I awoke this morning to the unmistakable aroma of sausage frying. To my surprise and great delight, there were also biscuits rising in the oven. It took me back about as far as I can go to a time when we didn’t need alarm clocks on the Dykes Chapel Road. We just waited for daylight and the sounds and scents of Mama cooking breakfast in the kitchen up the hall.
Taking a peek out the window, I saw the magnificent Crepe Myrtles in various shades of pink and lavender still in full bloom across at the Episcopal Church and lining the street, giving us their bounty for weeks now with no immediate end in sight.
I turned on the CD player to resume the last music we were listening to, and trumpeting out her blessings like no other human ever could, the late Queen of Southern Gospel Music, Mrs. Vestal Goodman, was singing, “Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now, got to make it to Heaven somehow.” I smiled from deep inside. Nobody has ever before or likely ever will capture the nuances and cadences of the songs of my youth quite like Mrs. Vestal.
I remember shortly after Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs played their famous tennis match, which is about to be immortalized in a movie it seems, Mrs. Vestal and a young tenor named Johnny Cook reimagined the battle of the sexes singing “Looking for a City” and seeing after each verse who could go one key higher than the other. Everyone knows Billie Jean won, but eventually Mrs. Vestal threw in her signature handkerchief. I can’t say for sure, but I have always imagined that great lady of song had one more high note in her somewhere, but just chose to keep the battle of the sexes the way it had always been in her world. Still, she upstaged the men every time as far as I am concerned.
Looking across the kitchen as I ate my breakfast, I saw a lemon pound cake, well, the remnants of one, under a glass dome on the counter and remembered how glad I am that we still cook with real sugar now and then. There really is no substitute, and before I finished the meal, an old friend had rung my phone: “What y’all doing over there,” she asked? Her voice exuded the slow, rhythmic drawl of the South, kind of like when so many of the older ladies who learned refinement from their grandmothers omit the letter “r” from so many of their words—“grand-motha.”
It charms me to the core, so that’s what I am thinking about today—30 minutes worth of little joys about being Southern recalled without even leaving the kitchen of my house. As Mrs. Vestal would say, I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.
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