During my early teens, my dad worked the second shift at the Startex Cotton Mill, which ran from 3:30 p.m. until 11:30. He got home about midnight. Dad was an amiable William Holden look-alike, and mom was one lucky gal.
As the oldest offspring, I had the pleasure of being my dad’s buddy, and each Friday on his way out the door to work he would say to me, “Susie, if you’ll wait up tonight and watch the late show with me on TV, I’ll bring you a minced barbecue sandwich from the Super Grill.”
Oh, he knew me all right.
Daddy was a night person and so was I. Usually, that is. But weekdays I arose each morning at the crack of dawn and would allow my mom to sleep in as I prepared breakfast for my three siblings and myself. Everybody commented on how smart I was for getting myself and two of those siblings off to school. That included feeding them, washing the dishes, and tidying the kitchen before I left. I really didn’t mind because I had to get up anyway and get ready for school. This proved to be valuable training for multitasking later in life, a skill essential to writers.
Oh, and I even made homemade buttermilk biscuits to go with creamy buttered grits and soft scrambled eggs. That is, when we had buttermilk. Sometimes we ran out and I used water but I simply increased the shortening and sheezam! No problem.
Now Mom was so not a night person. By ten o’clock her yawns rivaled a newborn babe’s. So she was not a contender for late show viewing with Daddy.
That was left up to me.
Today, Daddy hesitated at the door. “How about it Susie Q? You gonna wait up on your ol’ dad tonight?” As extra enticement, he reiterated, “ A minced barbecue sandwich?” He grinned and wiggled his eyebrows.
I never could say no to my dad. “Okay.”
He left whistling because he was so not a loner.
Besides, I could already taste that chopped, moist beef topped with a sweet slaw concoction and a dash of tangy barbecue sauce. Anticipation built over the day during which, in late afternoon, the Lone Ranger rode off on his “fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty ‘Hi Yo Silver!’’’ Pondering the life and loves of Dobie Gillis kept me entranced as well.
By ten o’clock, when the other siblings and mom had called it a day, I took up my post, curled up in an easy chair in front of the 19” black-and-white screen to watch reruns of My Little Margie, and What’s My Line?
My supper had run out by that time, too, and thoughts of my hot, succulent barbecue sandwich drew moisture to my tongue. Then Dragnet’s Joe Friday pulled me from comedic emotions with his opening lines: “This is the city; Los Angeles, California. I work here. I carry a badge.” Then that arresting theme music began to play (Dum de dum dum). And a goose-bumps awakening sustained me for long moments in the realism of that show.
But, soon the monotonous tones weighted my eyelids and the words began to drift in and out. “It was 2:55 and we were working the day shift out of homicide…”. I drifted off and missed the dramatic capture and sentencing of the criminal.
That last hour of waiting crawled by. By eleven o’clock I began using my bag of tricks to stay awake. If humming aloud veered off into deep, even breathing, I would raise my arm in the air so that when I dozed, my hand would fall and hit me in the face. That worked. For a while. The final dodge was to go to the bathroom and splash my face with cold water. Despite all this, I slid into slumber, to be awakened by Daddy’s key in the front door.
He gently nudged me. “Wake up, Sleepy head,” he murmured, grinning, tossing the warm paper bag into my lap. That aroma of barbecue engulfed and pulled me upright, out of my snooze-slouch.
And as the late show revved up, playing maybe a Charlie Chan flick or a 40s musical starring Astaire and Rogers, I sank my teeth into that moist, chewy concoction of flavors and savored the time with my dad.
My oh my, how I miss those days! How I miss him.
The Super Grill has been long gone, but I’ve just developed a hankering to drive down to the Beacon Drive-in in Spartanburg.
A hot minced barbecue sandwich is exactly what I need right now!
Emily Sue Harvey is the author of the nationally bestselling novel Unto These Hills. Her next novel, Twilight Time, will be released on February 17, 2015. You can stay up-to-date on her blog posts at her website.