My rib ritual didn’t work for me this year

Published 6:02 pm Saturday, September 8, 2018

By Yolande


Nobody – but simply nobody – was smokin’ in my neighborhood on Monday. You couldn’t sniff barbecue in the air anywhere. Nor was it just my neighborhood. I checked with friends several blocks away who lived across Clay Street, and they said the same. Nothing there. I don’t know what happened.

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Now the reason this is the subject for the column this week is that it’s never happened before, and I’m just not used to it. Truth is I never learned to barbecue and depended on “the kindness of strangers,” well, maybe not “strangers,” but certainly friends to satisfy my Labor Day cravings. And Goldie’s would do in between.

I ate well anyway, just not the ribs. But I started to think about rituals and how quickly we lose them and never replace them. Another was evening rides, especially Sundays and at Christmastime, when long rides were the norm after dinner. We used to drive far on 61 North to then take in the town coming back. I had a very active fantasy life, which I indulged on those Sunday evenings, trying to imagine myself as Roy Rogers’ sidekick. Or sibling.

Or being a Brooklyn Dodger.

Then there was Fr. Tetzlaff, who was a magnificent organist. And on Saturdays, after Confession at St. Mary’s, he would open the church doors and windows and play for the neighborhood. It was a genuine classical recital. You could hear it all over the place.

The radio news hour began every evening with Fulton Lewis, Jr. on air. I loved the introductory music, the sound of his voice, and his ritual sign-off, “That’s the top of the news as it looks from here.” And dinner followed soon after. A little later in the hour came Gabriel Heatter who, no matter how dire the day’s news was, would always find reason to say at the start, “… there’s good news in the news tonight.”

Sunday evenings brought us Louella Parsons (and Hedda Hopper in print) and the highest-paid gossip-mongerer of the time who pressed on a telegraph key to preface his broadcast to “Mr. and Mrs. America… and all the ships at sea.”

All of it was a ritual, the daily, weekly, or yearly repetitions that helped to make life reliable.

My mother was born in 1899, the last year of a receding century. Our new-century house in the 1940s was wired for electricity. But my mother was suspicious and a little bit scared of it. I think she thought it was unnatural. So we burned a lot of kerosene lamps, something that sometimes still carries over.

I’m still at a loss though to understand rituals; even more at a loss to explain them. I do know, though, they had a comforting impact. You could rely upon them. And while repetition may not get you out of the doldrums, it does get you out of despair.

So Labor Day’s scheduled again for next year.

And hopefully so am I.


Yolande Robbins is a community correspondent for The Vicksburg Post. You may email her at