There’s no denying it – I love to throw a party. But throwing a party for oneself is different. I get embarrassed when people sing “Happy Birthday,” yet I can speak to a thousand people and not have a single jitter. So when my birthday rolls around, I leave the party planning to Aunt Kathy. She is the hostess with the mostess!!! She not only can prepare a lovely party scene, but what Aunt Kathy also does is bring the thoughtful element into action. Last year’s party was amazing in Highlands, and this year we all knew was going to be tough, since it would be our first family soiree without Mimi. Though no one will ever replace Mimi, Mrs. Mary makes things better simply by her presence. She is by no means a second fiddle either – for she can sure lead the band any day!
Mrs. Mary raised us and cooked for us growing up in
Hawkinsville. For this occasion, Aunt Kathy and Mrs. Mary teamed up
in the kitchen, and the result was nothing short of magical. My menu
of choice was completely adhered to, and I got to set the table and
“do” the flowers – my favorite thing! “Do” flowers – allow
me to explain this. This spring on book tour, I was speaking to some
groups north of the Mason-Dixon. A couple of these groups asked me to
explain what I meant by “doing flowers.” I told them that’s how
we Southerners “arrange” flowers – we do them. Don’t know why
we do what we do, but we do. Aunt Kathy and Mrs. Mary cooked, Mama made
a poundcake (which fell and was a delicious pancake – ha!).
Fried chicken (pulley bones in particular are my favorite),
okra and tomatoes over rice, corn casserole, turnip greens, fried cornbread,
rice consommé, biscuits… ya’ll, I was one happy Farmer boy!
I don’t know how Mary does it, but she can whip up a spread like this
and feed Pharaoh’s army in a jiffy! She even made a red velvet cake
for my cousin Gray. We have had shared birthday parties our whole lives,
since our birthdays are only three days apart. Graybo loves red velvet
cake and I love poundcake – let them eat cake indeed!
As for the tables, I don’t want to shock ya’ll
too much, but I used a buffalo check table cloth. I know this is a departure
for me! Ha! I had several yards of a coral/red check I had been waiting
to use, and so I set the tables (dining and kitchen to seat this crew)
with Aunt Kathy’s lime green dinnerware, some family silver and some
mother-of-pearl flatware, mason jars for stemware and linens made of
old grain cloths and some stitched with cardinals. Ever since we lost
our beloved Mimi recently, I am reminded of her when I see a cardinal.
This bodes true for when her mother passed, and I even had a cardinal
fly into, around and back out of my office one day – cardinals have
always held a special place in my heart and even more so now. These
precious napkins have been in our family a long while, and the red birds
are more so pink now – but cherished nonetheless.
Small bouquets of hydrangea, mint, lemon balm and
lamb’s ear dotted the tables and even some peaches and wild plums
made center stage. Flowers on the table though are just as much for
yours truly as planting pots. I love to plant pots up the front steps.
This summer I have some raspberry freckled caladiums in terra cotta
baskets, white New Guinea impatiens, Kim Queen ferns, pink begonias
and some chartreuse sweet potato vine and cornstalk plant for punch.
A couple of my deer I have used in Cashiers before add a touch of whimsy.
Sometimes, simple flowers are the best, especially
when a menu of this magnitude is the keynote! I feel as if the XXX decade
is barreling forward. I cannot believe this past year has come and gone
so quickly. I’m excited about my thirties, and a nice evening eating
favorite foods with some favorite folks is not a bad way to ring in