Black-eyed peas, greens and laughs

Published 12:45 am Saturday, December 29, 2012

This week, I listened as a friend explained to a 15-year-old about Hoppin’ John.

“We don’t really know if black-eyed peas are lucky or not,” he said, “because we always eat them on New Year’s.”

In other words, we’ve never dared test the theory.

I was thinking about that later in the day as my own New Year’s Day plans solidified. For most of the years of our married lives, we’ve been with our friends Mary Helen and John and various crowds she’s conjured up on New Year’s.

There is always Hoppin’ John, collard greens, cornbread, and ham. Some years there is Lebanese food, a tradition from Mary Helen’s family. Always, the deacades-old tradition of this gathering is seasoned with laughter.

If storytelling and conversation don’t produce sufficient laughs, Mary Helen has a magic box of funny things she’s collected through the years. Most are newspaper clippings and all are amusing. Some years, we take turns reading our favorites out loud.

Like the story of a man named Benny Earl, who was seated on his very own throne when a wheel came loose from an 18-wheeler passing on the highway. The wheel went through the front door, into the, er, uh, throne room, and pinned poor Benny Earl there. If that wasn’t bad enough, his privacy was further invaded with the story made the front page of Flomaton’s Tri-City Ledger.

The wedding write-up of all write-ups is from Brewton, circa 1972. The description was so long that the bride was given a by-line for the full-page accounting of the event. The wedding, though memorable, wasn’t as good as what happened after the wedding, according to the reporting.

“The couple received so many useful and nice gifts, a U-Haul-It truck was required to haul them back to Atlanta.”

We also like the birth announcement of a child named LaPrecious LaMiracle. We always hope that she is called “LaLa” for short. Amusing obituaries also make the reading list each year.

Last year I added a clipping from a Florida newspaper about a woman arrested for driving erratically. The reason? She was using a razor to groom her privates en route to a date. Her ex-husband was in the Thunderbird with her, and the story has a great line about the police taking the T-bird away.

Like my friend, I’m not convinced that my luck would change if I didn’t eat black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s. But I shudder to think of spending that usually-cold winter day without the comfort of warm laughter with dear friends.

Happy New Year’s – and much laughter – to you and yours.