My father-in-law is bringing a smoked turkey this year so I don’t have to cook one. My husband’s happy because that frees up a lot of time I generally spend on obsessing about how to cook the turkey.
Me: …or I could do this thing where you bone it and cook it on the grill under bricks.
Me: Tomato, tomahto. OR I could brine it, wrap it in salt pork, and put wet cheesecloth over the breast so…
Chuck: No. You did that two years ago and the cheesecloth caught fire.
Me: I don’t think my fore mothers obsessed over turkey this much.
Chuck: You don’t say.
I’ve got several things crossed off my list. I got wine today and the flowers are arranged. Which brings me to my point: I have failed as a Southern hostess. I have no good cutting-greenery in my yard. Don’t act like you don’t know what I mean. There are certain shrubs and trees a lady should have in her yard so she can Make Arrangements. These include, but are not limited to, magnolia, pine, boxwood, nandina, Japanese yew, ligustrum, holly, and Leyland cypress. I have a nandina or two and a very kind neighbor who would let me cut every last stick in her yard if I asked.
And I would ask. Unlike some people.
The house I grew up in was the second house from the corner. The house on the corner was a former gas station which still had the big concrete structures where the pumps were. The Shook sisters lived in the house with their father, until he died. That “until he died” part is not redundant. I grew up in a world where you could be discussing “A Rose for Emily” and someone would say, “That sounds an awful lot like the sitch-ashun what happened with that Harlow woman out towards Hot Coffee.” The Shook sisters were actually dear women who might have been teachers and definitely raised bees. It is true that my mother was called to come fetch one of the Misses Shooks out of the parking lot of Jitney Jungle because she was found in her little Ford hatchback sobbing uncontrollably and was, indeed, scaring the bag boys. But who hasn’t been there, right?
When the Shook sisters left, my parents bought what we charitably called the house. The yard was wild. There were all sorts of great secret passages, hidey holes, and bits of pottery that, knowing the Shooks, could very well have been pieces of ancient Egyptian vessels. There were plenty of bushes and shrubs to keep my mother, the Martha Stewart of Mississippi, busy with boxwood wreaths and magnolia swag. She had people call her asking to come cut some greenery, and of course, that was fine.
One day I was going out to my car and a woman pulled up into the yard, got out of her car, and began cutting greenery. You know, you don’t just show up in someone’s yard and start lopping off her ligustrum without asking. It just isn’t done. Frankly, I was not a fan of this woman’s anyway. I thought she wore too many diamonds during the day and was therefore not to be trusted. I stood there for a while, watching this perfectly coiffed, freshly blonded woman scurrying around, throwing contraband boxwood into the trunk of her car as if she were boosting televisions from Patrick’s Radio and TV.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. “Ma’am?!” I hollered, “If you’d called us, we could have told you where the poison ivy patch is. And you might want to watch your step. Mrs. Crawford’s dog likes to take his morning constitutional over there, if you know what I mean.” It should not surprise you that she was not the least bit deterred. To this day, I’m a little upset that beautiful greenery ended up in the home of a grown woman who used the “little girl’s room” instead of a bathroom. I bet, and this is just me, but I bet when she gets new candles, she doesn’t even singe the wick. Tramp.
We’ve been in this house going on six years and every year I say we’re going to throw out some Little Gems and a couple of yew. My husband nods politely and wonders why a woman so remiss in taking down her arrangements before they’ve turned black and crispy is so interested in live shrubbery. That’s the part he doesn’t get. Clearly, I’m more interested in the live stuff than the dead stuff.
Right now, I’ve got to get back on task to make pie crusts, battle dust evil bunnies, chop the vegetables for the dressing, polish the silver (Don’t tell my mother, but I might dip), make giblet gravy without giblets, and take Miss Ethel some homemade gingersnaps to thank her for letting me cut some magnolia. It’s just what’s done.