Saturday, November 24, 2012

Unfortunately, I Always Have to Learn My Lessons the Hard Way....

Good Lord, I can't believe what I did.  I feel so awful.  I hope you guys don't get mad at me because I swear to you that I really and truly didn't mean anything negative by what I did.

Thanksgiving Day arrived and, as per my usual habit, I insisted on watching the beginning of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  (Here's a shot for you---it starts with an impressive number of balloons.")

And then we commenced to finish up the last of our preparations for the big family Thanksgiving Dinner.  The stupid cats kept trying to get into the box that we were filling with vacuum packed homemade French bread, the container of fried onion rings for the green bean casserole's topping, pie toppings like Cool Whip and whipped cream, and other things.

And then the whole damn trouble started with my Thanksgiving Dinner meal "assignment"...

Everybody was told to bring something and Blaine & I were supposed to bring dessert, homemade bread, and green bean casserole.  We were told that it would be a large gathering since all the now grown up nephews and nieces would be bringing their significant others--and also there would be somebody's best friend and somebody else's mother--and there could be anywhere between 17 and 20 people in all.  So I made an extra large green bean casserole and 2 pies instead of just one.  I made Christmas Eggnog Custard Pie and "Civil War Pumpkin Pie."  I also took some homemade salsa and chips.

The reason it's called "Civil War Pumpkin Pie" is because it has two layers---a "south" and a "north" layer.  It's a tasty pie because the southern layer is a cheesecake type filling and the northern layer is a yummy pumpkin pie mixture.  As you know, my family is "southern" on my mother's side and Texan on my father's.  So Civil War Pumpkin Pie was always on our Thanksgiving dinner table.

Please forgive us southerners for our proclivity for naming things to reflect as having to do with the "south" and the "north"---because southerners just do that for some reason.  I never thought twice about it.  For example, southerners call kisses "Yankee Dimes"--but it's said only in fun.   My father called Texas "God's Country"--but that's how Texan men are raised to think.

Anyway, off to Blaine's brother's home we went, where we added our food offerings to the huge number of food dishes on the buffet table.  There was a ton of people there and we all began socializing and having family fun.  The nieces and nephews began a feisty touch-football game outside and we grown-ups stood up on the deck watching and cheering (and secretly feeling very old....)

So then it was time for dinner and we had a raucous time at two large tables, passing food around, eating a gigantic amount of turkey, dressing, and green bean casserole, etc.  We laughed fit-to-kill over stories told about days gone by.  Several latecomers drifted in and were handed huge plates of food.  Finally it was time for dessert.

So we trotted out all the desserts and put them on the tables.  There were my two pies, a pecan crunch brittle from one niece, and a pumpkin cheesecake from somebody's best friend.  As the passing out of dessert plates began, somebody hollered out: "Hey Bo--why is it called 'Civil War Pumpkin Pie'?"

It was very loud due to all the chatterings so I hollered back: "It's called 'Civil War Pumpkin Pie' because there's a  'southern' layer and a 'northern' layer!" And everybody laughed their heads off at  good ole southern-raised Bo.

And then the laughter suddenly stopped and there was a deafening silence.

I was confused---I didn't know why everybody stopped laughing so suddenly.  What was wrong???

I looked around the table....and followed everyone's gaze.....and then I saw what had happened.  And I blushed a deep red because I was utterly mortified.

A young nephew had just arrived......and he was standing at the doorway to the dining room with his African American girl.

I thought I'd die.  I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me whole.  And I didn't know what to do.  And nobody else knew what to do.  So we just suddenly started talking again and the uncomfortable incident passed.

But I was still completely horrified at announcing the definition of the Civil War Pumpkin Pie in front of an African American girl.  I didn't know whether she was offended or not.  I mean, I wasn't even sure if she'd heard the remark or not.  But even if she had heard it, the pie's label isn't meant to be racist.  It's just another harmless southern joke.

Or is it?

I pulled my sister-in-law aside later and asked her what she thought I should do.  I wanted to know if she thought I should go to the girl and apologize, and then explain to her that it's a stupid southern custom to name things like that, and that I certainly meant no racism or bigotry by the name of the damnable pie.  I wasn't even the one to name the pie thusly.  It was simply a dumb name for the pie that had been handed down in my family.

My sister-in-law said no, don't say anything, because that might make it worse.  She said to let it pass.

So I spent the last hour of the dinner feeling purely sinful.  I swore to myself that I'd never call that pie "Civil War Pumpkin Pie" again.  From now on, I thought, I'm just going to make up some other name for it---a non-Civil War name--just a plain old pie name.

That nephew and his friend did not speak to me during their time there.  I lurked around with much self-shame in my thoughts, even though my sister-in-law had said she didn't think I'd done anything racist.  But I'm not so sure.

No matter what my sister-in-law said about not having done anything wrong, I have an uncomfortable feeling that there actually was an important lesson there for me to learn.  I mean, for my entire life I never thought that the crazy things southerners do are wrong.  To us, poking fun at things "north" and "south" are thought of as harmless.  And I guess since there are no African American people in my family we simply never thought of whether or not something we did or said would be offensive to that culture.

But to set the record straight, my family taught my sister and me to think of all people as being equal to each other.  We grew up respecting all cultures and were not bigots or racists.  My parents instilled in us the belief that the Lord God made all of us as His children and that the Lord never makes anything "inferior".  And since we lived in foreign countries, we encountered many, many other cultures---and so we were able to have the opportunity to learn to love even more cultures besides the African American culture.

I am mightily saddened to think that I may have offended the nephew's girlfriend.

Sigh....I have a heavy heart about this.  



  1. I don't think you need to apologize, The civil war happened a hundred years before we were even born, When did we start apologizing for history. FActs are facts, and if that is what the pie is in your family , so be it. I know my opinion is not the PC way but tough!!!

    1. I know what you mean, Mary. It's hard to know how "careful" to be these days.

  2. Rest easy, Bo. There are truly ugly and evil things in this world that are racially motivated, and I don't think your pie is one them. Sounds like everybody had a great time, and enjoyed some good desserts. :)


  3. Bo dear! You have a sensitive conscience which can be a curse and I know this first hand! Pray and then let it go. Besides nothing is wrong with saying North, South or Civil War. History is fact. You said nothing racist. If anything the awkward silence wiould have made her feel uncomfortable. I'm sure being the only African American in a crowd made just being there hard. I think if everyone was friendly to her it was fine.( Let it go Bo!). Keep repeating that. Blessings, Sue

    1. Thank you, Sue! And everybody was extremely friendly to her, thank goodness!

  4. This is not a popular idea, but I think some times we worry too much about what other people think. The Civil War is a part of our history, slavery is a part of our history - BUT we weren't the ones who did it, so why do we feel that we have to apologize for it happening? My mother was from MS and my step-dad from OK, my father from IA - so if I were to buy into some of this, I might feel I have to apologize to everyone I meet for something that happened nearly 100 years before I was even born. Then you add in that I am of German ancestry on 1 side, I might feel I have to apologize for Hitler. But I think we have to be who we are & remember, the rest is history & we can only change us or be ourselves, we can't change history. We can only learn from it. So lift up your chin & move forward! If you don't act like you have something to apologize for, then you probably won't be judged as if you do. And if you are judged, then the other person needs to look inside themselves to find out why they are looking for something to judge in someone else!

    1. Thank you, Cindy! That does make me feel better---because you're right, we can't apologize for something our ancestors did hundreds of years ago.

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