Thursday, January 7, 2010
The Preacher’s Corner
I may not like them, but I still give thanks for turnips
The year 1957 was a great time to be four. As it happened, that was the year I was deemed old enough to spend an extended vacation with my grandparents in Memphis. It was probably four or five days, but to me it was an eternity, and my grandparents, thrilled with the opportunity, were set to cater to my every whim.
Along with this came their opportunity to enjoy their new robin’s egg blue and cream Chevrolet. Yes, it was a ’57 Chevy, and it stayed in their household almost until these cars became collector’s items.
The first outing was across the Memphis-Arkansas bridge to West Memphis for ice cream at a roadside stand. That was the “new bridge” then; my grandfather explained to me how until then, one-lane plank roads had been laid on either side of the railroad tracks on the Harahan bridge.
(You can still see the steel supports on that bridge today, and two teenage New Year’s revelers from Beale Street lost their lives when they got out on that old roadway and fell in the water a couple of years ago!)
It was fun looking at the great river and at the trains on the adjacent bridges. It is an outing I still enjoy repeating.
Then we went to the fairgrounds, where I was allowed to climb on the old Memphis Belle airplane, as well as the Frisco steam locomotive that was displayed in the park nearby. Then it was out to the airport where we parked in a pull-off area from South Airways near the runways, and watched the planes take off and land. (This is now fenced off, but you can still park on the far side of the street.)
Those activities, along with a Disney movie at the Orpheum and trips to the Pink Palace and the zoo, rounded out the visit. We rode the rubber-tired trolley downtown to the Orpheum, as one of my aunts had the Chevy during the day.
My grandmother made all my favorite foods, especially her home-made apple pie, and I was allowed to feed toast crusts to her pet canary, as long as I promised not to open the door to its cage, as “Lady,” Grandmother’s white Spitz dog, with butterscotch markings on her side, always beheld “Tweetie-Pie” with a ravenous eye.
On Sunday we went to church, and I was given the choice of attending the children’s class and meeting other youngsters my age, or of going to my grandparents’ class so they could show me off. I chose the latter.
My grandparents’ church was much-advanced over our little church in Cleveland, for Coca-Colas and fresh doughnuts were served between Sunday school and worship. I had never seen such a thing before, and was given ten cents, in addition to collection plate money, so that I could purchase my fill.
I had brought my Christmas toys along and was allowed to spread them out on the front room floor. My parents were sure I would come home spoiled, and I am quite sure I would have except for this small incident which adds color to these memories.
When leaving home, I was given careful instructions about many things, including “eat whatever you are served, and say thank you for it.” This I very carefully did, and all went well (for as I said, my every desire was being anticipated).
However, somehow a bowl of thin-sliced turnips found its way to the table for Sunday dinner. Not knowing what they were, I took a good-sized helping, and then was faced with the necessity of downing them, which I somehow did, and even said “Thank you!”
My grandmother was so impressed that a little boy would like turnips that she served them a couple of more times that visit. And every visit thereafter, Grandmother would have turnips, because “she knew Milton especially liked them!”
Over time this became a source of family hilarity, with everyone “in” on the truth but my grandmother.
The turnips always appeared, and I always ate some — to the accompaniment of knowing winks and nods from all others at the table.
There is a biblical verse that applies to this situation — St. Paul wrote it urging Christians to be generous when others criticized them for eating food that had been offered to idols.
“If I partake with thankfulness, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?” I had no knowledge of such things then, but when I run across this verse (I Corinthians 10:20), I always think of Grandmother’s turnips.
By the way, I still do not especially like turnips, but if you serve them to me, I’ll gladly eat them and be grateful for a grandmother who tried so hard to please a little boy!
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