This memory begins waking up with great anticipation. Wondering what would be the perfect holiday short set to wear that day. Being excited because my cousins, Robert and Gina would be at Mimi’s to play with. There would be uncles and aunts there, ones of the regular and great varieties that came from within the state and beyond.
As everyone in my house got ready, Mama would load the car up with food that she was told to bring, probably her potato salad, casseroles and maybe even a dessert. My little sister Tara and I would get in the car and off we were to Mimi and Big Daddy’s house in the country east of Shaw. We would listen to the radio or drive Mama crazy while we sang school songs.
Arriving at my grandparents we would have to find a place to park with the many cars that had come to visit. I would hop out of the car parked under a pecan tree and the humid heat would slap you in the face but this elementary school kid didn’t even notice. The smell of my Uncle Brother’s grill would greet you as you walked towards the house and then you would see him sitting watching this barrel looking grill. Talking and catching up with other uncles that had already arrived, he would periodically poke and turn the BBQ. The house was equally as intoxicating. Mimi and all my aunts were busy in the kitchen. Pasta would be boiling, cause in any good Italian home there had to be some pasta served — spaghetti gravy simmering, casseroles in the oven and desserts lined up on the counter in an endless line. Mimi would be preparing the custard for her famous peach and strawberry homemade ice cream. Eventually it would be the grandkids job to watch the ice cream machines.
As lunch grew near, a huge long table would be set up in the cleared out den. My Uncle Sonny from Houma, La., built it just for these occasions so we could all break bread together. Everyone one would assemble there. My Aunt Pat would start us off with our traditional Catholic meal prayer. Just as we all said “Amen” and made the sign of the cross, Uncle Sonny would loudly say “Thank you JC!” That always made me smile cause he knew how to add humor in most situations.
It was the quietest you would ever hear the house that day. Everyone enjoying all the different foods that lay before us. We ate until we were absolutely stuffed. The adults vowing that they wouldn’t have dinner, but that would happen anyway later that night. The ladies in the house would clear the table and begin the process of cleaning the kitchen.
That process always seemed like it wasn’t a task that day. They all joined in, talked and laughed about their families and it seemed done in a flash. They would stay in the kitchen have dessert and coffee over more conversations that were led by the day’s events.
While the ladies were doing their thing and men broke up into different things. As usual, my stepfather left after lunch to play in a golf tournament. Uncle Brother and others found soft, cool places to nap, while the rest would find something sports related to watch on TV.
My cousins and I would play some inside and but mostly outside. I liked to swing in the big swing under the oak tree. We always walked to the store to visit Big Daddy who was working in his country grocery that was yards from the house. There were always cats and a dog to pet and pester, a dirt pile to dig in, toad frogs to try to catch and fields to explore.
The afternoon would be slow and lazy. It was warm not because of summer weather but because we were all together. Later that night my cousins and I would play with sparklers, while my uncle shot some fireworks that we thought were too cool! We would go in and watch the 4th of July special on TV, which would remind everyone in the house of the people that made this country what it is.
Looking back I realize we didn’t have a glamorous holiday but it couldn’t have been more American. Biondini's and Montesi’s of all generations enjoying each others company, eating the over abundance of foods we had assembled there, thanking God for it and remembering how great our country is.
Happy Fourth and thank you JC!
Written by Caroline Laster, an employee of The Bolivar Commercial