- 10/15/2007 9:14 AM ET
Hysterical...I love this!
|A Down Home Funeral
I like walking down memory lane. Of course the lane I walked down had a red clay motif, seeing as I was born and raised on a farm down in south Alabama. Forget the Tara type home, they didn't exist for most of us. I remember a tin roof, plastic curtains, and gaps in the floor that allowed you to watch the chickens walking underneath the house.
Last time I went back home was for the funeral of one of my relatives. Snooks was his name.
Snooks was riding shotgun in his brother Eugene's logging truck. They were coming out of a logging trail when the truck turned over and Snooks fell out the door. Most logging trucks don't have or need a passenger door for some reason. The logs fell off the truck onto Snooks, and that was the end of Snooks.
Down in south Alabama they have a strange custom of bringing the body out to a relative's house and setting it up in the living room for viewing. Then people come from miles around to gawk at the body and eat. They bring tons of food, too, mostly fried or casserole. They only leave the body out at the house for two days, though. Set a pack of bologna on your back porch for two days and you'll understand why.
At Snook's funeral I watched Uncle Eugene set a red, plastic ice tea glass down on the foot of the casket since there wasn't enough wickerback chairs to sit down in. I wonder if Snook's cared, since nobody else did.
I was standing there with a forced solemn look on my face as I surveyed the various withered leaves of my family tree, and it finally dawned on me why some animals eat their young.
About that time my cousin Faye eased up to the casket to pay her last respects to dearly departed Snooks. Faye weighed in at about 368 pounds, and 325 of those pounds were pure country butt.
I laid down my plate of onion and cucumber casserole and joined her at the casket.
"Don't he look good?" Faye asked as chicken grease glistened on her three chins.
"No, Faye, he don't look good. He's dead!" I thought to myself but didn't dare say a word.
"It looks just like him," she spoke.
"No it doesn't look just like him," I again said to myself, "it's the first time he's had a bath since Roosevelt was in office." I just stood there, nodded my head and patted her on the shoulder, and continued to look very solemn.
"Ohhhhhh Jesus take me now," Faye wailed as she toppled back and fell to the floor like a water buffalo. Uncle Eugene's tea glass toppled off the casket from the vibrations of Faye's body hitting the floor, and Faye just lay there hyperventilating and clutching her chest and continued to wail.
"Blessed Jesus, take me now," She shrieked. "Ohhh Gawd my merciful saviour, take me home now."
I know *Not Good* when I see it, and this was definitely becoming Not Good in a major way. I backed off rapidly as several of my aunts came running like hens. They all knelt beside Faye and started fanning her with one of those cardboard fans they give out at the funeral home.
One of my aunts, Aunt Gussey was her name, reached into her bra and brought out a handful of pills. "Here, Faye, swoller this," she said as she crammed one in Faye's mouth.
Country women have massive country breasts and carry everything from car keys to snuff cans down in their bra. I was standing there wondering how long that pill had been nestled down in that bra, did it have breast lint on it, and most of all what kind of pill was it. I was afraid to ask any of those questions so I just stood there in a puddle of sweet tea and hushed up.
"Gawd oooooh sweet Jesus my blessed saviour, take me home," Faye continued to weep and wail.
After about five minutes she staggered to her feet, brushed her print dress off, and took off to the kitchen for her fifth helping of fried chicken. I decided it was time to leave.
I drove over to the farm and just stood there looking at the place. It had been abandoned years ago and was showing it's age. The outhouse was still back there, bringing back memories of wasp nest burning parties my brother and I always loved. We didn't have any indoor plumbing and took our weekly bath in a galvanized wash tub on the back porch. Knees drawn up under our chins, my brother and I would sit in there like turtles until granny ran us out of the washtub so she could rinse off some collards for supper.
I recalled having to sweep the front yard with broom straw, too. Your character was based alot on how well you swept your front yard and how pretty the flowers were that you planted in the truck tire half buried beside the mailbox.
We spent most of our time, my brother and I, hanging upside down from a chinaberry tree like bats. We dreamed a lot while hanging there; we dreamed about what we wanted to be when we grew up, we dreamed about what kind of mischief we could get into, we dreamed about which farm animal was worthy of our romantic affections, and we dreamed about where we would end up in life.
Heading back to town, I stopped in the driveway of Joe Conrey's store. It had been closed for many years but I could still see the screen door with the "Colonial is Good Bread" banner across it. I could smell the smells of a country store, and I could see the slab of bonogna on top of the counter where you cut off a slice and made yourself a sandwich, too.
There was always a cat laying up there beside it to keep the knife licked clean, and the mayonaisse always turned yellow by the end of the day, but I don't think I've eaten anything more delicious than those home made sandwiches.
All this I saw in my mind's eye as I stood in the driveway, though. Sometimes our mind's eye can see things alot clearer than our other two eyes and maybe that's best.
I got back in my car, went back to the body viewing, made the appropriate gestures and after the funeral the next day I drove back to Atlanta and got on with my life.
Some of us didn't get on with our life, though. The fried chicken and lard finally took it's toll on Faye's heart and she died a couple of years ago. She almost made it to the ripe old age of 43. Almost. I didn't make it to her funeral but from what I heard they brought her out to the house, set her up in the living room, and someone, I'm not sure who, fell out on the floor clutching her massive country breasts and wailed for her blessed saviour Jesus to take her home now.
Some things never change, I guess, and I'm glad they don't.
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