The Elks Lodge, Big Mama’s house, and your play cousin’s living room

Somebody well-meaning and apparently rich keeps Facebooking me to take yoga retreats. A retreat is fine. But I can no more afford a retreat to Cancun, Punta Cana, Puerto Rico or any place that requires a plane trip over ocean water than I can justify a year’s membership to the Crazy Horse down in Myrtle. Nor can I justify it to the spouse. “See, I gotta leave town – no, baby, I gotta leave the COUNTRY – to find my true potential in crow. Like you need to leave the house on Thursdays to find your true vodka tonic.” That argument might actually work. Hmm. Hold on.

Nope, didn’t work. So we po’ recession-burned yoga students must find our light somewhere closer to home. My top three choices:

The Elks Lodge: Any Elks Lodge in any town is guaranteed to be 1)small and 2)rentable 3)hot. Seriously, you cannot walk into an Elks Lodge and not start sweating; it is impossible. So if you’re doing a hot yoga retreat, you can leave the heaters at home. The fact that the Elks’ dances typically pack 850 people into a space the size of a college dorm room doesn’t mean yoga students have to cram their mats in. The dance floor, usually a gleaming grain of southern pine heartwood, is perfect for 20 people doing any version of warrior.

Big Mama’s house: Big Mama lives down by the elementary school you used to go to. You walked past her house every day with your snot-nosed cohorts and she yelled at you from the door. “I know you ain’t walking past my house and not gonna stop and speak.” Big Mama prayed for you constantly because she knew you were hoodlum potential and needed help. She kept plastric (yes, plastric) covers on her furniture but she would let you do anything you wanted as long as you respected her space, so if you and your hoodlum-potential crew wanted to build a 10-foot-tall dirt mountain in her yard and carve roads into the side and pour water and sawdust into the mound just to see what would happen, she didn’t care – as long as you didn’t mess up her furniture and y’all weren’t in the streets with the true hoodlums and riffraff. If you and your friends wanted to bake a cake for somebody’s Daddy’s birthday, she’d help you because said Daddy is a good man, lord knows, and he works four jobs and that man needs a day off, a cake and a prayer. So now that you’re grown and hopefully have escaped the fate of being a hoodlum forever, if you say you want to bring 20 non-hoodlum friends over for a retreat, she’s fine with it.

Your play cousin’s house. Your play cousin is usually somebody kin to a person your Mama went to school with and comes over when your Mama and her friends get together. The play cousin is better than a real cousin because the family secrets/issues don’t get in the way of the friendship and the play cousin is too afraid of your Mama to cause trouble when she visits (unlike real cousins). During childhood, the play cousin is at your house either during the week or on the weekends, and you’re at her house during the other times. Your Mama just went on and fed her and bought her clothes because she was always around. She helped you pack for college, came to your homecoming games, set you up with the cute guy when you visited her at her college, helped you stash your liquor, forged your Mama’s name on report cards. She drove the rental car backwards all the way from Columbia to Myrtle Beach because it helped you save on mileage. She will not hold your hair when you are vomiting back up 12 vodka tonics, but she will give you two Tylenols the next morning while telling you how dumb you looked while trying to walk in the five-inch heels you wore to the club. She will take the couch and let you sleep in her bed when you are grown, married, pregnant and mad at your man. She will help you hide the bat you used to smash said man’s crazy ex-girlfriend’s windshield. She will drive the kids to school while you are serving your jail time. So no, she is not perfect, but she is there for you, girl. Whatchu need? Plow in the living room? She’ll hold the baby for you.


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