Sunday dinner was usually at our house in town as the years passed. We had grown kids now, just one still at home. Mom and Dad would stop by after church, before heading back out to the ranch. Mom would sit in my chair down in the living room, thumbing through a magazine, humming softly or laughing at Rex’s teasing, if she was in a good mood. Restless, if she couldn’t remember why they weren’t going straight home. They’d already had a busy morning . . . breakfast at McDonald’s before the early service, then Dad teaching his Sunday School class after that. He liked to sit at the kitchen counter and chat as I cooked.
When Mom would smell the chicken frying, her mood would lift. She might circle through the kitchen with her trademark, “Yippee, fried chicken!” before wandering back to her chair humming “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” It was still one of her favorites, my pan-fried chicken.
I flour thighs and legs, half-breasts and wings, placing them in the half-inch of hot oil. Two panfuls. I sprinkle salt and pepper generously over the top and leave them undisturbed at medium-high heat until golden brown. You can smell when they are ready. I turn and settle each piece snug against the bottom, salt and pepper the browned tops, cover with a lid, and turn down to low. The old-fashioned way. They will cook in the twenty minutes that it takes for the potatoes.
Daddy asks what we’re reading in my English classes. He loves hearing what I’m teaching and how I’m presenting it. He loves ideas, and teaching. After a lifetime in public education, Dad as teacher and principal, Mom school secretary, they have their dream job in retirement . . . caretakers on a California citrus ranch. Avocados, oranges, kumquats, lemons, tangerines, tomatoes, summer squash, sweet corn, and sunshine are plentiful. Housing is included. They work at the caretaking responsibilities at their own pace, zipping around in a golf cart from their house to the pool, the vegetable stand, and up to the main house for repairs, cleaning, or grocery stocking if the calendar says the owners are coming. They rest to the sound of the breeze rustling in the pepper trees outside their open window.
Mom’s not cooking much now. Daddy tries to encourage her by putting notes around the kitchen to remind her what they’re making for dinner and where the box of jello is, and the mayonnaise and pickles for the potato salad, but he does most of the cooking. That’s another reason he enjoys these Sundays.
Rex mashes the potatoes with a stick of butter and hot milk. I take the lid off the chicken and turn the heat back up. When the pieces lift easily, without leaving their brown crust behind, I turn each one to crisp the top once more, before placing them on the paper-toweled cookie sheet. I make cream gravy. We eat around the oak table. It is a perfect Sunday.
I think of all the Sunday dinners around Mom and Dad’s table growing up, and then all the years when we returned each Sunday with our young families. Mom’s beef roasts sprinkled with Lipton Onion, tender from the oven with potatoes and carrots. There was always room at that table. We brought our friends and their families. Like the loaves and fishes, that beef roast was passed around with plenty left over. The kids would head out to play and we would linger long at the table with coffee and dessert and Dad’s wisdom.
The world keeps turning, way too fast . . . even if we can’t feel it spinning. I’m the gramma now, the age Mom was when I was lifting her spirits with fried chicken on Sunday afternoons, and this summer I’ll become Great Gramma.
Our lives are given a certain dignity by their very evanescence. (Madeleine L'Engle, Glimpses of Grace)
We have only this moment to hold in our hands.
Hold tight to the sounds of the music of living Happy songs from the laughter of the children at play Hold my hand as we run Through the sweet fragrant meadows Making memories of what was today We have this moment to hold in our hands And to touch as it slips Through our fingers like sand Yesterday's gone And tomorrow may never come But we have this moment today Tender words Gentle touch and a good cup of coffee And someone who loves me And wants me to stay Hold them near while they're here And don't wait for tomorrow To look back and wish for this day We have this moment to hold in our hands And to touch as it slips Through our fingers like sand Yesterday's gone And tomorrow may never come But we have this moment today, we have this moment today We all have this moment today Bill and Gloria Gaither—“We Have This Moment, Today”