All families have them. Whether they're beach cookouts on the Fourth of July, frying turkeys for Thanksgiving or Christmas barbecues, the purpose is to gather amongst family and friends and enjoy some great food.
The annual Bruce Christmas barbecue fits the same mold, however, there's a greater meaning in the gathering. It began in 2001 as a way to create memories for the children and has blossomed into a grand tradition.
Along with Joel, Linda, Melanie and Robbin Bruce, Roger Bruce, his wife Tina and his family plan out each December's barbecue in advance. Why? Because there's a good chance something might pop up.
One year, Roger had to work during the barbecue and nearly missed the whole thing. But, as family does, the reigns were picked up and the festivities carried on. Yes, there were leftovers, but not being there hurt a little.
The week-before-Christmas event is usually the only time the extended family and friends gather amongst one another. It's a time to enjoy one's company, see what's new in life and reflect on a year almost gone. More, it provides the elders an opportunity attract their growing children to the crowd for some food and companionship.
I am married in to the family. In the early years of me attending, I considered it a time to eat some good barbecue, chat a little and carry on about my days. Boy, did I have huge wake-up call coming.
As the years passed and the barbecue rolled on, patriarchs of the family began to pass.
Two such people were Uncle Archie Bruce and Aunt D.C. Those were tough ones. You could see it on everyone's faces. While they tried hard to put on a happy face, you knew deep down they wanted them there. Just one more year, please. No one had to say that, but their eyes told it with the tears shed.
Another would be Judy. I loved seeing her. She loved seeing the little children running around and having fun, always asking whether or not they've been good. One year, she dressed as an elf. She told me Santa left her behind to make sure to get the names of all the good kids at the gathering for him.
Family means a lot. To the Bruce brothers, it's golden. To some, the event is a couple hours of eating off the pig and having a few desserts. To them, it's their contribution to keeping the family together and allowing them to congregate amongst one another. You know, because we aren't guaranteed the next day.
They know that.
And as the years have passed, and I have seen their children grow up, my daughter grow up and my stepchildren grow up, I know it, too.
In the fast-paced world we live in, we take for granted all who are around us. This event has been and is a way to slow time for a bit and enjoy one another while enjoying great food.
And that's why I look forward to it each year. My appearance is a way of saying thank you for continuing a tradition that means a lot to the family involved, myself included.
Oh, and don't ask about the sauce. Roger doesn't measure anything. He knows when it's the right amount.
The building sat dormant for years. The smell of those famous "super burgers" that used to grab folks on Indian Hut Road was gone into the wilderness. Deep down inside, Mrs. Janette couldn't stand it. "I have to be moving, doing something. That's me all the way," she says as she tells about her recent doctor's visit. "All my life, I've been doing. Late night drives to Columbia to the produce market then back to the restaurant. Had to take care of children."
And that she did. Her cooking provided for her kids education, first cars and more. And if it wasn't the mere fact of supporting a family that drove her, it was her passion to deliver good food.
"I love to cook. Have a big family. Cooked a big Thanksgiving meal this year. They love my collards."
Her years developing a unique burger and working to perfect it became famously known as the "Super Burger" to a lot of her customers. Just one patty was the size of your hand. And people loved the size and taste. They were all made to order. Nothing sitting around.
Folks working at the saw mill back then knew where to stop for a quick lunch or a dinner for home.
But one day, the doors shut. No more grand-size burgers walking out.
Her family knew the importance of tradition. They knew a person like Mrs. Janette and her determination and grit to make something needed an eternal flame of sorts. More, the people of this generation needed to experience what others had done so decades ago.
And I am glad Tammy, Frankie and Buddy are doing that!
How many true mom-and-pop restaurants do you know of that still exist today? There's not many. And when you get deep into Georgetown, away from the beach and city, you find those gems. Hidden, of course, and only known to those in a certain radius.
I think folks like Mrs. Janette and Janette's Super Burger need to be recognized. Not only recognized, but enjoyed.
Look at the smile on her face above. In mere minutes of our conversation, her face began to light up, as if those memories of years gone gasped breath and flowed through her veins. It looked like a recharging of a spirit that was always there, but needed a boost. At one moment, she perked up, said she had to go to kitchen and see if they needed help. And from that point on, she stayed back there. With her family. With Tammy, Frankie and Buddy.
The glow was brighter than the any of lights in the small building providing at the time. Nothing but smiles.
And as people walked in to grab an order, they saw her back there. The smiles, the higher pitch of voice filled with excitement and the appreciation for what she created could all be felt in simple words - Well, hello Mrs. Janette!
Tradition lives on at Janette's Super Burger. The smell of those famous super burgers is back in the air.
And Mrs. Janette couldn't be more happier.
And we couldn't be more thankful.