What if all you had to eat was Cornbread

By Royal Hopper

This week I took a few days of from the City Dancing in the City of Sin and went home to the burbs to take a few days off and help my mother move back into town. In the process of catching up I had a tremendous epiphany about who my mother is and the reason she does the thing she does.
Like the way she almost always tries to shove a $20 bill into my hand or my wife’s hand as we leave despite the fact she is on social security and doesn’t have that much to spend and doesn’t feel comfortable unless she knows I have had something to eat that day, a perhaps the reason my grandmother constantly stuffed us with that greasy southern food her native Mississippi was famous for.
(Here’s a hint boys and girls I recently lost 30 pounds and still have a noticeable gut )
“Oh cowpucky,” she often said in response to something that really upset her and when I was a kid that as dirty as it got.

Mom  on left, Aunt Kathy Aunt Mary Ellen, and Grandma
My mother who rarely curses and who represents all the positive, gentle aspects of her Christian faith, my mother the person who at 69 years-of-age still says poop, who didn’t learn what certain words even meant until she  was well into her 30s with a house full of kids said asshole.
She actually said asshole after the car she and my wife was driving in and she was riding in in was cut off by a car spewing smoke and going 30 mph in the fast lane of the highway.

You have to understand hearing the words asshole coming from my mothers mouth is the closest thing to road rage I have ever heard from her. Thusly when she does actually curse people in the room usually pay attention and become concerned. My first response when my wife told me this story was to gasp slightly and ask her if everyone was okay.
“Are you all right Shirley,” friends would often ask my mother surprised to hear such words coming from her mouth.
Mom is not really a extroverted story teller like my Dad is. Dad could make a story out of stopping to take a bathroom break on a weekend fishing trip. Her stories are more straightforward like thoughts and memories she speaks out loud  when they become to powerful for her to keep inside.
Somehow the subject of eating came up and the hard times of the past and without intending to I brought up painful memories. I mentioned to my wife how there was always food at my grandparents house and how she was always trying to feed us. They always had a garden, always and my wife told Mom how much she enjoyed the black eyed peas Mom brought back from Mississippi. I remembered occasions where those self same peas were all we had to eat because the budget was so tight.
My Mom in turn remembered something she had said to her parents so many years ago that brought a lump to my throat to be honest.
“I just told them I would like something more the milk and cornbread for supper,” she said as if the memory was fresh and new instead of more than six decades old. My mother’s family was poor in the real sense of the word when she was young, not in the we have to eat sandwiches or peas and rice because the bills are due kind of way. They were poor in the all we have to eat is cornbread and milk and all we will have tomorrow is more of the same kind of way.
My grandfather and his family, among them my mother came to Texas (where I grew up)  during the oil boom and the family did well after that but it is clear my mother my mother however young she was never forgot what it was like to have nothing but bread and milk to eat and was determined that none of her children ever have to experience anything like that.
Now the purpose of this column was not to illicit any kind of drama queen tears of sympathy. My mother would be the last person to engage drama queen antics or seek pity from anyone but there are several lessons we could take from the memories.

1) When you live in a place that celebrates overindulgence it sometimes blurs the lines between need and want. Sometimes it would do us all well to remember that having enough is not all that bad and is something we seldom remember.

2) Having less of anything than you need always makes for vivid memories almost always bad.

3) How you respond to bad memories says a lot about who you are for better or worse.

4) The good old days really weren’t always that good and sometimes they kind of sucked. Lets go forward not back.


The iconic Vegas Cliche and symbol of overindulgence a 2 for 1 drink ticket

Photo by Royal

“Oh crap,” my Mom once said blushing as she spoke the awful barely audible curse words  and nibbled on the chili my daughter had made.

Two days after the retreat to the suburbs I went back to work and the City of Sin was still the same. People fell asleep where they sat, lay or fell. They drank more than they should, spent money they didn’t have paid $12 for a turkey sandwich and early that morning a woman wearing a strategically cut evening dress stumbled back to her room tired drunk and bow legged. Such is life the City of Sin.

Til Next Time


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