Emotionally, and mentally, I’ve had an exhausting week. Or two. Plus, last night, about 2:30am, I watched at least three episodes of “I Survived” which is never good for my state of emotional well-being. Writing about something really heavy or sad or that requires mental acrobats just isn’t possible right now. I’m a writer, though. It is what I love. And I can’t rest easy at night unless I have written –something– other than lesson plans. Unfortunately for me, there doesn’t exist a single funny bone in my whole body (a fact over which I have grieved and lamented my whole life). That left me staring at the computer menacingly (I recently watched “Dennis the Menace” for the first time ever). Until I looked up. Lo and behold, above my computer sits the beautiful picture you see at the top of this post. I saw it, read it, and smiled. In every way…. perfect. Hence, dear fellow readers, we have the rare and light-hearted post tonight…. I thought I would dissect this picture line by line. So, feel free to roll your eyes or add your own “Sauth” standards in the comments. 🙂
One: “The South (thee sau th)”
THANK YOU to whoever designed this frame because “thee sau th” is –exactly– how I say it. Which leads me into
Two: “Tea is sweet & Accents are sweeter”
This is actually kind of funny. I was born in Memphis, but only there for, like, less than a year twice (we moved when I was almost one, and then we lived there again for about four months when I was in the eighth grade) Nashville has been the resting place for my nomadic family all my life. We’d leave, we’d return… we’d leave, we’d return… we’d leave, we’d return kind of thing. Whenever we left, we traveled all over the United States but primarily roamed the Southern states. Fort Payne, Alabama; Pine Mountain and Atlanta, Georgia; multiple cities in Florida; South Carolina; Virginia and West Virginia; Mississippi. We did make the trips out West to see California. We did travel North to New York and Massachusetts; Connecticut and Washington, DC. We also sailed to Hawaii and crossed the borders into Quebec a time or two. Mostly, though, we lived in the South. Still, people from the South inevitably commented about my “accent.” They thought I was from Louisiana, or Georgia (I wish I was from Georgia). They never guessed Tennessee. I drawl my letters like crazy, and I used to do it a lot worse. It’s “wriiiiite” and “riiiiiight” and “liiiiight.” It’s “Coke” if it has caffeine in it. My accent has calmed down a little the older I get, probably because my environment has stabilized. My love of it, though, has not. Accents add character. Accents add personality. Accents make me smile. Southern accents are even better. Matthew McCaughnay is just gorgeous but at least fifty percent of that is the man’s accent. Southern accents whisper of rolling hills, of lazy summer afternoons that cannot fathom a New York style life. Southern accents encourage familiarity even amongst strangers. Southern accents make me happy. And tea does too, as long as it’s doused with at least half a gallon of sugar (I’m kidding. Kind of). As much as I love my Coke, seeing tea at the table during holidays feels right.
Three: “Summer Starts in April”
Summer starts as soon as the frost melts. And, fortunately for us, that tends to be rather early. By March, I’m looking for signs of Spring. By April, I’m wondering how much longer I have to wait for the pools to start opening.
Four, Five, Six and Seven: “Mac and Cheese is a vegetable”;” “Pecan Pie is a Staple” “Chicken is fried,” and “Biscuits come with gravy.”
Mac and cheese needs to be served at every meal that matters, in order for it to truly be a complete meal. Mac and cheese in the South is like potatoes; readily available and good at, pretty much, any meal of the day. Since the day generally starts a little later here than the rest of the world, by the time we’re good and awake, it’s about lunch time anyway. In my family, particularly, it’s a must-have in the pantry cause my youngest daughter practically lives off it. The first time I saw this frame, and read this line, I laughed out loud because we really do like our mac and cheese here.
What these four lines mean is that food matters here in the South. If I invite you to lunch, it’s because I want time to talk to you, not really because I’m interested in eating. We talk about life and death over food, and if I’m mad at you, I won’t eat your cooking. When people get sick, we feed them. When they get married, we feed them. When they get happy, we feed them. Now, food is significant in pretty much all parts of the United States and means it different things, but here in the South, we cook not only because we have to eat but because we enjoy slowing down long enough to make dinner.
Eight: “Front porches are wide and words are long”
“Words are long” means that we talk a lot. And we do. We don’t keep much “short and simple.” We like to tell stories and “talk awhile.” We sit on the front porch because we like the sound of the crickets. Time. We take our time but we freak out and panic when the first snowflakes show up on the roads; brave our way to Kroger and stand in line to buy the last gallon of milk they have so that we go to sleep feeling assured we’re “prepared.” We want progress and success—but we want time to play too, and to lounge around the house all day baking homemade bread and freezing cause we keep the house as cold as an igloo because we can’t function properly if the temperature gets above 72.
Nine: “Y’all is the only Proper Noun.”
My favorite and an “amen” too.
Ten: “Everything is darlin’.”
I’ve decided that the first semi-decent man that calls me “darlin'” after this is my future husband whether he knows it or not.
Eleven: “Someone’s heart is always bein’ blessed.”
For all kinds of reasons. Sometimes we’re really being sincere, like when we say compassionately “bless your heart” to the mother whose child just fell out of a tree. Sometimes, though, we bless somebody’s heart because we were taught that it’s best not to say anything at all if we can’t say anything nice but, the trouble is, #8 explains that we like to talk. We really do. And sometimes when someone makes us mad, we have to say something so instead of cursing and making our mama’s mad at us, we say, “bless her heart” when what we really mean is “that girl don’t have a lick of common sense.”
Twelve: “Flip flops are the glass slippers of the South”
This isn’t on the frame, unfortunately, but it is so, so true. High heels hurt. Glass slippers would too. But flip flops can be easily slid onto the feet when we need to go into the store to pay for our gas and easily slipped off when we reach pool side. Flip flops can be casual or dressy, decorative or plain. Flip flops mean summertime and Springtime and happy days. Flip flops show our pretty toenails which we painstakingly painted crimson red with little white flowers in the middle. Cinderella would have gotten home in time had she been wearing flip flops.
Thirteen: Everybody has seen the movie “Steel Magnolias” and laughed and cried because it’s one of the greatest movies ever made.
True story. It is. And it’s so awesome because the sense of community that rides so powerfully in the movie actually happens here. We do gossip in the beauty shops. Getting dressed up for church is as much a part of life as going out to eat afterward. We do still like our high hair, curlers and make-up. We have big dreams but our past runs deep in our bones. We’ve got Scarlet O’Hara and Rosa Parks both still in us and when our country is in need, it knows it can depend upon the men and women of the “Volunteer State” to show up ready to work. Right or wrong, we’ve never lacked passion over anything we believed. We all have that neighbor that drives us insane, but who we love anyway. And everybody knows a Wheeza and agrees that life simply wouldn’t be the same without her.
Fourteen: “We no longer accept trades as payment.”
This sign was posted, in 2012, beside the cash register of a gas station my sister and I stopped at on one of our recent trips. It implies that the store had accepted trades as payment until very recently. 2012. Southerners are people people; we want to believe the best about you and most of the people I know are people who still work hard to uphold traditional values and beliefs. Beyond awesome.
And, actually, that last phrase, “beyond awesome” pretty much sums up how I feel about being part of the South. The South has cradled me, allowed me to smell its pine and oak, offered me refuge along its park’s scenic and secluded trails. It’s not so much that I understand the South as the South understands me. It knows I need its creeks and a yard in which to play. It knows that, when my car has broken down on the side of the road, I need a friendly stranger to pull over and offer assistance. It knows that, when dark falls, it’s time to sleep and that businesses should still be closed on Sundays. Its overgrown peach and apple trees, its’ red clay in Georgia and cotton fields downhome, these things bring me comfort. It’s a bit of a fanciful notion, being overcome by a sense of geography, but we’re all a little starry eyed down here. Maybe that’s because our cities sleep and the stars are bright in our small towns. We’re just as smart and capable as anyone on the planet—but our priorities are sometimes as different as our speech. We’re not backwards, but we are special. We’ve got fault lines, but we know how to learn from them. Tradition runs deep here, but not as deep as the desire to be free and equal. We still get excited over hand-written letters that arrive in the mail and still believe in leaving the front porch light on. Our back roads have state issued signs reminding us to share the roads with tractors. We love the decorative signs popping up that say, “In this house, we will…” We will say please and thank you; hug everybody we meet; offer you fried tomatoes and ask about your love life. We’ve got secrets, but we tell them to the Lord every night. We remember “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Waldens.” Blessed and vibrant; warm and big-hearted. Welcome to the sauth; we hope y’all can stay a spell.