Yesterday, my family had lunch in Tyronza, Arkansas, population 762.
My husband's grandmother passed away late last week. She was 89. A retired cook for the Ingram Barge Company, G.G. lived for many years near the Mississippi River before retiring to her home state of Texas. At some point, she and her husband, Chester, bought burial plots in the little farming community of Tyronza. Chester has been buried there since 1973. Yesterday, the funeral director from Donnelly's Colonial Funeral Home in Irving, Texas, drove G.G. to Tyronza.
We met him there. Under a blue tent and a bluer sky, we said good bye to G.G.
Each of my sons took a pink rose from the spray on the casket so we could press the flowers in our family Bible. I gathered up a tuft of raw cotton that had blown over from the cotton fields across the road.
It was a solemn occasion, commemorating a woman who loved to laugh.
Afterward, we went to the only restaurant in town, Tyboogie's Café. We called ahead to make sure they could accommodate a party of 18. They said, "Come on over."
We all sat together at three long wooden tables. Mismatched vinyl tablecloths made it seem like a picnic. Tyboogie's was not just a café; it was an antique store, featuring a pair of size 72 men's blue jeans pinned to the wall...a warning of what might happen if one ate too often at Tyboogie's. We had to laugh.
My husband's cousin, Jana, bought a porcelain figurine holding a delicately-painted, tiny, porcelain umbrella. Her mother, Judy, bought a geode, its glittering crystal exposed, the whole thing mounted on a chunk of Styrofoam. My boys bought Tyboogie's t-shirts.
While we waited for our lunch, we admired a caricature of Willie Nelson, a cardboard box filled with pieces of petrified wood, a collection of German beer steins, pink and white Christmas ornaments, a display case holding bullets from the Civil War, an old player piano (all the way from Chicago, Illinois!), and a collection of antique baby dolls.
We ate fried catfish, homemade hushpuppies, country-fried chicken covered in white gravy, cheeseburgers piled high with slices of red onion.
We didn't even have room for dessert.
We needed Tyboogie's yesterday...the atmosphere, the comfort food, the laughter. We ate in the middle of an unfamiliar room, surrounded by family. We took in (and took home) reminders of past times and other lives, reminders that we are all just passing through...passing through the little town of Tyronza, passing through this big life. It comforted us to realize we were all leaving behind bits of ourselves, some as soft as tufts of cotton, others as surprising as crystals hidden in a stone; some as fragile as a porcelain umbrella, others as solid as a piece of wood turned to rock.
G.G. would have loved Tyboogie's.