Coming from a relatively poor, tea-totaling family, our celebrations never looked like the ones on television. That’s ok though, since we didn’t own a television, or a “one-eyed devil” as it was affectionately called.
When we wanted to celebrate, we all packed into the car and went to Pancho’s Mexican Buffet. I’m not even sure if they exist any more, but I do know that there are none in Baton Rouge now. I have no idea how my mother celebrates big events or visiting relatives now. I can only assume another buffet has been elevated to celebration status.
There were even rituals around our buffet trips. Most notable of these was my mother’s ceremonial buffet skirt. Our denomination interpreted the Bible as saying that women could not wear pants, so my mother only wore dresses and skirts – this came in handy on buffet occasions. When we saw that skirt come out of the closet on a weekend, we all got excited because we knew what Mom’s party skirt meant.
The denim wrap-around skirt was the go-to garment. In case you are unfamiliar with the denim wrap-around; it is a huge panel of fabric that wraps around like a skirt and usually has at least 6″ of extra fabric available once the skirt is tied into place. That leaves a lot of room for endless chili relleno and sopapilla consumption. That’s also the skirt my mother was wearing the last time I pulled my car out of her driveway.
The day of my graduation from high-school was the final day for me to make a decision to “get right with God” or I would be out, permanently. A few months earlier, I’d been given the ultimatum; either start acting like I believed all of these things that no longer made sense to me, or go away. There was no choice to make – you can’t choose to believe something or not to believe something.
Because a lot of my father’s side of the family had driven down for my graduation, there had been a Pancho’s orgy earlier in the day. I backed my light blue Granada out of my mother’s gravel driveway on that 22nd of May. Everything I owned took up half of the back seat. Once I backed out onto the road, I looked back to wave goodbye.
My mother stood beside the driveway in front of the place I’d called home. She uncrossed her arms long enough to wave a quick goodbye. Her party skirt blew in the wind.
Over twenty years have passed, Pancho’s is dead and buried, I’m an old man, and my mother still owns that damned skirt.