“MOM!!!!!!!! Wallace is about to throw up!!!!!”
The kids and I are on a never-ending country road returning from a long-ass weekend with Mamala.
“Hang on, Wallace, and I’ll pull over. I just have to find a spot.”
“Hurry!!!” Piers shrieks.
Poor Wallace looks a little green in the rearview mirror.
I spot a driveway that leads up to a large metal building, so I whip in, park, and undo my seatbelt quickly. Wallace is already out of his seat and trying to open the door. Poor kid looks rough. I walk around and help him into the fresh air and sunshine. “How ya feeling, buddy?”
“Not so good,” he says weakly. He starts pacing. Fresh air and a little time out of the car usually help, along with the right amount of food, which I have yet to determine.
I look around and realize that we’re next to a large orchard — pecan maybe. It’s beautiful — spring seems to have sprung and the air feels breezy but the sun is beaming down. I’m a bit too warm in my long-sleeved t-shirt and jeans. And these snow boots need to go. They’ve been my choice of footwear since our trip to the mountains back in January to visit Ani and Zip.
Ani and I decided that they were perfect. “You have to get these! They’ll take you from the slopes to the lodge to a nice dinner after.”
She and I frequently reminisce about the days when we actually had time to care about fashion. Now that we have two kids apiece we do what we can to look pulled together. Multitasking shoes that are fashionable and functional get high marks in our book.
As Wallace continues to pace, now feeling better and munching cautiously on a banana, I realize that the metal building is actually a church. It sits about 100 meters from the road. My vision is not the best but I can see a few cars in the circular driveway, and it doesn’t exactly look like they’re having a church service, but something is going on.
I have a slight fascination with the culture surrounding religion, particularly in my home state of Georgia. Although I grew up here, my parents were tame with the religious doctrine in our home, especially compared to many of my friends’ parents. We attended a large Southern Baptist Church, but it wasn’t like we were there every time the doors were open (which was next to always) and for the most part I think our participation had more to do with my parents’ networking needs than anything else, though they would never say such.
But if you’ve ever spent much time in the south, it’s hard to overlook the fact that religion infiltrates most every part of life, particularly in smaller cities. I’ve considered starting another blog strictly to discuss my experiences and observations growing up in the Bible Belt.
On this particular trip I decided to follow the MapQuest directions on my phone. I enabled the GPS function and it looked to be a bit shorter than the route I usually take to my mom’s. On the way over, we arrived earlier than I expected but it took us on a set of country roads with which I was not at all familiar — beautiful rolling hills and we passed at least three cattle ranches. We also stumbled onto a square dance festival in the middle of a small-town square.
I also couldn’t help but notice how many churches we passed — Baptist, Methodist, Community churches with big signs out front advertising that “Jesus loves you! Come on in!”
I’m especially intrigued by these metal buildings that they turn into churches. It’s like when people no longer need body shops and places to store their boats and other vehicles their logic becomes — how about we start a church?!
I’m lost in thought and now Piers has exited the vehicle and is turning cartwheels in the field. Wallace must be feeling better since he has removed his shirt and is trying to take Piers down mid-cartwheel.
I’m about to start herding everyone back into the car when I notice that now Piers is also shirtless and both he and Wallace are peeing into the ditch. They’re laughing and trying to see who can create the longest stream. GEE-ZUS!!
“I bet I can hit that brown rock!”
“I bet I can hit that big tree!!”
I’m too busy watching the long-distance urine smack-down to notice the large Suburban pulling up next to my car.
“Hun? Y’all okay over there?”
I turn quickly and see a woman about my age wearing a loud pink shirt. She had bright blond curly hair that was pulled up on top of her head with a matching scrunchie, and her bangs were enormous — like Debbie Gibson back-in-the-day enormous. Those bangs always amaze me. I could never master big bangs back when big bangs were THE thing, regardless of how much White Rain hairspray I used.
Bang-lady was leaning out of the passenger window, and I could see another woman wearing the same pink shirt with one arm on the steering wheel who could have been Bang-lady’s dark-haired twin, minus the scrunchie.
I was only slightly mortified as Piers and Wallace slowly finished peeing and zipped their pants. “We are. Thank you. He was getting carsick so I pulled over here because it was the closest place away from the road. I hope that’s okay.”
“Ohhh, that’s fine. We were just finishin’ up choir practice. Is he better? I’m sure there’s some Sprite in the fellowship hall if you wanna run on up to the church.”
Of course when Piers and Wallace heard “Sprite” they were all ready to take her up on her offer.
I was not. “Thank you, but I have some drinks. I really think he’s okay now that he’s had some fresh air. We’re about to get back on the road.”
Now Wallace, ever my charmer, never misses an opportunity to find out more about a situation. Plus he has a strange fascination with churches. Before I knew what was happening, he marches right up to Bang-lady’s window, looks directly at her with his serious brown eyes and asks, “What’s a fellowship hall?”
“Oh… my… gosh…,” Bang-lady chirped in her Southern sing-song voice. “You are about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Look at that red hair.” She turns to the driver, “Lori, look at him. You know who he reminds me of? Sammy. Don’t he though?”
In true Wallace style, he wants an answer and won’t stop until he gets one. He turns to me as Bang-lady continues chirping and asks, “Mom, what’s a fellowship hall?”
Before I can answer, Piers is WAY in my space, “Mom, I want some Sprite. Can we go get some Sprite? I love Sprite. Pleeaase!!!”
And then my fiery red-head proceeds to lose his shit, “CAN’T ANYBODY HEAR ME??!!! I’M TRYING TO ASK YOU SOMETHING — WHAT. IS. A. FELLOWSHIP. HALL. !!??”
I silently consider tossing him in the car with Bang-lady so she can show him the EFFIN’ fellowship hall and I can pull out the leftover bottle of wine from my trunk, but at this point Bang-lady and Lori look less than amused with Wallace and his mood swing.
I ignore them. I live with Wallace and I am more than certain if someone doesn’t quickly provide a thorough definition for “fellowship hall” this will only get worse.
I call deep and channel every smidgen of calmness I can muster, “It’s a ……uh, um..”
My anxiety is in high-gear and when this happens the neural pathways in my head refuse to connect. Good God..
Bang-lady senses my discomfort and speaks up, “Baby…., it’s where people who go to church git together and eat. We have the best time. Do y’all have a church home?”
Wallace, calm once more looks at her again with those piercing eyes, “We do have a home.”
At this point I just want to get the hell out of Moleda, Georgia, and I’m pulling Piers by the waistband of his pants towards the car and mouthing, “Get in.”
I begin picking up shirts, shoes, and banana peels and say, “We’re just passing through. We live down in Savannah. Thanks so much for checking on us.”
“Alright….y’all be safe. Bye-bye, Sweetie,” she chirps to Wallace, and she and Lori drive off in the big-ass Suburban.
Once everyone is buckled in we pull off onto the highway.
Piers: “Her voice was funny.”
Wallace: “I sure did want some Sprite.”
Piers: “Mom, I like hair like that. When are you gonna get some hair like that?”
Me: “Don’t hold your breath.”