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  • Third Sunday Dinner on the Grounds, July 1976
  • Crystal Wilkinson
    Summer 2008

Yolanda and Mona watched the cars line up along both sides of the street. Not just the normal neighborhood cars, the newest of which were at least two or three years old, but brand new cars that gleamed in the sunlight and still smelled car-lot fresh and sported black glistening tires that hadn’t seen much dirt yet. [End Page 35]

Two big yellow church buses full of out-of-towners pulled into the lot. And a long, silver charter bus with air conditioning and a bathroom careened along the blacktop until it came to a high profile stop right in front of the church as though it were a limousine, and fifty-five strangers from Atlanta strutted off the silver steps. A guest choir. People milled the street and talked to folks they hadn’t seen in years.

All of Opulence’s wayward children who lived as far off as Texas or California showed up talking city talk and driving long black shiny Cadillacs and red sports cars. They brought exotic gifts for their relatives—silver trays for chitterlings and fried potatoes and crystal goblets for Kool-aid and sweet iced tea. And the mothers and grandmothers would say, “Thank you, baby,” and wait for the out-of-towners to leave before placing the items in the attic with the other strange things their kin had brought home. They brought candy that they claimed was the best of the best that made children tear up their faces and spit out the bitter chocolate and head to Carter’s Grocery to get the Laffy Taffy and sweet tasting chocolate that they were used to. They brought expensive bubble bath to the young women with aromas so foul and foreign that they would give it to their children to wash their dolls’ hair or give it to the boys to wash the dogs in. All this, of course, after the courteous “thank yous” and polite, “That smells so goods.”

The children were dressed for church but ran through the grass in wild abandon. Little boys avoided their mothers’ glares when brown stains appeared in the knees of their best dress pants and their ties flapped crookedly in the wind. Little girls stared down at the ground before they ran back to play when their mothers’ noticed the press and curls that they had set off with blue, pink, and white ribbons, had wilted with girls’ sweat in the July heat. Toddling children, who had been told over and over how handsome or pretty they were before [End Page 36] they left their homes, cried when they got ice cream on their pants or tore a hole in the knee of their white tights or scuffed their shiny black patent leather shoes.

Old women beamed smiles under Sunday hats when a young lad from Lancaster or Harrodsburg said loud enough for all to hear, “I drove all the way from Lexington for just a taste of Miss Christine’s buttermilk pie.” And the young man sauntered up to the table where Miss Christine stood proudly behind her pies and put his hands up in the air, “Thank the Lord and Jesus that there is still some left.” And each of the women, if they were worth their salt, had suitors, not in search of their womanly wiles but in search of some delicacy that they only tasted once a year during this time.

The younger single women filled their plates and coyly peeped through sunglasses and sometimes nudged one another when a single man walked into the churchyard. Many a match was made during Dinner on the Grounds. It had always been that way. So it had been tradition to buy a special Dinner on the Grounds dress or to get one made. So there they were, the seeker women, lined up like blossoms in a flowerbed in their lilac and white, daffodil yellow and sherbet orange. Their lace and ruffles and peter pan collars. Some outfits were accompanied by gloves. Some with hats. Some of the sisters had elaborate hairdos that sat up like rooster crowns, pomaded and...


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