Darrell Huckaby - Has visiting gone out of fashion?

What ever happened to visiting?

I mean, sure 'nuff, y'all. When is the last time you dropped in on a friend or neighbor on a Sunday afternoon? How long has it been since you spent the night with an out-of-town relative? Staying in a hotel doesn't count, understand. I'm talking about a real put-the-young-uns-on-the-sofa-and-give-Aunt-Sophie-the-bedroom kind of visit.

I thought so. Me neither.

We call, of course. With cell phones and unlimited long distance - do they even call it long distance anymore? - what's to stop us? And we e-mail. Sometimes we e-mail 25 people at once. And of course we text, or at least some of us do. Even I have learned the art of texting. But we just don't visit.

Not the sitting-around-the-kitchen-table kind of visiting. We don't dare drop in on friends, do we? We might interrupt someone's television show, or catch them with the house a mess - if we caught them home at all.

When I was growing up in Porterdale, we had a lot of visitors. My parents' friends would often drop by at supper time - particularly on a Saturday - and stay until bedtime, or even beyond. Now my daddy wasn't exactly an early-to-be-and-early-to-rise kind of guy, but midnight was about his limit for Saturday night company. Some of his friends, however, were reluctant to leave as long as there was a drop or two of moonshine whiskey in the bottom of the gallon fruit jar he kept in the back corner of the kitchen pantry.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard my daddy tell his friends, "I think I'll go to bed now, so y'all can go home."

Sometimes he just asked them if they wanted to go ahead and put in their breakfast order. Subtlety was not Homer Huckaby's strong suit.

I know what you're thinking. You are wondering how I knew what my father said to his guests at midnight. Are you kidding? I was the proverbial fly on the wall during these Saturday night gab fests - or more accurately, the little linthead child on a stool in the corner. Those late night sessions around the kitchen table were great theater - a lot more interesting than anything on TV.

The grownups would swap stories and sing songs and tell jokes - my mama would always remind everone to "clean it up." I think I developed my penchant for story-telling by eavesdropping on those visits.

There were weeknight visits, too - of a more genteel nature. Ladies would come and bring their washing to fold while they watched "I Love Lucy" on television. Sometimes they would bring piecework and sew, and once in a great while they would have a permanent party and give one another Toni Home Permanents. I can still close my eyes and smell the solution they dabbed on one another's hair, but Daddy and I had to make ourselves scarce when they got down to business because they sometimes needed to remove their blouses and it wouldn't do for us to see a bunch of grown women sitting around the kitchen table in their braziers.

Believe it or not, my teachers would sometimes drop in. Miss Lucy Robinson was my sister's third grade teacher, and she used to always know when Mama was making cubed steak for supper. Cubed steak night seemed to be Miss Lucy's favorite time to discuss my sister's academic achievement - or lack thereof.

Preachers were good about visiting, too - and contrary to myth; it was seldom on Sunday afternoon. It might be Wednesday after prayer meeting or it might be another night, but the preachers at the Methodist Church in Porterdale were not shy about checking up on their flock.

Speaking of preachers, it goes without saying that Sunday afternoons were prime time for visiting. Most Sundays we would have dinner at my Granny Huckaby's house - along with about two-dozen aunts, uncles and cousins. After she died Mama would cook on Sundays and we never knew if there would be four people or 14 when it came time to ask the blessing, but there was always plenty of food.

On Sunday afternoons there was no telling who might drop in. Folks from the church, old friends who had moved away, relatives from out of town - just about anybody might show up at the back door on a Sunday afternoon. Yes, the back door. Only Bible salesmen and bill collectors came to the front door. Actually, the bill collectors came to the back door, too - and we didn't get all that many Bible salesmen through Porterdale anyway - so the front door didn't get much traffic.

Those were the days. I think they might have been better in a lot of ways and in the coming year I might try to single-handedly revive the custom of visiting. Who knows? I might even drop in on you on a Sunday afternoon. I hope I won't interrupt your favorite television show.

If you want to drop in on me, feel free. I'll turn the television off and we can sit around the kitchen table and talk. But let me warn you right now, I need to be in bed by midnight.

Other than that, y'all come - and I mean it. I ain't just whistling Dixie.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.