Saturday has always been my favorite day of the week. Growing up it would include Georgia Bulldog Games in the fall and early winter and snow skiing once it got cold enough to slide down the tiny hills of Sky Valley.
Daddy was a High School coach and our lives revolved around football. Friday night would be the games he coached and my brothers played in and on Saturday we would don our red and black and travel to Athens for the Georgia Games.
Daddy had a good friend who was one of the coaches on the JV team for Georgia. We would meet him at the gate where the players got off the bus and he would grab my brother and I and rush us onto the sidelines with the team. This was long before heightened security, when life seemed simpler.
After my brother and I were safely inside the stadium with Doc, my parents would make their way to their seats. We would enjoy the game on the sidelines and then meet mama and daddy back at the car after the game.
When the Dawgs played away games, mama would cook a bit pot of stew or soup and the entire family would listen to Larry Munson on the radio call the games usually while watching it on TV as well. The announcers on TV did a good job, but they weren’t Larry Munson!
After football season was over Saturdays would turn into ski days. From early morning until late afternoon I would go up those small hills and slide back to the bottom feeling the rush of the wind on my face and the slick man-made snow under my feet. Snow skiing was a passion, a time when I had total freedom and could excel at a sport of my own.
As much as I loved the Georgia Games and snow skiing, to me they couldn’t hold a candle to the Saturdays of spring and summer.
When my parents built our house, it was designed perfectly for entertaining. I don’t think they meant to build a party house, but it evolved into one. A great room encompassed the majority of the downstairs, kitchen, dining room and living room stretched from one end of the house to the other. During the spring and summer, this room was filled with friends and family for Saturday Night cook-outs and Pickin and Singin.
Mama and Daddy both loved to cook for others. A meal for our family was expected, but when they were cooking for 20 or 30 people they were at their best. Every Saturday mama and daddy would plan the menu. Fried fish, frog legs, chicken, steaks, whatever the main course for that night may be.
Daddy handled the main course, he would stand out by his deep fat frier and cook fish for hours. Mama would be in the house preparing hush puppies, slaw and the other delicacies that would go with the nights menu.
When daddy cooks he has a method to it, everything is perfectly timed out and mama would fight each week to keep up with his time frame. Mama was a “love cook” she said it take as long as it takes, putting every morsel of love she could into what she was preparing, it was a constant battle between them, but somehow they made it work.
Usually the Saturday night prep work would begin around 5PM. Friends would begin arriving with their contribution to the meal. The women would gather in the kitchen/dining room area for chit-chat. The men would gather under the garage while daddy cooked, to solve the problems of the world and the kids would run the neighborhood playing in our forts or tree houses or wading through the creek to the waterfall on the other side of the highway.
As the meal was prepared and the kids had been corralled back to the house we would gather in the dining room for the blessing. All of us, the Galloways, the Rogers, the Singletons, the Stocktons and whoever else was with us that night would hold hands and say grace. Those moments brought us together as one large family in fellowship moving through the good and bad times of life together.
After our dinner feast my favorite part of the night would begin. It was time for Pickin and Singin!
Tom McClure and Doug Stockton would pull out their guitars and begin to tune. Tom was a double amputee who had been in a wheelchair since he was young. I don’t know what put him in that wheelchair, but I know it never confined him. Tom lived life, he enjoyed life and he enriched the lives of all of us who knew him.
Doug was my brother Tommy’s age. After Tommy died, Doug became an older brother to my brother and I. He went on family vacations with us and was always a looming spirit in our house, he was someone we could look up to, a steady force in a childhood that wasn’t always very steady.
Tom and Doug would pull up next to each other and the rest of us would form a large circle around them, in old beat up lawn chairs lit by the glow of lighting bugs and the moon. Once they began to pick their guitars, a warm spirit would fill the room. I never felt safer or more loved than when I was in that circle listening to the harmonies of Doug and Tom singing and joining in with the rest of our “choir” to sing along.
We would sing old hymns and country favorites of the day, “The Green Green Grass of Home”, “I’ll Fly Away”, “A Boy Named Sue” and my favorite “Will the Circle be Unbroken”.
All of us would join in the singing, going on for hours, until it was time for us all to return to our own homes looking forward to another week of Pickin and Singin. I loved those moments more than any others, the sound of music, the fellowship of friends and a circle that would forever be unbroken.