My dad maneuvered the car into place and before he could turn off the motor, my sisters and brother and I tumbled out the doors and ran to the back door, almost toppling one of our uncles. "Whoa, there!" he laughed.
The succulent aroma of my grandma's fried chicken greeted us even before we opened the door. "Come on in, kids!" she greeted us. Still in her Sunday dress, she had a full, ruffled apron on to protect her clothes as she finished the preparations.
My mom and dad caught up to us, each carrying two pies my mom made the night before. I had helped her crimp the crusts and my seven year old fingerprints were embedded into the light brown edges.
My dad headed to the living room where my grandfather, uncles, and a few male cousins were already watching a Dallas Cowboys game. "Landry's got the best defensive line he's ever had, " my grandfather reminded them. The men took off their suit coats and loosened their ties.
"Yeah, but he's going to have a tough time beating Green Bay," my dad countered. Loud cheers from the TV drowned out the rest of their conversation.
While my mom and aunts helped in the kitchen with my grandma, a few of my cousins and I rounded up extra chairs from around the house to fit around the big kitchen table and the dining room table. At seven, I was the oldest of the bunch and relished my role of being the boss of them. They, who had barely started school, were astonished at my ability to count to 26, the number of chairs we needed for both tables.
My younger sister carefully placed napkins underneath each fork and one of my aunts ferried huge platters of food to the table. The Sunday clothes everyone was wearing warranted extra care around the food.
My mom was next in the delivery chain with a heaping bowl of steaming green beans, ones that had been growing in the garden just yesterday. One of my uncles walked through and tried to nab a piece of the thick golden cornbread my aunt was transporting. She slapped his hand lightly and kept going. We giggled at his mock hurt expression.
The intermingled scents of the food and the line dried freshness of the tablecloths and napkins danced a glorious two-step.
My brother and a baby cousin were tethered into high chairs while my grandmother poured the milk into the roux to make the gravy, the last dish. She stirred furiously and coaxed those lumps of flour, chicken drippings, and milk into a thick, creamy topping that my grandfather even liked to slather on his vegetables.
Finally, both tables were set and only a few portions of the flowery tablecloths were visible under the well laden platters of food that adorned them. Everyone gathered as my grandmother dried her hands on a dish towel and lifted her apron off over her head.
Without anyone even calling us to it, we knew to form a large circle and join hands. All heads bowed as my grandfather prayed the prayer he always prayed preceding a meal, "Lord, bless this food for the nourishment of our bodies and our hands for Thy service. In Jesus's name, Amen."
We could all use a little Sunday dinner now and then.