Until I was 5 years old, my family lived across the street from my grandparents. Most Sundays we would join them for a comforting breakfast of eggs over-easy, biscuits with jam and grits with gobs of butter and pepper. It was a lot of food, but my sisters and I would need the sustenance for the arduous task that lie ahead of us: getting excused from the table.
Whenever little girls who visited Grandfather’s house wanted to leave the table, they first had to ask, “Grandfather, may I please be excused?”
Unfortunately, until those little girls received the magic words “you’re excused” they had to stay put!
Asking the question was easy enough, but finding the opportunity to ask it was next to impossible.
This is because once the meal was over, Grandfather would take out his Bible and begin talking about God. No matter how many years of Sunday mornings we would sit at his table, Grandfather never ran out of things to say about God. I, myself, knew only two things about the Deity which I learned from looking at our Children’s Illustrated Bible:
1.) He had a long beard, and
2.) He was mad all the time.
And that’s about all any child who just wanted to go outside and play really needed to know.
“Now, what people need to know,” Grandfather would begin, “Is that God is BlahblahblahJesus. AndBlahblahGod. ANDBlahblahJesusGod…”
Once he would stop to take a breath, one of us girls would pipe in:
“Grandfather? May we be–“
But Grandfather would continue:
“WhoblahwhoblahJesusblah? Mosesblah! HeavenandHellandSinblah!”
At this point, my sisters and I would begin sharing anxious glances. Was he ever going to stop talking? What if we never got a chance to be excused? What if we had to stay and listen to him the entire time?
The fear of staying always gave one of us the fresh courage to try again:
“Grandfather? Um, can we please be–“
“RamblebambleJesus! RamblesbambleGod! RamblebamblePRAYERtoGOD!”
With each attempt, we wasted less and less time:
But it never worked.
If ever we needed to pray to God, it was now:
“Dear God, please make Grandfather stop talking about you so that we can go outside. Amen.”
One time, my prayer worked and Grandfather did stop talking. And in that millisecond, I took a deep breath and blurted out,
“Grandfather? May I please be excused?”
But at that same moment, Grandfather let out the loudest yawn in all of Christendom.
So he never heard my question.
“Like I was saying,” he continued, “YakkityyakMoses! YakkityyakCommandments! YakkityyakyakDEVIL!”
Eventually, Grandma or Momma would come to our rescue and we were finally free to ask our question and get the heck outside.
Where we would pretend to be witches. Lisa and I would either pull off grasshopper’s legs to use in our “magic potion” or we would all play “Wicked Witch of the West.” Since Leslie was the eldest, she always got to be the Wicked Witch and Lisa and I were forced to be her miserable prisoners. After chasing us down, The Wicked Witch would throw us prisoners into the dungeon (which was the space under the wrought-iron porch) where we would be forced to eat grass and mint leaves.
The grass was tolerable but the mint leaves were horribly bitter. And The Wicked Witch would never rinse the dust and cat spray off of them before throwing them at her victims. But any prisoner who refused to eat the generous offerings of The Wicked Witch would be forced to live in her prison forever!
It was usually at this point in the game that I would start crying. Which would cause Momma to come outside. Which would result in our going home for the day.
This wasn’t the first time my sobbing would ruin a good game of Wicked Witch.
But then again, maybe Momma was praying for an opportunity to be excused as well.