I had a date tonight. My mother-in-law cooked me a steak. A fat one. In one hand she held her walker. In the other, a skillet. The meat made a lot of noise.
“Gotta sear it good,” explained my mother-in-law. “Keeps all the juice in.”
She baked potatoes and yeast rolls, too. Between us, we split a pitcher of sweet tea. I don’t know how she makes her tea, but when the roll is called up yonder, God better have his glass ready.
My T-bone is perfect. Pink. Tender. My coonhound rests her snout on my lap, in case I feel like sharing with starving canines whose owners neglect them.
I’ve been in this family a long time. I’ve eaten my share of steaks at this table. I’ve known this woman since her hair still had color to it. Before the walker.
On the day of my wedding, she greeted me in the lobby before the ceremony. She and my wife’s aunt straightened my tux and fussed over me.
“Hot awmighty,” said one. “Who put this tux on you, a wino?”
“You’re a mess,” said the other. “Looks like you slept in your truck.”
“Your shoes are filthy.”
“Gimme that comb.”
“Is this BARBECUE sauce on your collar?”
“I Suwannee, too.”
Everybody Suwannee together now.
After she’d trimmed my ear hair and cleaned the smudges from my face using her own spit, my mother-in-law said, “We’re so glad to have you in our family.”
Nobody had ever said anything like that to me.
Anyway, we ate steak, she talked. Mostly, about the old days. She spoke about times before smartphones and twenty-four-hour political channels. An era when towns closed on Sundays. When men cut work to go fishing.
She talked about her mother and how the woman was self-reliant. She could rescreen windows, raise chickens, stain floorboards, and fix mechanical fans.
“But she couldn’t cook to save her dadgum life,” she added.
She tells me about her father. How messy he was, and lazy. Two traits I happen to admire in a man.
“Daddy would take a shot of whiskey, then chase it with peanut butter,” she said. “Every single day he did that.”
Peanut butter addiction is no laughing matter.
And while she carried on, I was in another world. Her world. An old one, that we’ll never see again. One with turntables, sitting parlors, barefoot kids, fish-fries, and coffee made over open-flame stoves.
After we finished eating, the oven buzzer went off. She hobbled to the kitchen, opened the oven. It was a made-from-scratch pie, she told me. Her best friend, Sara Lee, made it.
She doled out slices and scoops of vanilla ice cream. “Lord, look at all this pie,” she remarked. “Feel like we oughta say another blessing over our food.”
Dear Lord, thanks for the food. For steaks.
And people who have the audacity to love me.
Sara Shepherd - March 14, 2017 2:44 pm
Have just begun to follow your blog. I guess that is what you call it. I love it. Just every day living in the South which is close to heaven. Thank you for your writing and humor.
Susie Munz - March 14, 2017 2:54 pm
I was right there with you.
Mark G. - March 14, 2017 3:01 pm
I had a mother in law like that. Chicken pot pie was her gift to me and just to my liking.
Linda - March 14, 2017 3:18 pm
You make me wish I was sitting in my Granny’s kitchen…and for the simplicity of life when I was there. And you make me cry too, but always with tears of joy.
Sandra Marrar - March 14, 2017 3:23 pm
You are one lucky man.
Linda - March 14, 2017 3:44 pm
No words. Just love. Sean, you’re awesome.
Pamela - March 14, 2017 4:24 pm
Only you can make me laugh and cry at the same time. I sure would like to have those days back.
Priscilla S. Adkisson - March 14, 2017 5:21 pm
Sean, what a nice tribute to your dear mother-in-law; no wonder she loves you!!!!
Karen Bethea - March 14, 2017 5:37 pm
We live in a two story 40 year old house that sits back in the woods on ten acres of land. Over the years we have done a “few” things to spruce the house up…blue vinyl siding that looks great in the big green oaks, new flooring in the kitchen that I searched for EVERYWHERE because it HAD to look like old linoleum…and it does. We haven’t updated appliances to stainless steel – in fact if “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it ” applies to pretty much everything here…and the payoff? When we have folks stay with us, some from Washington DC, some from Dallas, etc. they all seem to collapse. They sit on the sun porch and just look – look at the outside. I have one comment I make to everyone and I would make it to you…” Here’s the kitchen – there are the glasses – no icemaker -, the stove, the fridge, the pantry, the silverware – help yourself…” and they do…
Sam Hunneman - March 14, 2017 5:43 pm
You’re lucky to have her. And she, you. But you knew that already.
Carol DeLater - March 14, 2017 6:10 pm
Oh gosh, you are so lucky to have fallen into love with your in-laws. My mother in law ruled the family. It took me two years to convince my husband that she was a nut case. She never met an in-law she liked…or a neighbor for that matter. Before my father-in-law died she told my husband to take him home with him. He would have, but that would only have hurt my father in law more. I’ve welcomed son-in-laws to our family. My daughter has had 2 husbands and has not kept either of them. I’d give anything for her to find a man that would treat her right so I could fix steaks for them.
Nancy - March 14, 2017 9:33 pm
I fully subscribe to the belief that gratitude is the most direct path to happiness. Your stories prove it over and over again. You’re a blessed soul, Sean, and I love the way you spread your blessings around like sunshine. I Suwanee, I do!
Christy - March 15, 2017 2:31 am
I love your stories!! Everyday I look forward to the email. They make my day brighter!! Thank you!!
Kathy Burgess - March 15, 2017 3:10 am
I would like to invite you to a speaking engagememt..you and me on the front porch of my 1940s house with a pitcher of sweet tea. You could do all the talking. Please tell your wife not to worry, so am closer to 70 than 60 and closer to 200 than 150.
Deanna J - May 15, 2017 12:58 pm
Keep it up! I love your stories it takes me back to a wonderful time I keep in my mind!
Ben Smith - May 15, 2017 1:30 pm
Awesome what more can a man say.
Sylvia - May 15, 2017 2:21 pm
“Suwannee, Dadgum” words like music ? to my ears.
Memories of what once was commonplace & everyday. Miss those days!
I missed you when you appeared in Dothan.
Looked forward to it but it wasn’t to be.
Sure pray you come again.
Thank you for brightening my day!
You are truly blessed.
Pamela p. Hasty - May 15, 2017 10:59 pm
I want to be in my mother’s kitchen and dining room right now. With my brothers and sister and their families right now. I miss all of them so much. They’ll never know how much. I miss aunt dot and uncle Billie and aunt Jeanette and Joyce and Jimmy. I want to be with so many people
Why did I not appreciate them. When They wete here?
Gerald Worley - May 15, 2017 11:50 pm
Sean, I have experienced most all the wonderful times you share. You are truly a gifted teller of tales!
Charaleen Wright - April 10, 2019 2:40 pm
Lifer Steve - July 28, 2020 3:35 am
Joe Patterson - July 28, 2020 2:38 pm
Thanks for sharing home cooked meals on Sundays are no more. My mom could cook the best fried chicken in the world,My wife won’t allow me to cook it Kentucky Bojangles Popeyes and the other places cannot hold a candle to my mom’s fried chicken.