You Know You’re in the South When….

 

 You order iced tea and your server responds, “Sweet or unsweet?

A stranger strikes up a conversation with you at the produce counter and you don’t look for the manager.

It’s hard to find parking in the church parking lot on Sunday.

The ONLY dressing is cornbread dressing.

 

The  “ballgame” means football.

 

 

Mama is a force to be reckoned with.

 

Men look forward all year to a weekend on a freezing lake in an outrageous contraption hoping to bag a duck or two.

If you visit, you have to eat.

 

And family is forever.

 

 

 

 

When everything goes wrong

An only child and the oldest granddaughter I was overindulged and sheltered by adoring  parents and relatives.  And  when things went wrong for me, I just picked up my toys and went home.

That didn’t work so well as an adult.

And things aren’t going so well these days.  Political turmoil, war and poverty,  mega fires,  devastating floods, social upheaval, financial instability.   And I must admit, my first reaction isn’t to charge headlong into the battle, but to hide, the adult version of  “picking  up my toys and going  home.”

I hear a lot these days about people  fleeing the country in desperation.  I understand  and share their  frustration.  We have a huge drug problem, our infrastructure is failing, our schools are falling behind, the middle class is struggling, our immigration policies don’t work, our racial divide is widening.  Not to mention mass shootings and  natural disasters.   I hear all that.

But  I have to wonder how many of those  thinking of leaving the country  have lived in or  visited other countries for extended periods of time.  One look at the nightly news shows us that these are not problems specific to us;  they  exist the world over.  No country  is exempt from problems and even if there were such a Nirvana, there is no way to hide there.  Our community is global.

 

Besides, we have so much to fight for, so much we take for granted.   Our public education, flawed, but still a route out of poverty for  (I’m a case in point).   Freedom of speech.  No one is imprisoned  for criticizing the government or attending religious services. Our cities have clean water and our children are vaccinated against deadly diseases.  Our breathtakingly beautiful national parks are open to everyone.  For starters.

But it’s not free.  To quote Edmund Burke,

                     “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is  for good men to do nothing. “

 And it all counts.  Every thing we don’t say, every seed not planted, word not written,  neighbors’ pain ignored, adds to the turmoil, desperation and fear around us.  It might be uncomfortable, even dangerous to face our problems.  But we can’t afford to  pick up our toys and go home.

D

Mind Your Manners

When I left home for a visit,  my mother’s parting words were always “Mind your manners.”  Except for the  basics such as,  don’t chew with your mouth full or reach across the table to take the last biscuit, she wasn’t talking about table manners.  At our house, we  weren’t concerned with the etiquette of fine dining.  She was talking about behavior:  “Say please and thank you, don’t interrupt your elders when they’re talking, wait your turn, be polite,  pick up after yourself, say “Yes Ma’am” and “No Sir;” when addressing adults.  In other words, simple courtesies.

Some of my non-Southern-born-and-bred  friends tell me that “Yes Ma’am” and “No Sir” makes them feel old.  OK, so maybe it’s just a Southern thing.  And, really,  it’s  not such a big deal with me.    But  it is not OK with me  when the teenager with green and purple spiked hair, decked out in four inch platform boots and a T-shirt with ” NOPE ” in block letters across her chest yells across the hair salon, “Louise! Ready for ya!” It’s not about her attire; that’s her space and I respect it; I only ask that she respect mine.  We call that being polite.

Although Southerners are nothing if not traditional, my mother’s insistence on good manners was not just about tradition.  In our rural farming community; short on funds, long on pride;  manners were much more than that.  Poor manners signaled “poor breeding.”  There was no shame in being poor, but to be poor and poorly brought up was unacceptable.

But that was then and this is now.  There has been a  dramatic shift in our societal norms.   Rudeness seems to carry little if any stigma. Adults interrupt their conversations to answer the whining toddler tugging at their sleeve, drivers honk their horns and  yell obscenities at the slightest provocation.     Lyrics of popular songs are laced with profanity.

 Sadly, we have allowed, even welcomed this, for whatever reasons;  entertainment, vicarious revenge,  the love of a good fight, or just plain apathy.   Between 70 and 80% of respondents in a recent survey (1) believed that lack of civility in our society has risen to crisis proportions.   And yet  in that same survey, over  90%  believed that they are “always or usually” respectful and polite to others and 75% said they are” willing to set a good example by practicing civility. ”  Hmmm.  Somehow the math doesn’t work. In the words of the immortal Pogo:  ” We have met the enemy and he is us.”

 

The fix is so simple as to be embarrassing.  Any first grader could tell you the answer; The Golden Rule,  plain and simple:

“Do unto others as you would have them do to you. (2)”

 

How hard is that, really? And the best part?  Good manners cost nothing.

 

(1)  Civility in America VII: The State of Civility,  2017 Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate

(2)  Matthew 7:12 NCV

 

 

 

Southern Cookin’

Southerners love to cook.  Especially we love those community gatherings where everyone brings their favorite dish and we all sample “just a bite” of everyone’s.  My earliest memories of this were “Dinner on the Ground,” and it literally was on the ground.  Thinking about it now, I’m amazed we kept the kids from stumbling into the spread – and maybe we didn’t..

I have such  wonderful memories of that food – and no matter how many times I try recreating their recipes, they just don’t come out the same.  Uncle Henry’s fried chicken,  Miss Nina’s coconut cake,
Miss Ethel’s peach cobbler, Aunt Minnie’s chicken and dumplings,  Miss Edna’s buttermilk biscuits, and of course, Aunt Annie’s fabled deviled eggs.

Eventually we graduated to folding tables and chairs and finally to a real Fellowship Hall equipped with all the modern conveniences.  Much more comfortable but in nostalgic moods, I wonder if we were better off in those days.  We were blissfully unaware of the dangers of sugar, gluten, lactose, saturated fat, cholesterol, and vegetarians were, well, just weird.  There was no guilt associated with a hamburger and a coke for lunch.

We had no idea the trouble we were in.

My rational self remembers  how it was   to lose relatives to diet-related disease, especially  heart disease and  diabetes.  These could be  devastating for a family, since health insurance  was essentially non-existent in those days; health care  was pay-as-you-go.

Southerners will always   love our  community food get-togethers, although today we make at least a token effort to prepare healthful food .  However, if  the occasional slice of coconut cake happened  to sneak in, well.. just a bite couldn’t hurt.

 

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