Sunday by Ashley Rhodes as it appears in SOUTH
Please enjoy this essay by Ashley Rhodes to honor all of the wonderful Southern mothers and grandmothers who have made impacts on all of our lives. This Mother’s Day, give your Mama a gift that says, “I love you” and “Thank You.”
Sunday By Ashley Rhodes
From the second pew of the little brick church, the benediction begins and the choir wails and claps to “Victory in Jesus” as Granny bangs away on the ivory keys. Nodding from her large framed glasses she plays “by ear,” but mostly by memory. The song concludes and we all bow our heads for the final prayer as the pastor saunters out the back door to speak to each person as they leave. We do not join the line; Granny whisks us out of the side door by the piano as she whispers, “Hurry, the roast is gonna burn.” Frantically we all pile out of her little Chevy Nova and into her little white cottage. The house is a buzz as her five living children and their families make jokes and pitch in to prepare Sunday “dinner” (that’s lunch in the South). The fire alarm sounds and Momma yells, “Rolls are done.” Everyone chuckles, as it’s an every Sunday occurrence, and haphazardly make their way around the black player piano, hutch, and crammed dining room table to hold hands. Everyone becomes quiet; Uncle Kelley raises his chin and says, “Let us pray.”
As a child of the South Carolina Lowcountry, I have a deep appreciation for the South but also the Lowcountry, this special place (tucked between Charleston and Savannah) that I’ve called home for thirty-one years. When I think about the South, there are so many quintessentially Southern things that come to mind: screened porches, grits, magnolias, boiled peanuts, pimento cheese, sweet tea, church, and football. While all of these things are wonderful and enjoyed by many Southerners, none of them truly define a Southerner.
The South is truly about the people, its people. Lots of characters, some phantoms, they’re this type of people that define a geographical space. The type of people who are crafted to appreciate the good, to slow down and value family, to be gracious and thankful and to say so, those who practice hospitality, who put family first, who work hard and honestly. Somewhere along the line, I think most Southerners are taught these values, whether deliberate or by default. For me it was a learned behavior that started with my Granny, Wilma Robison McGill. A strong mother of six, widowed at sixty, who ran a small country store and played the piano for her church; she taught her children to believe and practice these values.
She’s gone now but left incredible values within the thirty-eight people who create her legacy. When I look to the new South, I pray there are many more Granny’s who leave a legacy and whose families stop to sit around the dinner table on Sundays, enjoying home cooking and storytelling; who remember to practice hospitality and to always be gracious and thankful.