This weekend, I traveled north to my hometown to join the birthday celebrations of my sister, Deana, and my nephew, Hunter. Now, the Sexton family likes to celebrate each and every occasion big. It’s just our way.
However, this weekend was surprisingly low-key. We decided to drive over to the east side of the county for dinner at a popular fish house.
Because there were seven of us, I drove my sisters, my nephew and his friend, Asa. My parents took a separate car (I think they may have planned it that way because they were afraid of too much together time.)
Now, this restaurant is not just around the corner. It took us nearly 40 minutes to get there – down a winding, rolling, country road. My sister, Stephanie, kept repeating for at least 30 minutes, “It’s right around this curve.” One hundred curves later, we arrive.
This restaurant has wonderful fried fish, but it is more famous for its desserts. A display of dozens of homemade desserts met us when we walked through the door. Forget the fish, I thought. Birthdays are all about the cake, and they had a Heath Bar cake that would make you slap your momma! (Hunter kept calling it the Health Bar Cake. Kind of loses it appeal that way, huh?)
There was also some sort of bluegrass hoedown in one of the three main dining rooms. Men were playing banjos and people were dancing about.
“Smoking or non,” the hostess asked.
“Anywhere but in there,” Deana said, nodding to the hoedown.
“Alrighty then,” the hostess said. “Right this way.”
I wonder if we were the only ones who requested that.
The food was wonderful, and most of us were so stuffed, we took our cakes home. Several of my family members ate so much (I won’t name names) they made themselves sick.
It is funny how insignificant trips to the fish house can bring memories flooding back. I remembered the last time I dined at that particular fish house. It was years ago, and my grandparents were with us.
The menu was all-you-can-eat back then, and Daddy and my grandparents were on a mission to get their money’s worth. I have never seen people eat so much! My grandmother ate just as much as the men.
“It’s the Shelton in me,” she would say. Her father was famous for his frugal ways, and his genes were strong. Not only did he pass that trait on to my grandmother, but I believe Daddy got a double dose.
My grandparents loved to go eat fried fish. Their favorite restaurant in Memphis closed, and the two were lost without their regular haute. My father introduced them to that fish house on the east side of the county, and at last, they were content.
In fact, it was during the introduction trip to this restaurant that Stephanie and I were invaded by burglars.
My family had just moved into our newly-built home in Southaven, and my grandparents drove up to go to dinner with my parents. Sixteen-year-old Stephanie was watching me who had just turned 12, and we were instructed to turn the burglar alarm on and not let anyone in the house. (We had just moved to the big city from Eudora, mind you.)
The two of us were watching television upstairs when the alarm started howling. At first we thought, we had just done something wrong when we set it, but we still called our neighbor to check things out. The neighbor checked the inside of the house, confirmed that it was just a false alarm, and went home.
Just as we set the alarm back and got situated on the sofa in front of the television, the alarm sounded again. The two of us ran down stairs, and low and behold, the front door was wide open. Someone had been inside the house with us the entire time.
We called 911 and armed ourselves. Stephanie, who is now a captain in the Sheriff’s Department, donned a shotgun from Momma’s collection, and I grabbed a steak knife. What we intended to do is beyond me.
The two of us paced through the kitchen waiting for the police. Then we saw him. A man was standing on the deck outside the kitchen door watching us. Armed with a shot gun and a steak knife, we screamed and ran. I am not sure, but I think we might have thrown our weapons down as we fled.
Now, I am unsure of how this event became a complete spectacle, but it did. Before the police could arrive, a friend of the family, Emily Sanford, rushed to the house to save us. She barged in the door wearing her satin pajamas and welding an Estee Lauder lipstick. She repeated over and over again while she applied that someone was trying to kill her babies.
Stephanie’s friend from school arrived, and it was nice to finally have a male around in case something else happened. He did let us know that Stephanie (now, Captain Stephanie) had loaded the bullet in the gun wrong.
When the police finally arrived, the house was in chaos. Ms. Sanford was yelling at them for not getting them earlier. Our neighbor had returned in a panic. My parents and grandparents had come home to find the police at the house. Stephanie and I were both talking incessantly about the events of the night.
It was some time before my parents left us alone again.
All this came from a plate of fried fish and a chunk of Heath bar cake.