchildren are all up here, I expect and hope that we’ll continue to see of lot of her up here in South Georgia.

True Southerner

You are not a true Southerner until you learn to eat corn on the cob. Most of the true northerners that I have exposed this delicacy to seem to tolerate more than relish it.

I always thought that might be because they had to eat frozen corn instead of field-fresh sweet corn. I now think that there may actually be some genetic reasons that a Southerner loves corn this way.

Henry, (you thought you would get a column without some mention of him?), was eating at our house this week while we had corn on the cob on the menu. We cut his corn off the cob as his mother instructed. He ate it as he watched us eating it directly off the cob. He was especially taken with the ancient corn holders that we push into each end.

Nothing would do but that he has his own cob, and more importantly his own holders. His Granny held it up to his mouth for him to take a bite and he was off to the races. He grabbed those holders and gnawed on that cob like a professional, stripping it of every kernel. Cameras were flashing from every angle as we laughed at how he instinctively knew how to eat it.

We now have independent confirmation, that despite some of his Ukrainian roots, Henry is a true Southerner.

This column marks the beginning of my second year writing for The Post-Searchlight. Thanks to my Decatur County friends for their comments and encouragement in 2009.