Fourth of July

Soon, I hear the sound of glass casserole dishes on their porch. And the happy chatter of voices. This is a cross-section of the Great America Pie to me. Casseroles and laughter.

On my kitchen counter is a pound cake, sitting on a pedestal, beneath a glass dome.

Pound cake is the food of summer. It can make or break the entire season. A summer without pound cake is like church without singing. Or Monet without color. Or Andy without Barney.

When I was a younger man, my soon-to-be wife and I went through mandatory marriage counseling at our church. It was miserable. The minister was so uptight that he could have carried a corn cob without using his hands.

The pastor asked me what my “love language” was.

“My what?” I said.

“Your love language,” he said. “How do you receive love?”

“Come again?”

“Food,” my wife interjected. “Sean’s love language is pound cake, and so is mine. We speak Food.”

That preacher looked at us like we had june bugs crawling out our noses. And I never forgot that.

Because my wife was right. We speak Food. Food has always helped me through life. I use fried chicken to fend off existential doubt. Pimento cheese gives me courage. And pound cake restoreth my soul.

And yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of High Cholesterol, I will fear no egg yolks, for Thou art with me.

Speaking of food, right now I smell steaks cooking on a grill. My neighbor, Tom, is having a holiday cookout and he is speaking my “love language” fluently.

It’s Fourth-of-July week and every house on our street has a driveway full of cars. There are American flags flying on every post, mailbox, and car antenna.

People linger on porches, holding bottles and aluminum cans, eating ridiculous amounts of goodies and laughing a lot.

The sun is low. I hear firecrackers in the distance. They sound like bottle rockets.

If you are, or you have ever been a boy, you know a bottle rocket simply by its sound. Fireworks are expressly male items. If you don’t believe me, visit YouTube and type in “bottle rocket tricks.”

What you’ll find are millions of videos featuring death defying stunts by young people who—how do I put this?—are only knitting with one needle.

What you will not find among these videos are females. Girls are too smart to mess with gunpowder.

When I was a boy, we fooled with bottle rockets all summer long. We would travel to the county line and spend big money on bundles of barely legal bottle rockets. We would waste the entire summer developing strange and exotic ways to harm each other with explosives.

I hear a mother down the street, yelling at her children. “Be careful!” she shouts. “Don’t blow yourselves up! Supper’s almost ready!”

Next, I hear the sound of bicycle gears clicking, and skateboards. Is that the sound of a big wheel? The kids kick up a cloud of dust behind their tires.

“You’re not faster than me!” shouts one child.

“Yes I am!”

“No you’re not!”

“Yes huh!”

“Nuh uh!”

“Yes huh!”

“Nuh uh!”

They pedal hard until dusk. And just when you don’t think they can pedal any faster, their mother calls them for supper.

No matter how many light years away from home children are, the mere mention of food makes them fly homeward faster than Chuck Yeager drinking Mountain Dew.

Soon, I hear the sound of ceramic casserole dishes on their porch. And the happy chatter of voices. And the sounds of forks and spoons.

This is a cross-section of old-fashioned America to me. Casseroles, kids, and laughter.

A radio accompanies their supper. The sound of the Temptations, singing “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.”

And I remember when my mother once danced with me on the porch to this very song. She spun me around, and showed me how to move my feet. We really cut a rug. You don’t get over memories like that.

On a day like today, I am left wondering how it happened. How did I get middle-aged? Where did my life go? Once, I used to be a boy, fearless, fast, with a hollow leg. How did I develop love handles, old-man toenails, and a bad back?

Sometimes I miss childhood afternoons, lying in the grass beneath a sprinkler. I miss fishing with earthworms. I miss warm tomatoes, stolen from my mother’s garden. I miss playing with explosives.

I am interrupted.

My wife walks onto our porch. She is carrying a pedestal with a golden cake beneath a glass dome. She cuts two slices and serves them with fresh strawberries, and pours iced tea into jelly jars.

We don’t speak to each other because we’re too busy eating. We only smile with our mouths full, then touch the rims of our jelly jars together.

It’s a holiday, and there’s no need to say much today. After all, I know what she’s saying, and she knows what my heart is saying back.

She’s saying, “The pound cake came out good, didn’t it?”

And I’m saying, “I love you so much it hurts.”

I know all this because, like my wife told the man, we speak Food.

Happy Fourth of July.

35 comments

  1. Sandi. - July 4, 2019 7:25 am

    Sean, sending good wishes to you and Jamie this 4th of July, filled with God’s abundant blessings.

    Reply
  2. Tracy - July 4, 2019 7:39 am

    Wishing you a wonderful Independence Day! You and Jamie enjoy your cake!

    Reply
  3. Tina Harman - July 4, 2019 10:00 am

    Sean, you are absolutely right about speaking FOOD! Some years ago, a book came out entitled “The Five Love Languages”. It’s a very good book, and very accurate in describing how we all display and receive love. In the last year or so, there are a number of people (myself included) who believe there is a 6th love language, and that if FOOD. Preparing and giving food is definitely showing love to someone. I loved this article, and you are so right! It just so happens, that I bake and give a Cream Cheese Pound Cake for church suppers, anyone who needs a meal brought in, and any other reason, including “just because”. Thank you so much for this. God bless you this 4th of July, and every day!

    Reply
  4. Connie Havard Ryland - July 4, 2019 10:52 am

    I love this. I lost my mom yesterday and reading this just blew me away. She taught me the art of showing love with food. We didn’t have much growing up, but no matter how little we had, she taught us early that if someone dropped in at a meal time, you fed them. Somehow you stretched whatever you had and set another plate. I learned to take food to grieving families; to make goodies for baby showers and wedding showers and church suppers. Pound cakes for dinners on the ground because it’s hot in south Alabama and they don’t melt in un-air conditioned places. To stretch fried chicken and home grown vegetables to feed a giant family. I taught my kids these kids, including my son. My granddaughter’s friends hang out at our house, and watch my cook or we are all in the kitchen together. I show love with food. It’s what I do, because of who she was. Thank you. I needed this today.

    Reply
    • Annak - July 4, 2019 1:34 pm

      Praying that you will be comforted by these loving memories of your mother in the days to come.

      Reply
      • Janet Mary Lee - July 4, 2019 5:14 pm

        Connie, I am so sorry for your loss. What wonderful memories! Prayers for you and the family at this time.

        Reply
  5. Jean - July 4, 2019 11:02 am

    I speak your language. Pound cake, fried chicken and pimento cheese sandwiches. Never had a picnic that didn’t include those wonderful things.So many good things about the south….and Happy 4th Sean!

    Reply
  6. Ann Tranzow - July 4, 2019 11:03 am

    I love “ old fashioned America “…🇺🇸🇺🇸
    It wasn’t much different “ up north”..

    Reply
  7. GaryD - July 4, 2019 11:09 am

    Pound cake is not a real cake. It’s not round and it has no icing. That’s what I thought when I was younger. I was an adult before I really appreciated pound cake.
    Happy Fourth of July 🎇🧨 🎆🧨 🎇🧨 🎆🧨

    Reply
  8. Caleb Halstead - July 4, 2019 11:38 am

    Happy Fourth of July to you, too, Sean, and may God forever bless the USA, pound cake and sweet tea.

    Reply
  9. Naomi - July 4, 2019 12:37 pm

    Sean, my husband and I are in a second marriage; we have been married for almost 40 years. He’s also a retired Southern Baptist preacher and he conducted a lot of weddings in his time. He would counsel young people who were engaged but he would never counsel a woman behind closed doors in his office after one bad experience; he would let his secretary counsel women. Neither of us heard about our “love language” when we got married the first time or the second time. I just read your blog to him and asked him what his “love language” was. He replied, “sex”. However, food comes in a close second. If your are honest, especially if your are a man, you would have to agree with me. I haven’t cooked a lot lately because I have a bad back and can’t stand up for long in the kitchen but he had been wanting some corn bread. Yesterday, I took a pain pill for my back and went into the kitchen and made him some corn bread even though the pain medicine barely relieves my back pain. You would have thought that Jesus had just returned and was taking him to heaven when he found out that I had made corn bread. He started cutting himself a slice before it had time to cool off.

    Reply
  10. Louise Cammack - July 4, 2019 12:44 pm

    You killed it today! Actually tasted that poundcake, saw young boys racing their bikes, And salve the front porches overflowing with happy people! I even saw Monet’s Lilypond. And you dancing with your mother!!

    Reply
  11. Jo Ann - July 4, 2019 12:48 pm

    Sean- Wishing a safe & Happy Fourth of July to you, your family, & all who read your blog. (and also those who don’t, I guess)

    Reply
  12. devoellis - July 4, 2019 12:54 pm

    Sean, My family did this all my life. In fact when I had all four children home we had friends and family over for the biggest 4th ever. I order half a tractor trailer of fireworks. We had four large tables of food for 50 quests. What a fun day through the night we all had. Thanks for reminding me of my memories! Happy 4th to you and yours.

    Reply
  13. Teresa Tindle - July 4, 2019 1:09 pm

    Sean, happy fourth to you and Jamie. May you celebrate many more. Enjoy your slice of pound cake. The language of love. I’m sure enjoying mine. Crispy, warm and sweet. Nothing better. Love you

    Reply
  14. Donald Snyder - July 4, 2019 1:11 pm

    Now that’s Fireworks!

    Reply
  15. Joe Patterson - July 4, 2019 2:19 pm

    Thanks again we use to have a family reunion with all my moms family on the 4th my mom made sure it happened every year .All her brothers and sister and families would gather . The kids would fuss but when mom and her other siblings passed away the reunions stopped the kids and I wish they would return but only the memories remain.

    Reply
  16. Linda Moon - July 4, 2019 2:54 pm

    Two visual images from a misplaced corn cob and a nosy June bug with my second cup of morning coffee….yummmm. Existentialism – I won’t go there after any amount of coffee, unless it’s served up with fried chicken or even Chik-Fil-A. Chuck Yeager and Homer Hickam have nothing on you and your need for explosive speed and food. I bet they’ve had old-man toenails by now, just like you. Love Language on the porch with a pound cake just can’t be translated into mere words!

    Reply
  17. Betty - July 4, 2019 3:08 pm

    I’ve often heard that God has just the right person for you & if you’ll trust in him you’ll find that person. Obviously you did when you found Jamie, & she found you. God bless you both & thanks for all you write. Happy Independence Day.

    Reply
  18. Shelton A. - July 4, 2019 3:10 pm

    Wait until you hit 60…then talk to me. I also played with bottle rockets as a kid-dumb. Never again. Happy 4th to you, Jamie, and the dogs!

    Reply
  19. HT - July 4, 2019 3:28 pm

    And, fruitcake for Christmas; not the season without one! Happy Fooding Fourth!!

    Reply
  20. Sylvia Darby - July 4, 2019 3:30 pm

    love your language, wish more people would learn this. From the heart to the heart, with all yur heart.

    Reply
  21. Bill T - July 4, 2019 3:37 pm

    Grew up in a cotton mill town (there were 5 villages in a row) and every 4th of July the mill company sponsored Bar-B-Ques for employees and families. Ours was held on the grammar school yard. The pork and Brunswick Stew was cooked all night down the bank on the playground/ball park. Also the mills shut down for “Vacation Week” and those that didn’t go to the mountains or Florida came to the celebration. Greasy pole climbing and pig catching for the kids, Domino tournaments and the most fantastic food and entertainment that seemed to get better each year. Now the mills are gone and my little village is about gone, but the memories of great 4th of July celebrations are still with me. (I never did get the dollar on top of the greasy pole – it was usually won by a girl)

    Reply
  22. Mary Ellen Hall - July 4, 2019 3:54 pm

    SWEET, SWEET ARTICLE SEAN!!! NOTHING AS SPECIAL AS CHILDHOOD MEMORIES, & I TOO HAVE SO MANY GREAT ONES OF MY FAMILY’S 4th of July!!
    WISHING U & YOURS A VERY HAPPY & SAFE 4th!🇺🇸💣💥

    Reply
  23. Pat Nichols - July 4, 2019 4:04 pm

    One of your best, Sean!

    Reply
  24. Carol Horton - July 4, 2019 4:15 pm

    This makes me happy!

    Reply
  25. Jack Darnell - July 4, 2019 4:35 pm

    Okay, I did what I usually do. Forwarded this across the table to Sherry. It might remind her of her delicious Butternut Pound Cake. She made the best. We are back on the road, sending greetings from Southern Virginia, big town of Gladys. Enjoyed the read of course. THANKS happy 4th to y’all from heah!
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  26. Edna B. - July 4, 2019 4:35 pm

    Love it! Happy Fourth of July, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  27. Carlene Walker - July 4, 2019 5:00 pm

    Sean, you said it again. Perfect description of life in the South. Thanks for another reminder. You married well!

    Reply
  28. Janet Mary Lee - July 4, 2019 5:25 pm

    This brought back some good memories of my early childhood! The middle was not as good,but I loved visiting yours! My whole family being Italian and German spoke food. Still do. My first taste of pound cake was when I was 17 in Cleveland Ohio. It was made by a Southern lady, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Still have not found a recipe as good as hers. Happy Fourth to you all! And thank you to all who made it possible!

    Reply
  29. Dalton S. In Tuscumbia, Ala. - July 5, 2019 1:02 am

    This brings to mind two things.

    One, my wife made a pound cake two weeks ago. Several nights in a row after dinner we had pound cake with fresh strawberries. Oh. My. Goodness.

    Second, I fondly remember bottle rocket fights my brother and I had as a kid. We would fire then at each other using a metal trash can lid as a shield. Good times.

    Reply
  30. S C Anderson - July 5, 2019 3:55 am

    🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

    Reply
  31. Alice Grimes - July 5, 2019 1:46 pm

    Great piece Sean! Had many traveling back in time including me. You are a blessed man-getting to do what you love for a living, having a God sent soulmate, and children with 4 legs and a cold nose. You know God never wastes any of our sorrow and tears-He has used yours to comfort and encourage and give hope to many. Well done!

    Reply
  32. Judy Broussard - July 5, 2019 6:50 pm

    Sean and Jamie, Happy Fourth. I love y’all and can’t wait for your comments.

    Reply
  33. T.C. - July 8, 2019 2:37 pm

    ​Wow, this hits home.
    My grandfather, every summer, around the 4th, would buy this bundle of ​about 250 bottle rockets, so me, my cousins, and friends, would choose sides, get on opposite sides of the fish pond, and have an all out, all night, bottle rocket war. Thankfully, no one ever got hurt, or came across a water moccasin.
    When all over, my grandmother would always have a pound cake we all would eat.
    Also, I would also enjoy, when visiting at Thanksgiving, walking around that pond, seeing bottle rocket sticks still on the ground from our summer wars.
    I sure hate those days are long gone. and so are some of those cousins and friends…

    Reply

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