Laughter Is the Best Medicine for South Georgia Ladies Who Do Lunch

A cheerful heart is good medicine. – Proverbs 17:22

The heartless south-Georgia heat snubbed us as we stepped outside, daring us to breathe. Ninety-two degrees and rising. The overcast sky trapped the sun momentarily but brought little relief. The July heat was unrelenting, but our trio ignored the mugginess as though it was nothing more than an annoying housefly.

Ours was to be a working lunch.  The past three weeks had been a living nightmare, with software concerns, unresolved problems, and personnel issues. Each unfinished task had passed the critical stage and now rested in the bottom of the “black pit,” as it was affectionately known.  

Robin, Lisa, and I, preoccupied in deep thought, walked the short distance to the Magnolia Cafe with the morning events spooling in our frazzled minds.  After taking seats near the window, the silence lingered. Then, finally, it was time to face the truth.  Our problems were just beginning.   The task ahead was bleak. Nonetheless, our sisterhood of coworkers was confident that combined efforts would bring tranquility to a chaotic workplace.  

The truth is sometimes a tough pill to swallow, but we were committed to our cause. And what better way to ingest the bitter truth than with a tall glass of sweet iced tea, making any situation bearable?  

We placed our orders as the waitress quickly filled the tea glasses. The ice cubes twinkled in the amber liquid as the sugary substance worked its magic of immediate relief.  The conversation began with a recap of the morning’s fiasco and lasted approximately 60 seconds. Quickly, the working lunch was officially over. 

After the usual array of topics, children, grandchildren, and husbands, was exhausted, the conversation took an unexpected turn.  Suddenly we were discussing mothers and squirrels.  

For those of you who are from other regions, you may not know that Southerners take great pride in their humorous anecdotes about crazy relatives, hunting, religion, and, of course, squirrels.  

Country music fans will recall the ever-popular, catchy song by Ray Stevens, “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival?” According to my best friend and coworker, Lisa, the truth is more entertaining than fiction.  She told this story, and for the next 10 minutes, it was 1970 in the United Methodist Church located in the deep southern part of Georgia.  

Lisa shifted in her seat. She looked around to see who might be listening. Then, with a mischievous smile, she leaned in to share the marvelous tale. 

“Y’all know my brothers,” she said. “They were always up to some kind of mischief.”

“One Saturday afternoon, they rescued a baby squirrel that had fallen from its nest.  He was a cute little thing, as far as squirrels go.” 

She paused to take a sip of her tea.

“By nightfall, the squirrel had fully recovered from the fall, but my brothers were reluctant to set him free,” she recalled. “They were having such a grand time with their new friend, they decided he should spend the night.” 

She continued to unwind the story one sentence at a time. 

“Then it was Sunday-church day.” 

Every Sunday morning, come rain or shine, the entire family marched, like little ducks, down the aisle of the United Methodist Church, where they filled a full pew. According to the family’s weekly seating ritual, the two oldest girls went in first, followed by the two brothers.  

“As the youngest, my designated seat was next to Mama, who sat at the end of the pew,” she says. 

Later, I understood that this particular arrangement offered her the unique view of the episode that was to come.

“Walking single file into the church on this fine Sunday morning, Mama did not realize that my brothers decided to bring a visitor to the morning services.

I squirmed in my seat a little as I could guess what was coming next. My other friend, Robin, shook her head from side to side. She, too, sensed what was coming next. 

Our worst suspicions were soon confirmed.

“Yes. They. Did!” 

Lisa’s voice rose just a little as she pronounced each word separately, one at the time. 

The poor squirrel was now a captive in the front pocket of Jared’s Sunday pants.

Lisa’s sweet and melodious voice captivated the diners’ attention at the adjacent table, who were struggling to maintain their composure as she continued the tale.

 “As soon as we were seated, the squirrel put his escape plan into action,”

She  paused for effect. 

“My brother’s bushy-tailed friend began to do what squirrels do best- nibbling, squirming, scratching, and clawing.”

We three, without volition, each squirmed a little bit in our chairs, too. 

“As he struggled to keep his newfound friend captive, Jared began twisting, turning, and sliding on the slick wooden pew in response to the squirrel’s distressful actions.” 

Her mother simply looked at him and shook her head. She was oblivious to the impending disaster, Lisa recalled.

“We all began to giggle, Mama tried to settle us down with a stern look, but she was unprepared when the giggles erupted into snickering and a couple of snorts.”

She described the vain attempts to stifle their laughter. Then paused momentarily for our laughter to subside.  

“Then,” she said, with amusement in her voice, “out of absolute necessity, my brother produced the squirrel on the second stanza of The Old Rugged Cross.”  

“A look of absolute horror crossed my mother’s face.”

Lisa’s voice was filled with sympathy for her mother. 

“But then, being the practical and resourceful woman she was, Mama made a split-second decision. She snatched that squirrel from my brother’s hands, unsnapped the clasp on her black patent leather pocketbook, shoved the squirrel inside, and closed it with a loud click!”

Our waitress, the tea pitcher in hand, made no effort to curb her laughter, along with other diners who were now entangled in Lisa’s squirrel narration.  

“When we weren’t trying to smother our giggles, we were holding our breaths.”      

Lisa’s audience grew, as other diners turned their chairs in our direction for better hearing.  Lisa never faltered as she neared the end of the squirrel saga.  

“Throughout the singing,  praying, and preaching, we watched anxiously as Mama’s pocketbook squeaked and made sudden, short jerky movements on the floor of our pew.” 

Every so often, Mama used the pointed toe of her high-heeled shoe to pull the pocketbook back beneath her feet, she noted.

“Finally, the congregation sang the last song, and the deacon closed the service with prayer.” 

Her Mama led the way, her black patent leather pocketbook and the bushy-tailed squirrel in tow, and all the children in single file, straight out to the car There, her Mama quickly set her Sunday pocketbook on the ground and released the clasp.

“The squirrel flew from the depths of that pocketbook as though he had acquired wings during the preachin’,” Lisa said. “Not only did he fly out, but with him came a multitude of confetti.” 

The shreds bore an uncanny resemblance to the contents of Mama’s pocketbook. 

“There was nothing left of Mama’s checkbook nor her pocket pack of tissues.”

No-one, she said, spoke a word, not even her Mama. The same could not be said for the roomful of eavesdroppers. 

“The squirrel made a mad dash for freedom, never looking back.  We watched him go.   Silently, one by one, we climbed into the car and headed home for Sunday dinner.”   

In closing, Lisa alluded to the last line of that infamous Ray Stevens song.

“And that was the day that a South Georgia squirrel joined the congregation of the United Methodist Church.” 

My friends and I, along with the other diners within hearing distance, did not attempt to contain our hysterical laughter as we finished our meals. The laughter was infectious and uplifting, cementing our relationships with joy, adding sparkles to our workday. The morning stress was gone, and our hopeful demeanors were restored, despite the sweltering heat. We were ready to tackle the afternoon.  

Undoubtedly, laughter is the best medicine for ladies who do lunch.