Growing up in the South, I never really realized how very classically Southern my growing-up years were. When you're surrounded by traditional Southern things, you tend not to notice -- until you move far enough north that people stop understanding that there is only one kind of tea.
Sweet tea. (Preferably served in a Mason jar with plenty of ice. Handles optional.)
And when you have a late summer luncheon, you host it in the church rec hall, of course. And you serve sweet tea and lemonade. (Nevermind that unsweet stuff -- nobody really drinks it, trust me. Its only there for equality's sake, to make it look like us Southerners might potentially drink something without seventeen cups of sugar in every gallon. Truth is, we cannot. The sweet tea is too delicious to give up.)
And there will always be a cake, decorated with a loving hand, and sized to serve twice the number of attendees. (Must. Always. Have. Extra. Cake!)
Lunch should be served buffet-style. That way, its easier for us hungry folk to get seconds. (Notice how I managed to be first in line for food. I have priorities, people.)
And most importantly, several generations of the family should be present. Here's Dad, teaching his first granddaughter how to properly chow-down, Georgia style.
And here's Riley's dad, (my brother) Jon, surveying the territory and drooling accordingly. (Jon is doing the surveying. Riley is doing the drooling.)
Our "Tribute to GP" birthday party began with a layout of pictures from various decades. I will spare you my late-eighties/early-nineties style, but suffice to say, it got quite a few laughs.
I especially loved seeing all the old photos of my parents and grandparents as kids. I loved this one of my mom and her brothers. Mom was about 13 in this picture. The very tall guy in the back is her older brother, David. (He and his family came to Grandpa's birthday celebration, too!)
There was also a picture of Grandpa when he was two years old -- I didn't manage to snap a photo of that one, but I did get this picture of Grandpa with my maternal grandmother (she passed away long before I was born). I would have loved to have met her -- I bet she was pretty hip.
As part of our tribute to Grandpa, each family member (or group of family members) took the mic and recorded a little video for Grandpa. Jon and Mandy started their video by saying, "Hi Grandpa -- the last time we saw you was at our wedding, and a lot has happened since then..." Mandy held up the baby and said, "See?" :)
Riley recited a Shakesperian sonnet. (Actually, she just drooled. But it was still extremely cute.)
Remember that tall teenager in the old photograph? Here he is, with his son and grandsons. He managed to get a semblance of "Happy Birthday Grandpa" out of little Wesley, although it sounded more like "Bip, Bip, Baaaaaah!" Everyone loved it.
My youngest brother, Chris, played and sang the 23rd Psalm. It was gorgeous. I even shed a little tear. (Sorry Chris, I know that's sappy. But I changed your diapers, man! (Sorry again for that one.) And now you're six-four and heading off to college next year. Criminy!)
My middle-brother, Matt, read a stanza from e.e. cummings, and Matt's fiancee, Kristen, joked that Grandpa thought they were already engaged before Matt had popped the question, so Kristen credits Grandpa for giving Matt the idea. :)
Mom and Dad went last, each telling a heartfelt story of a memory with Grandpa.
Dad told the story of being nervous to ask Grandpa for Mom's hand in marriage, but he said GP took it all in stride and was very kind to Dad (despite the nerves!) :)
Our family friends, the McGintys, were also there to celebrate the occasion. (And for the sweet tea, obviously. You don't pass up sweet tea when its readily available.) I remember babysitting the McGinty girls when they were in elementary school, and now they are nearly grown up! Amazing how fast time flies.
Jillian succeeded in making Riley laugh hysterically.
After the videotaping part was over, we sat around and did what our family does best -- plunking on any instrument within arm's reach.
Yep, we start 'em young in my family.
This is just what we do. No television, no video games. Give us some chairs, some guitars, and maybe a rogue piano, and we can entertain ourselves for hours on end.
Once the Family Band had played nearly every song in their repetoire -- including the theme to the Home Depot commercial in every possible variation (careful, its an addictive little tune) -- we decided it was time for supper.
And thus we supped. At Sonny's!
Again, I didn't realize how very Southern my southern years were until I drove up past the Mason-Dixon line and realized that you can't get barbeque like this just anywhere. Especially not where there's a dude in cowboy boots holding a wooden serving spoon printed right onto the table. That's a sign of a quality BBQ place, folks.
Matt and Chris discussed the physics of properly spearing corn on the cob with those little pointy sticks. (Harder than you might think.)
And now, back here in NoVa, I'm already missing the tea, syrupy sweet and still a bit warm from the stovetop. Happy birthday, Grandpa. Thanks for being a part of this Southern heritage I'm still discovering with every new trip back home.
Hope you enjoy the movie we made for you!