Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, November 23, 2018, 8:46 a.m.
When Ray Phillips was a child, he realized that Betty Dutton’s oyster dressing was a national treasure, not to mention a rare and precious thing.
Ray is my nephew. Betty is my mother and his grandmother. Ginger Sacarrere is his mother and my sister. For two days, Mom and Ginger worked on Thanksgiving dinner. For most of that time, I was engaged in activities such as writing about a basketball game in Spartanburg, editing obituaries and checking to see who had been arrested.
It happens. It’s a frivolous, unimportant job that someone has to do. The true movers and shakers of civilization are those who know how to make oyster dressing.
Before I arrived, I watched a big parade with bigger balloons and part of a football game. Then I drove over to the good side of town and reacquainted myself with Ray’s and Jessica’s precocious children: Thomas, Margaret and Peter. I brought my camera and Little Martin. Christmas carols are mostly easy to play. I delighted Margaret by trying to repeat every sound she made. When Margaret’s Aunt Ella was a little girl, she used to say, “Ungamunny, echo me.”
As Tom T. Hall once wrote, Was it only yesterday or twenty years ago?
I played my kids’ repertoire, which means the best Hank Williams song is “Move It on Over,” and there are many selections by Roger Miller. Kansas City star, that’s what I are. Roses are red, violets are purple, sugar is sweet, and so is maple syrple. Spent the groceries and half the rent, I lack fourteen dollars having twenty-seven cents.
I played “Gentle on My Mind” because my mother loves it. She was exhausted. After all, she’s seventy-eight years old. Ray and Ginger made sure she had plenty of help. On Thanksgiving, she’s sort of a wizard, capable of removing a sword from a stone.
If that dressing was any better, it would be against the law.
The heavy lifting was in the kitchen. My guitar and camera are light. I didn’t take as many pictures as I should have. I got carried away playing “Act Naturally,” “Crystal Chandeliers” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” I don’t know any Thanksgiving songs, but I think it’s okay to sing Christmas songs on Thanksgiving but … not … and I mean this … don’t make me stop this car … even one day before.
I even sipped wine, even though I feel guilty because I don’t drink it enough to deserve the good stuff.
The food was so good that I never want to see it again. I’m aware of how much people love leftover sandwiches the day after. At about three o’clock, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be up to a bowl of raisin bran. I just don’t see any lust for turkey arising again until the lead-up to Christmas.
I got back home barely motivated enough to get up from a chair occasionally. I had to make some coffee in order to stay awake during two ghastly football games between which I switched occasionally, but I finally found respite and serenity from You Can’t Take It with You, a Frank Capra film from 1938 about leftovers.
As a result, today I feel like Lionel Barrymore.
Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.
The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.