My family doubles birthdays, even triples them. Mema, Mimi, and Mama, three generations, share the same birthday. I have two aunts with the same birthday in April and my parents, grandparents, and aunt and uncle share the same anniversary. Maggie, my middle sister, and our Granddaddy share the same birthday, and this year was a mile marker, for Granddaddy turned eighty! Their years on this earth combined make for one hundred and six years, and what lifetimes the two have had!
How does a family celebrate one hundred and six years of life? Well, a fish fry of course! Freshly caught grouper from the May River in Bluffton was iced down and brought to my uncle’s wooded tract in Perry, one of Kathleen’s suburbs, where we fried fish and hushpuppies, ate local delicacies such as smoked sausage from Stripling’s and M & T's, “Mrs. Pat’s” coleslaw, watermelon, “Georgia Caviar,” homemade ice cream and cake – pound, coconut, caramel and chocolate.
The new party pavilion, built in honor of my little cousin Sally Kathryn’s wedding, is now the venue de jour for any event we can conjure up. A delightfully warm but not hot day in May, May 14 to be exact, wrapped the pavilion and land in swath of balmy perfection for such a special day. Tables set with assortments of my aunt’s dinnerware, old family quilts and cloths, garden fresh centerpieces, and mix and match silver and chairs made the generations literally come together not only to eat, but to fellowship and reminisce.
Hydrangeas in shades of indigo, turquoise, and azure blended with butterfly bush, fern fronds, and a daylily or two in their Mason jar holdings accented just about anything that sat still. Literally cut from the garden and set on the table, this formula makes for summer bouquets all season long. Blue in so many shades, complements a myriad of colors, and when using a fun mix of cloths, quilts, and covers, it's a mainstay for the centerpiece and a great way to connect the entire tableaux.
Frying fish is an art, and thank goodness for my in-laws… brother, cousin, and boyfriend, respectively! These guys breaded, battered, and fried the grouper filets and hushpuppies to absolute perfection and what a chore it was! I knew my sisters and cousin were looking for good men to add to our fold, but secretly, we wanted good fish fryers…and we got ‘em! Thanks gals! It takes a village to feed a village, and once my grandparents’ brood, their posterity and now in-laws, a village we truly are! A true team effort from the kitchen to the deep fryer produced this meal, this celebration.
Once the first round of feasting was over (we eat several times rather than once), we gathered in a circle and shared stories of Granddaddy and Maggie, laughing and “carrying on” as Mema used to say. With a hundred and six years to pull from, the stories, tales, and episodes from each generation were full of hilarity, memories, and gladness. I cannot think of anything better than a fish fry to usher in another century of life! As I’m typing this, a hankering for one of those pieces of fish is taking hold… thankfully my birthday, father’s day, July 4th, and a summertime of fun is at hand and more is to come!