The five-year-old boy who lives in my house is learning to say the blessing.
"LET ME SAY THE BLESSING" he bellows as we sit down to the table.
"GOD IS GOOD!
"GOD IS NEAT!
"LET US THANK HIM!
"FOR ALL WE CAN EAT!
My stepson is the only person I know who prays in a primal scream. Not only does God get the message, but so does everybody else within six blocks of our kitchen.
The "Yea, God!" blessing is his favorite because it is more a cheer than a blessing, and the child is a human megaphone.
But tolerance is very important here because it is a big deal to learn to say the blessing before the family meal. And it’s not that easy, either.
First, you have to think of something to say. I remember when my parents first asked me to say the blessing:
MY FATHER: "Say the blessing, son."
MY MOTHER: "And don’t mumble."
ME: "ThankyouGodforthemashedpo — "
MY MOTHER: "You’re mumbling."
ME: " — tatoesandthegreenbeansandtheporkchopsandthe — "
MY FATHER: "Amen. That was very good, son, but you don’t have to thank God for EVERYTHING on the table."
I wasn’t going to mention the rutabagas.
After mastering a nice little blessing your mother thinks is "cute," and doesn’t hold your old man away form the grub too long, you move into the "clever" blessings stage.
Everybody knew this one:
"Son, would you please say grace" your mother would ask, bowing her head.
"Grace," you would reply, howling at your genius.
"Whaack!" would be the sound of the back of your father’s hand across your face.
Then there was the old favorite:
That was good for the backhand across the face AND getting sent to your room without any dinner.
If you got really brave, you could use this one:
Bless the meat,
Damn the skins,
Back your ears,
And cram it in!
That could get you reform school.
When it came to smart-aleck blessings, my boyhood friend and idol, Weyman C. Wannamaker Jr., a great American, had no peer.
His all-time classic was the following:
Thank you, Lord, for this meal,
We know you are the giver.
But thank you, Lord, most of all,
That we ain’t havin’ liver.
Weyman’s father tried to send him to reform school, but the warden was afraid he would be a bad influence on the other "students."
Soon, my stepson will be in the stage of saying "clever" blessings, but I am not going to whack him across the face.
I am going to make him eat liver, smothered in rutabagas.
Lewis Grizzard was a syndicated columnist, who took pride in his Southern roots and often wrote about them. This column is part of a collection of his work.