Sometimes we even had to go to church during the week.
When my parents were attending political and social events in the evenings, they would leave my brothers and me with one of the most wonderful families I've ever known, the Ingrams. The Ingram girls, Lori and Debra, were our primary babysitters. Their mother, Mrs. Ingram, was the moral pillar of the household, and she insisted that everyone accompany her to Lambert Church of God in Christ on Wednesday nights. We knew that if we went to the Ingrams' on a Wednesday night, we would be going to church. It didn't occur to us to argue. Wednesday night church wasn't ideal, since we had just gone to church three days earlier and were due again in church four days later. However, Wednesday night church was bearable because the choir sang well at Lambert, and the pastor's sermon was not as long on Wednesday as it was on Sunday. Although, Church of God in Christ sermons were always longer.
On Sunday, the thought of after-church dinner eased some of the pain of sitting through services.
The Ford family convened for Sunday dinner at my dad's parents' home on Golf Club Circle. Newton Jackson, or "N.J." as everyone called him, and Vera Ford—we called her Grandma Vera—were the patriarch and matriarch of this sprawling Ford family. N.J. and Vera had fifteen children between them, and twelve had survived—eight boys and four girls. I had so many cousins that I sometimes lost track. Every Sunday meal felt like a family reunion. During election season, there were always politicians joining us for dinner—some elected and others aspiring. Anyone running for governor, senator—even president with Jimmy Carter—made his or her way to South Memphis to have dinner at my grandparents' home after church. It wasn't uncommon for forty to be seated for dinner on a Sunday evening.
My grandfather was always there to greet us when we arrived, still in our church suits and clip-on ties. A regal man with soft gray hair, he'd say, "Come to Granddaddy," and reach into his pocket for a dollar's worth of quarters. On any given Sunday, there were a dozen or more kids running around the house; during the holidays, there were more. My grandfather spent much of the evening surrounded by jostling groups of grandkids.
My grandmother and aunt Joyce—and sometimes my mother, who is quite a cook herself—handled the cooking responsibilities. They cooked huge, delicious dinners: turkey, fried chicken, spaghetti, sweet potatoes, string beans, collard greens, squash, cabbage, candied yams (still my favorite—thankfully, my wife and mother-in-law make them for me now), sliced tomatoes, dressing, rolls, and corn bread. It wasn't the best dinner if one was trying to diet, but it was some kind of good.