Years ago, when me an' Uncle were still young twigs in our first home, we's all about settin' ourselves up wif' the very best of our respective traditions. Most of 'em meshed well, since we's both of the ole timey Southern persuasion.
On New Year's Day in much of the South the de rigueur menu includes black-eyed peas, greens an' ham (or pork of some variety). In our home it be collard greens 'cause I doan wanna wash the dirt outa them hairy mustard greens, an iffin' ya' git turnip greens somebody is shure to expect ya' to put the turnips in the greens. Aunty ain't friendly wif' turnips.
Now in some parts, it is customary to hide a dime in the peas an' whoever gits the dime in their peas is shure to have a prosperous year. Ever'body knows this.
It t'were a gorgeous day that January long ago, an' we had a few folks joinin' us fer the New Year's Day feast, a BYB and the SEC football extravaganza. We's wuz poor, our dinin' room empty of any firnishin's, no table 'cept in the dinky kitchen. What we done wuz set up TV tables in front of the sofa, and chairs. It din't matter much 'cause the menfolk wanted food wif' football games an' thar's no way I'd git 'em into a dinin' room anyhow.
I'se real happy pilin' up plates wif' all the home cooked goodness a new wife wants to show off. I hurried back an' forth from the kitchen to the Florida Room ( a closed in porch) with steamin' bowls of greens an' Hoppin' John (Blackeyed peas in rice), an' trays of buttered cornbread. I coulda been a runner-up to Flo at Mel's Diner.
The fellas is all whoopin' an shoutin', stuffin' dollar bill bets in a burlap sack left over from some pecans we'd gotten as a gift. Oh! It were a good kind o' rowdiness goin' on.
By the time Aunty finished slinging plates fer guests an' sat down to her own plate of Hoppin' John some folks had already started on desert. Uncle wuz still moppin' up his bowl wif a bit of cornbread, his eyes glued to the TV.
I sat on the floor next to his chair, laigs folded under me, like a happy hen on her nest. "Aloyisus, Honey, how'd ya' like them greens?" I purred.
"Uhmmm," he allowed, never takin' his eyes from the ballgame.
"I think I got the right amount of crustiness on the edge of the cornbread, doan'cha think?" I tried again, hoping fer some small favor of his attention.
"Uh-hummmm," Uncle nodded, his eyes fixed to the screen.
I seen he wuz down to the last bite of his peas. I set mah own bowl down on the floor an' started to rise, "Lemme git'cha some more Hoppin' John, Honey," I said. "Did'ja find yore dime?"
His eyes cut sideways an' his mouth stopped mid chew. From the side of his mouth he squeaked, "What dime?"
I stood thar' hands at mah side. I felt a little bit cold all of a sudden.
"What dime, Belle?" His voice a pleading growl.
"The good luck dime, Aloysius? The one we hide in the peas on New Year's....fer a prosperous new year," I said, mah voice fadin' wif' each word.
He swished the contents of his mouth around some, then swallowed, his eyes searchin' down in his bowl. When he lifted his head I seen a look I ain't never seen a'fore, the frantic look of a man who knows he has a serious elimination situation.
"You insane, girl? Dimes is fer Jukeboxes not fer a man's peas!"
Uncle doan want y'all to be in no suspense. He reminded me that when he called, the doc said, "Doan worry none, son, ever'thang will come out all right."
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The menu today includes fresh caught lake Perch (sac-au-lait, if youse Cajun) , but no Hoppin' John.