Southern Hospitality Outside of the South

A cherished Venezuelan friend called me and asked if I wanted to go with her to her aunt’s birthday party.  I had fifteen minutes to get ready. Although I’d been up since the morning, walked to the farmer’s market, and even managed to write, I had not showered. I could, literally, smell myself.

“Fifteen minutes?” I asked.

“Fifteen minutes.”

Seeing how my social life is basically at zero, I jumped at the chance and jumped in the shower.

And am I ever glad that I did.

The night was filled with arepas, Bingo, family, and Spanish conversation.

What I loved the most was just how much her family reminded me of my extended family. Her mother and aunts kept asking me if I wanted more food (which my Grandma always does) and told me not to be shy. Her mom commanded (in Spanish), “Tell her in English to eat more if she wants more!”

They wanted it to be crystal clear that I was expected to eat.

People were helping me to stuff my arepas and bringing me Coca-cola, sangria, and freshly fried plantains.

“You’re getting spoiled,” my friend said as a plate of boiled eggs were set in front of me.

I just smiled.

“This is just like Southern hospitality.”

“Well, this is the South,” she countered.

A corn husk was swiped across the grill so more arepas could be fried up and I was back at the table for another round.

Her mother asked if I’d gained weight (another item my Grandma used to keep tabs on whenever I came to visit) and I admitted I had when I ate my way through Houston.

She nodded. As a seamstress who had made some clothes for me, she could tell.

By the time it was all said and done I was sleepy and happy.

At the night’s close, her mother pressed an aluminum foil wrapped hotcake in my hand.

“For breakfast,” she said.

“Gracias,” I responded.

For breakfast.

And for memories.

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