Friday, December 25, 2009

In My South

Yesterday, Christmas Eve, I ran across a book titled My South. It is a series of essays on "My South" and originated by an essay written by Robert St. John. I was touched by this book, and the various understandings of My South articulated throughout it.

A few nights ago, my husband came home laughing. He had stopped by a neighbor's house. Big B has stopped, almost daily, to visit our elderly neighbor for the past 4 years. He says our neighbor was giving him a package of home-baked goodies as they were discussing the weather. He mentioned how much he hated snow. She questioned where he had spent much time with snow and he explained that he had grown up in Illinois. Big B said she looked so stunned, saying, "I didn't know you were a Yankee!". She quickly recovered and continued visiting.

This reminded me of a facebook interaction I recently had. I found myself making a quick commentary about a decision I made to some W. Coast friends. I stated simply, "in our Tx. Hill Country community" and explained some issues we had with religious intolerance. I quickly had many people I did and did not know jump on the band-wagon about the hate-groups that congregate in this area, etc. I found myself feeling defensive, although I knew what they said was true. And while reactionary hate are real and true problems of the South, hate is not limited to the South. Nor is it a part of daily life in the South I know.

(Pictured here, the an
nual MLK Peace March in San Antonio, Texas has repeatedly held the largest march in the nation for over a decade.We have attended since the boys were toddlers)

I am a Southerner. I was born in South Texas. My mother's family is from North Carolina. I have like a zillion cousins in North Carolina.

I spent a total of 9 years of my life in other parts of the world. But when push came to shove, I chose to raise my family in the rural South. Sometimes I question this decision. But as I read through this book, I was reminded of the charm of the South. The charm we often take for granted. So I want to share my own version of "My South" . It is the version that I have grown to love.

My South

In my South.. children wear shorts and t-shirts year-round. Flip-flops and boots are optional.

"Dress nice" means dress pants, dress shoes, shirt with a collar (at a minimum) for men. Nice pants outfit or dress/skirt with hose and dress-shoes for women.

In my South.. no-one is better than you, and you are better than no-one.

"Yes ma'am, yes sir, please and thankyou" are the basics of every Southerners vocabulary.. Sir and Ma'am are not a reflection of age but of respect for humans of all ages.

In my South.. (and this is stolen from the book) when your mother says "Don't be ugly" she is not talking about your appearance.

In my South..things are never what they appear.

It is the mainstream churches encouraging equality for people of all sexual orientations.

Generally speaking, Republicans and Democrats agree to disagree...The political divisions here are more about the importance of populists and/or true statesmen.

Most agree that the Border Wall is an abuse of time, money and property of individual matter what your political stance.

In my South, the common thread for everyone is individualism.

In my South, unexpected guests are always welcome. An extra seat and serving (or two) for breakfast, lunch and supper are expected to be prepared. Meals are a social occasion.

Tea, lemonade and some form of booze are always offered.

In my South recreation consists of rivers, pot-lucks ,guitars, late-night barbecues, ghost-stories, 4-wheelers and Gulf-Coast vacations.

In my South, spring is a time for play. Fiesta, Baseball, and Mardi Gras, prevail during this season. Easter and Passover squeeze in.

Soccer games, flashlight tag, quinceaneras (all to the sound of crickets in the distance) are the occasions of summer.

In my South, you must sit still to catch up.

In my South, we are barefoot as we eat tamales and play board-games with family and friends on Christmas Day.

And in my South we say..

Feliz Navidad :)


Sardine Mama said...

In my South - you call your friends' mothers Mrs. So and So. And when you're a grown woman you continue to address them that way. If it is someone really close to the family, they are Aunt So and So.

grillledcheesechic said...

..or "Miss"! Agreed. We have more aunts than we can count.

Anonymous said...

I love this post, Nicole. And as a yankee might I add that hate and racism do exist up north, even though we yankees have the tendency to believe that it only is a problem of the south. Marrying a Mexican man opened up my eyes to just how closed my home community was - not all, but many.
And may I say that in my new South, San Antonio is not a city but a huge small town. There is a warmth about the place that is hard to find in the cold north.
Thanks for sharing!