I've been dreaming lately that I throw a dinner party, inviting
all the women in my life. They come in with their own dishes.
Marty brings barbecue carried all the way from Marietta. Jay
drags in a whole side of beef and gets a bunch of swaggering
whiskey-sipping butch types to help her dig a hole in the back-
yard. They show off for each other, breaking up stones to line the
fire pit. Lee watches them from the porch, giggling at me and
punching down a great mound of dough for the oatmeal wheat
bread she'd promised to bake. Women whose names I can't re-
member bring in bowls of pasta salad, smoked salmon, and
Jell-O with tangerine slices. Everyone is feeding each other, ex-
claiming over recipes and gravies, introducing themselves and
telling stories about great meals they've eaten. My mama is in the
kitchen salting a batch of greens. Two of my aunts are arguing over
whether to make little baking-powder biscuits or big buttermilk
hogsheads. Another steps around them to slide an iron skillet full
of cornbread in the oven. Pinto beans with onions are bubbling
on the stove. Children run through sucking fatback rinds. My un-
cles are on the porch telling stories and knocking glass bottles to-
gether when they laugh.
I walk back and forth from the porch to the kitchen, being
hugged and kissed and stroked by everyone I pass. For the first
time in my life I am not hungry but everybody insists I have a lit-
tle taste. I burp like a baby on her mama's shoulder. My stomach
is full, relaxed, happy, and the taste of pan gravy is in my mouth.
I can't stop grinning. The dream goes on and on, and through it
all I hug myself and smile.