I grew up in Slapout, Alabama, and the only restaurant there at the time was Hungry Horace’s. Once in a blue moon we would order something from Hungry Horace’s and go pick it up. I can remember only one time that I actually ate there inside the restaurant. It’s probably because they had an arcade and a pool table and my dad wasn’t fond of me going in there because he said the people would get in there and gamble. I don’t know if they did or not but I’m sure that had something to do with it.
Anyway, that was just hamburgers and fries pretty much. Nothing fancy like pizza! We only got to eat pizza every other Friday when we would go to my Aunt Bunny and Uncle Ralph’s house in Montgomery. I loved that! They had cable TV with something like fourteen channels, a piano in the back room that I’d bang on, and they lived in the city where there were other kids to play with within walking distance instead of on the other side of the county. We’d order pizza from Pizza Inn, go pick it up and bring it back to their house, eat it while watching something sports related ON CABLE(my Uncle Ralph is a bit of a sports fanatic). Then, we’d go to K-Mart, the one next to Big Apple, in Aunt Bunny’s big, brown Bonneville where I would always get an Icee and some sort of toy. I have two enduring memories of riding in that car. The first is that I would sit in the back seat on the fold-down armrest in the middle of the seat. I thought it was a seat for kids. Really. Of course I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. The other was the sound that the turn-signal would make. TUNK-A, TUNK-A, TUNK-A. It was so loud! There is no way you could have gone more than a few feet without realizing it was on the way you can with modern blinkers. No going around the world to the left in that car!
When K-Mart would finally close for the night we’d head back to my aunt and uncle’s house again where some of the neighborhood kids and I would catch fireflies by the jarful. It was there that I learned you could squeeze the “stuff” out of the firefly’s tail and rub it on your shirt and it would glow(don’t tell PETA). My dad and Uncle Ralph would sit inside and watch CABLE TV and my mom and Aunt Bunny would sit on the front porch and drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. My mom was partial to Pall Mall Golds. That was twenty-nine years ago and smoking was not quite as frowned upon then as it is now(as it should be). I should note that my mom quit smoking altogether several years ago. While they smoked and talked I would run up and down the streets of the neighborhood until I heard mom hollering for me. Then we’d load up in our 1972 LTD and head back to Slapout. I always fell asleep in the backseat, you guessed it, with no seatbelt on. In my pre-adolescent world I wondered how life could get any better! Until I got married and had children, I’m not sure that it did.
I got older and got my driver’s license and there were things that became more important for me than pizza and fireflies. It’s been almost twenty years since Aunt Bunny, my mom’s twin sister and the closest thing I had to a grandmother, went to Heaven. After that, Uncle Ralph came to live with us for a few years. He has Multiple Sclerosis and has since moved into a nursing home. There is a lot I could write about him and the time we spent as roomies with my parents. In fact, I think I’ll do that soon.
The older we get, the less we seem to love life. Not that we aren’t happy, but with age comes a job and bills and responsibility. We get bogged down in temporal things that demand far too much of our time and the joy of childhood is replaced by stress and busyness and the pursuit of things we think will give us joy. And sometimes those things do. But that joy is often fleeting and thus begins our pursuit once again.
I think I just answered my own question about ordering pizza. When I sat down to write this it was going to be funny. I like funny. Funny is…fun. I suppose sometimes things don’t work out like we planned. Life is short and each passing year seems to go by faster. Maybe it’s time, as the old Waylon and Willie song says, I got back to the basics of life. Reassess my priorities and responsibilities and concentrate on the things that really matter. Being a good husband to my beautiful wife, a loving daddy to my two incredible children, banging on old pianos, drinking Icees, catching fireflies in jars…and pizza.