Q: Mother’s Day in the South? A: Cookout!
By Dorothy Wilson
‘The Marion Mom’ A friend of mine posted a hilarious comic on Instagram a few weeks ago. Two ladies sit at a desk, one interviewing the other for a job at the office of Motherhood. The applicant asks incredulously, “I only get one day off each year?” The receptionist responds, “Yes. We call it Mother’s Day. But technically, you still have to work.”
It’s funny because it’s true. My mother-in-law called me a few days before Mother’s Day to suggest we do something special. (By “we,” I mean the 22 people comprising the local Wilson clan, of which, only 8 are adults and only 3 cook. I am one of the three.) “I don’t want to make it a lot of work for us,” she said.
Hah! When is a gathering for 22 people not a lot of work? Now, I don’t advocate avoiding work. God created man for the purpose of pleasurable work. I just think there’s a risk/benefit analysis to everything. And on Mother’s Day, I’d much rather be at a Redbirds game than patting out 22 hamburger patties in my recently-scoured kitchen.
However, I offered to host the party because I know how important family gatherings are to the Wilsons, but I decided I wasn’t going to wear myself out in celebration of myself.
I was going to have a Northern Party. You ever notice how there’s no magazine called, “Northern Living?” That’s because you wouldn’t want to be pasting pictures of those parties all over the place.
(Author’s note: In my research, I discovered there actually is such a magazine, but who wants to read that twaddle when you could read Southern Living instead?) My brother-in-law grew up in Pennsylvania. What a shock these southern parties were to him!
First of all, he says northerners don’t clean up for company.
Surely he doesn’t mean what it sounds like he means!
I’m sorry, but when I invite you over, I absolutely must at the very least wipe down the bathroom. I won't even tell you what it looked like on May 9.
Because you might gag a little on your sweet tea.
Second, northern parties don’t last a year and a half.
(Okay, that’s hyperbole.) Seriously, when the Wilson clan gets together, I expect it to take at least 8 hours. If they don’t show up ‘til 6 p.m., that means they’re leaving after 2 am.
(That is not in the least bit hyperbole.) When we attended a party in Penn., they showed up, they ate hot dogs, and they left. It felt like the party hardly started before it was over, and we were napping.
Sigh. I’m a southerner through and through. I love clean bathrooms, and I usually mingle until the logy host wearily and subtly notes that all the other guests departed hours ago.
But a party is a lot more fun when you just show up.
When you don’t spend 13 hours cleaning and cooking in preparation.
When you don’t have to banish the kids from the living room because they skewed your perfectly plumped pillows.
When you you’re not tasked with clean-up.
To create an enjoyable, laidback gathering, I offered to prepare meat for a cookout, and my motherin- law volunteered fixins.
(I’m fairly certain northerners don’t even know what fixins are.) I considered buying frozen hamburger patties, but in celebration of me, I paid premium at Kroger for eight fresh Angus beef and cheddar patties for the adults. The kids had to settle for plain ol’ ground chuck.
If only I’d known how the grilling was going to go down. I’d have just bought the cheap, frozen stuff.
I was under the impression that “fixins” from the inlaws meant buns, sliced tomatoes, onions, and other tasty things that make a burger heavenly.
Apparently, in the south, “fixins” means a hundred pounds of sliced vegetables for the grill.
The moderately-sized grill.
That also had to accommodate 22 patties. Chris’ dad cranked that sucker up to max heat and threw the meat on. The juicy fat dripped off the burgers and exploded.
That’s right. My high-dollar burgers-torched and subsequently drenched in the process of extinguishing the fatty fire.
They brought in the first batch of charred puck-burgers for our enjoyment — but only our aesthetic enjoyment.
Because another thing about southern parties is that grazing is absolutely prohibited. Even if you’ve been waiting for dinner for two hours.
I put out a sausage platter to quell the grumbly tummies, and I overheard sound chastisement from the matriarchs to those who indulged. So why was I surprised when they forbid consumption of the first batch of burgers until every last bit of food had been cooked?
As we completely reverted to a true southern party, I rescued the vegetables from the long vacation they’d had outside and roasted them in the oven, just so we could eat before bedtime.
Without my intervention, the men would have had to grill four batches of food before it was all finished.
I suppose I had a certain vision for a frabjous northern cookout-people hanging out by the grill, helping themselves to drinks from the cooler, mingling on the patio, and most importantly, grabbing a burger as it became available.
Instead, the women loaded the dishwasher and cleaned the kitchen while two men, alone over yonder, fiddled with the grill for three hours.
You heard me. Three flippin’ hours. With only eat-at-yourown- risk hors d’oeuvres to keep the hunger at bay.
We all ended up hangry, a fabricated word that captures the agony of hunger and its ensuing irritability.
It makes for a rabdashing party I fabricated that word to replace the one that people frown upon.
Don’t tell anyone, but for Father’s Day, we’re having burgers again. This time, they’re coming from Colton’s.
That way, we can all take the day off.
Dorothy Wilson lives in Marion with her husband Chris as they enjoy all the adventures life with their seven children brings. Her columns appear monthly in the Marion Ledger and in from time to time in the online edition of the Evening Times. This column originally appeared in the May 2015 edition of the Marion Ledger.
'The Marion Mom' By Dorothy Wilson