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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? My Great-Grandparents!

Updated: Apr 28

Gathering with family in Blackville, South Carolina, for Easter is a cherished tradition for me. Easter dinner holds a special place in our hearts, alongside other family occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Food always takes center stage at these gatherings, bringing everyone together. Sadly, I did not make the trip this year, but I thought about what those dinners would have been like 30, 40, 50 years ago.

I often think about the various branches of my family tree. Some branches don't get together often, while others have regular reunions and celebrations. But no matter the frequency, the joy of being with family, sharing delicious food, and enjoying each other's company is unmatched.

Recently, I found myself wondering: What if I could host the ultimate family dinner and invite all my great-grandparents? Picture it: eight wise and wonderful individuals, all sitting around the table sharing stories and memories. The main topic of conversation? Our family history, of course. I'd tell them about the research I've been doing, emphasizing its importance in preserving our heritage.

The following is a small portion of my family tree, showing my grandparents and great-grandparents.

I was fortunate enough to know all of my grandparents, two of my maternal great-grandmothers, Louise May-Walker and Myrtis Byas-Kinard, as well as one great-grandfather, Clarence "Buck" Walker. While Grandma Louise would occasionally share family stories, Grandma Myrtis and Granddaddy Buck kept their stories closer to their chests. Still, I managed to gather some information from their siblings at the start of my research journey. Memories of them, often centered around food, bring a smile to my face. But meeting my paternal great-grandmothers, Cora Williams-Woodard and Dosher Smalls-Hicks, would be a fascinating experience. I've only heard positive and loving things about them and their loving nature, especially towards their grandchildren.

Sitting down with my great-grandfathers would be equally intriguing. However, one of my great-grandfathers, Hayne Sanders, is a bit of a mystery. He's the one no one seems to know much about. He might be the only one to decline my dinner invitation, having abandoned four of his children, including my maternal grandfather, Richmond Byas. Despite the lack of connection with his side of the family, I'm making progress in piecing together our history.

I can imagine the men, my great-grandfathers, sharing stories of their lives—stories of farming, labor, perhaps sitting on the porch smoking pipes or cigars, chewing tobacco. I'd be eager to learn about their upbringing, their struggles, and the joys they experienced. And I'd ask about those elusive relatives who seem to have disappeared from records, hoping to uncover more about our family's past.

In turn, I'd update them on their legacy—sharing stories of their children, grandchildren, and even their great-great-grandchildren. I'd highlight our achievements, from military service to professional success, ensuring they know their sacrifices were not in vain. Despite the challenges they faced—the aftermath of emancipation, the hardships of the Great Depression, and the brutality of segregation—they paved the way for us. Their resilience lives on in each of us.

And then there's the food—a centerpiece of any Southern gathering. I can imagine a spread fit for royalty, with succulent ham, crispy fried chicken, and all the fixings: collard greens, candied yams, macaroni and cheese. And let's not forget the cornbread, washed down with pitchers of lemonade and sweet tea. I can almost hear my grandmothers debating over whose pie reigns supreme, while my Grandma Myrtis whips up her legendary pound cake and my Grandma Louise showcases her apple jelly cake. Truly, this would be my ultimate Sunday dinner.

This "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" event would be brimming with curiosity, excitement, and above all, love. It's a celebration of family, history, and the enduring legacy of our Southern roots. So, who would you invite to your dinner table?

#herstory 👩‍🎓

#mystory 📖

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