Each Wednesday, barbecue is served in the cafeteria at work. I have worked there for five years and the Barbecue Wednesday has been in existence for the last three. Today it made me laugh.
I thought about the first family cookout that my husband ever attended with me in Prentiss, MS. Cookouts were nothing special for the Hathorns. We had random cookouts for anywhere from 20 to 50 cousins, aunts and uncles all the time. The men grilled and the women made potato salad, egg salad, green salad, cornbread, baked beans and the desserts. Only water and tea (sweetened of course) were served around the table. There was usually a tree with a cooler under it that held the beer. That was just the way dinner was served in the summer.
I told my newlywed husband that we were going to Prentiss, MS to visit my grandmother and that most likely there would be a cookout. He looked worried. The idea of an interracial couple in a small town in Mississippi didn’t make him feel all warm inside. I told him that he was being ridiculous. The whole trip to Mississippi, he kept asking if everyone in my family knew that he was White and that they were cool with that. I kept saying yes, but he didn’t believe me.
The day of the cookout, my family welcomed him with open arms. He looked a little more comfortable as the day got started but kept his seat next to me and my grandma. My cousin yelled, “Food’s ready, y’all” and a rush of people gathered around the food table with plates. A cousin said to Paul, “Baby, we made you gumbo. It’s not the best, but I think it’s all right.” He thanked her politely, but didn’t move from his seat.
My grandma leaned over to me and whispered, “Get Paul a plate.” I then turned to Paul and said, “Get your plate.” And for the first time since I was a very small child my grandmother pinched me under the table – hard! She whispered again, “Don’t embarrass me. Get Paul a plate.”
Well, with those instructions, what could I do? I got food for Paul and my grandma and myself. My grandma smiled and Paul grinned. I mouthed “Never again” and he laughed. We still talk about that day almost 16 years later when I was disciplined by my grandma as 22 year old married woman.