The Words We Use: Bless your heart, my lands, I swan, fixin to, y’all… all words I throw out without thinking– unless I’m around some Yankees who remark on the quaintness of my word choices. They find such colloquialisms amusing. And I guess they are. I love that we have our own phrases that are distinctly southern. I love that those phrases have stood the test of time and hung in there like kudzu. The southern accent is not easy to replicate, as is obvious in this clip from Friends.
The Weather: I love that where I live we usually have one good snow per winter– and it’s almost always gone the next day. We can enjoy it falling, remark on its beauty, delight in a day off school, and then get back to normal in short order. I lived in Wisconsin once and was dismayed to see that the snow there stays… and stays… and stays. We’ve had a warm winter this year and been in short sleeves just about as often as we’ve been in long. If I had to choose, I’d choose warm over cold, so I’m glad I live in the south.
The People: I love that we’ll carry on long conversations with total strangers, that we’re known for sharing our life stories at the slightest provocation, that we put our crazy people on display instead of hiding them away, that we are known for our hospitality, that we might say ugly things about each other but we couch it in sweet language like “bless your heart” to make ourselves– and each other– feel better, that we talk funny and act funny and just do life different– but we do it with our friends and families and neighbors and somehow that makes it all okay.
The Food: I love pecan pie, biscuits with honey, tomato sandwiches, peach cobbler, livermush, barbecue, sweet tea, fried chicken with gravy, grits… nuff said.
The Heritage: faith, family, food, fellowship, fiction (that might be true)… We really do love to gather around the table and tell stories. That image persists because it’s true. I have such fond memories of sitting at the table with my relatives long after the meal was over, listening to some pretty salacious stories, hoping they’d forget I was there and keep talking… and they usually always did. I learned quickly that the good stuff wasn’t to be found off playing with my cousins, it was where the adults gathered. Some of my children have discovered the same truth. And I try to resist the urge to send them away. I treasure the insights about life I gained at the adult table. And I think they will feel the same when they grow up.
No matter where you hail from, it’s good to be proud of it, to find things you love and focus on those. It goes a long way towards loving who you are, and where God put you, for better or worse.
Marybeth Whalen is a native North Carolinian who married a guy who hails from Memphis, TN. They debate often over which side of the family is more crazy. The jury is still out.