Freeport, Florida—Nick’s Seafood Restaurant sits right on the bay of my youth. This place is only a hop, skip, and a jump from my mother’s place. My family is here to eat supper tonight.
And I am feeling grateful.
The sun is getting low, and the clouds are making scattered formations across the Choctawhatchee Bay. There are a hundred muddy trucks in the dirt parking lot.
This is an old place. Old timers used to come to this same building to buy oysters by the bushel, before it was a seafood joint. Not so long ago, I used to fish these bay shores with buddies—before my voice dropped.
My mother is walking across the parking lot. She is wearing a beach dress and flip flops. Flip flops. As I live and breath.
This woman used to wear very different clothes. Hospital scrubs, service clothes, fast-food uniforms.
Once, when I was a young man, we went to Cracker Barrel for Thanksgiving supper. The restaurant was about to
close. I had just gotten off work, my mother still wore her work clothes, and my sister was playing the triangle-peg game.
That night, when our food arrived, my mother bowed her head and said in a soft voice, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you...”
She followed it with an “amen.”
This woman believed the best way to start each day was with a “thank you.”
When I was a child, each morning before school my mother made me engage in a bizarre, semi-Pentecostal ritual. I would stand before my bed—half awake, wearing nothing but my skivvies—and my mother would make me touch my toes and say, “Thank you, Lord, for my feet!”
Then, she’d make me reach for the sky and say, “Thank you, Lord, for my hands!”
And so on.
Then, she would sing “I’m so…