My mother-in-law texts me that she got Azalea’s disease.

Now, Ms. Larda never sent a text message in her whole life before. So that’s a surprise. And I guess the phone autocorrected the name of whatever disease she was trying to spell.

I call her up.

“I am losing it, Modine,” she says to me. “Crossword puzzles ain’t cutting it. I decided to learn text messaging to stimulate my brain before it is too late, or I’ll turn out like poor President Reagan.”

I say, “He died of …” and she says, “I know. Azalea’s disease, poor heart.” I shut up.

It seems she met her friend Evelyn at Chalmette Movies to see Madea’s Big Happy Family. They laughed so hard, each of them had to rush to the ladies’ at different times, so they filled each other in on what they had missed while they walked to Evelyn’s car afterwards. Then Evelyn drove Ms. Larda home.

Next morning, Ms. Larda looked in her driveway. Her car was gone. So she called the police. They came out and asked where she saw it last, and she said, “When I parked it at Chalmette Movies.” Then she realized. It is still at the Chalmette Movies.

I drive her to get it, and then we leave for the country, because we promised to go help my daughter Gumdrop up in Folsom.

Gumdrop belongs to the Folsom Garden Goddesses, and it’s her turn to host their get-together. The hostess always serves a lunch, and they all discuss gardening and locavore eating.

 Ms. Larda looked through all her cookbooks to find a recipe for locavore, but come to find out, it ain’t to eat.

Locavores are people who won’t eat nothing that hasn’t been grown locally. That leaves out stuff like Chinese food, I guess. Ms. Larda don’t cook Chinese food, but she sure has a way with vegetables.

 “Nothing like nice fresh vegetables rolled in Progresso bread crumbs and fried up in bacon grease,” she says.

(Even Styrofoam pellets would taste good like that.) “Maybe it’s not the best thing in the world for you, but …”

Gumdrop jumps in and says nothing fried, please, but she would love Ms. Larda’s famous gumbo. I guess these Garden Goddesses are health nuts, too.

So all Gumdrop has to do is clean the house; not that it’s easy, being as she has two Tasmanian devil-like children plus various animals underfoot.

She sent her invitations by e-mail, naturally, being under 40. But it turns out that half of the Garden Goddesses don’t believe in e-mail. “If you can’t stamp it and send it in the good old U.S. mail, then it’s probably something you should keep to yourself,” one of them told her.

So at the last minute she rushed to the Dollar General and picked up some paper invitations for the older half of the group and went straight to the post office and mailed them out. But she was panicking by then, and she wrote a different date on the cards than on the e-mail.

The U.S. mail people got invited on Saturday and the e-mail people got invited on Sunday. She thinks they’re all invited for Sunday.

Anyway, on Saturday morning, Ms. Larda, who does everything ahead of time, has just finished cooking the gumbo; the kids are tearing around and I happened to pick up a leftover paper invitation. It reads Saturday. Just then, Gumdrop looks out the window and two cars full of Goddesses drives past her mailbox.

I got to explain. Gumdrop’s driveway is a little inconspicuous. People usually drive right past to where the road dead-ends, and then have to get their cars turned around and come back. When she’s expecting people, she hangs a Saints flag on the mailbox to get their attention. Thank God she ain’t hung up the Saints flag yet.

We realize that this party is going to start as soon as them Goddesses get to the end of the road and turn around. We fly into action. (Not to name names, but if a certain football team moved like us, we’d still have the Lombardi trophy in New Orleans.)

Gumdrop shoves the kids at her husband and tells them all to beat it. Everything on the floor – toys, books, cat – gets swept into the hall closet and the door slammed on them. (The cat was a mistake.) I stick every dirty dish in sight into either the dishwasher or oven. Ms. Larda sets the table; Gumdrop throws on fresh clothes and makeup and slaps a smile on her face as the doorbell rings, and me and Ms. Larda rush to the bathroom to decent ourselves up enough to be presented to the six ladies at the door.

We got no iced tea, so Ms. Larda serves cucumber water. Gumdrop has a bumper crop of cucumbers, and they look real pretty and cool sliced in a glass pitcher with ice water. All the ladies take a second glass with their gumbo and more with dessert. (Hubig’s peach pies Ms. Larda chopped up and presented as peach cobbler.)

Finally they leave, telling Gumdrop what a wonderful hostess she is.

But we got to wonder why only six of the 12 Goddesses showed up. Then Slime gets home and says they ran into one of the Goddesses at the movies, and she talked about how she’s looking forward to coming over tomorrow.

Gumdrop checks the e-mail invitation. Yep. We have to do it over. Tomorrow.

Well, we got enough gumbo, and Gumdrop says she won’t bother with iced tea, since everybody loved the cucumber water so much. Slime pours a glass. He gasps. “Vodka?”

Ms. Larda says she thought it might blur the ladies’ vision a little, so they wouldn’t see under the couch and notice any dust bunnies or chicken bones or nothing.

It worked.

And if she can still think that fast, she got no problems with Azalea’s disease.

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