by Noelle A. Granger
The South seemed like a nice place to put down roots, and those travel magazines can be pretty convincing. My husband and I first thought about moving to North Carolina thirty years ago after looking at pictures of the eye-popping fall colors in the mountains and the crystalline sandy beaches and cerulean blue waters off the Outer Banks, plus we were told that the weather was nice, but mostly we came because we both found jobs here.
During my first week in North Carolina, temperatures hovered around 100 degrees, with humidity that made it feel like a blast furnace, and I dreaded going outside. But gradually over the years, and with the help of whole house air-conditioning, I’ve come to welcome the heat and found it’s the perfect topic to open a conversation.
“It’s a scorcher outside today.”
“Yep, even the flies aren’t buzzin’.”
Shortly after learning to begin conversations this way, I became aware there is a distinctive way of speaking in the South. Part of my transition as a North Carolinian was a gradual discovery that the Southern lilt is soothing to my ears, and some of the more unique terms are downright enjoyable. I’ve even found myself using
by Patricia Thomas
My mother was a gorgeous southern beauty queen, with long brown hair and big green eyes, and my father was a dashing blond who swept her off her feet. They met on a double date and married young, right out of high school. It was a shotgun wedding, as they say in the south, meaning my mother got pregnant and so they got married. That’s what people did in the 1950s. That is how I came to be. I don’t think my mother ever really adjusted to being married and giving up her carefree days of parties and dancing, and sadly for us both, she never seemed to enjoy being a mother. However, my grandmother, to my delight and good fortune, loved being a grandmother. When I was a little girl, I spent every other weekend at her house in a small town in southern Alabama called Elba. It was built around a square, with all the merchants in shops around the sides. The town square had park benches and picnic tables, lots of grass, and best of all, at Christmas, a giant Santa Claus with a little train that tooted and blew real smoke. My grandmother knew
by Glenda Barrett
Now, if you’ll bait your hook with one of these worms and spit on it, you might get a bite.
Mamaw advised, as we sat side by side on the muddy creek bank in North Georgia getting our lines ready to cast into the dark, green water.
When Mamaw’s arthritic hands became tired, she’d prop her crooked cane pole up in front of her on a forked stick. Next, she’d open her cotton, drawstring bag, take out her Dental Sweet Snuff and put a pinch in her mouth. Then, with a look of pure contentment, she’d lean back and watch for a nibble. Once she offered me a taste, but it didn’t take me long to see that I could turn it down forever.
Usually we dug our own worms, but sometimes we’d go to the bait shop. Once, when I was around nine years old, we found a lot of worms while gardening, but we didn’t have a can to put them in. Mamaw asked me to carry them home in my hands. We had started along the road to her house, when the worms began crawling around. It didn’t take long, until that became so unbearable I threw them
by John Jasper Owens
I know God blesses Texas and don’t mess with Texas, but I’ve never been to Texas. Is it okay to mess with individual Texans? No. And don’t even think about messing with the region as a whole. Not all of my exes live in Texas, some of them might – I don’t keep track – but one of my exes lives in Rock Hill and is an accountant for a furniture company. I’ve eaten Tex-Mexes, seen boots on both sexes, but I’ve never been to Texas. I know Texans think so much of themselves they named a pro football team the Texans, as in screw you we don’t need a mascot because we’re Texans. Texas has Texas Rangers but I think Walker, Texas Ranger was made up. The band named Texas is from Glasgow, but there is no band named Scotland from San Antonio because Texans don’t reciprocate. I’ve flown over Texas a few times and the interesting thing about that, especially on a night flight, is that Texas glows. And the cities are arranged in such a way that the lights spell out T-E-X-A-S, just like on a map. State planners have arranged it so that
by Angela Green
The Supreme Court law integrating schools for whites and blacks passed before I was born, but it wasn’t until I moved to South Carolina in the summer of 1969 that I sat in a classroom with black children. As a third-grader, I was unaware of the political hailstorms that had assailed our country the previous fifteen years. I was sent to school with simple instructions to obey my teacher. Although I can’t recall specifics, I have hazy memories of bullies picking on the black children on the playground. This remembrance exists, I think, not because the confrontations were so horrific, but because of approving smiles from my parents when I told them that I stopped other white children from being mean or making “ugly” remarks to the newest children in our ranks.
In my family, friendship with black neighbors was accepted. We lived in a small community. My brothers and I all played on integrated school sports teams. We had always been taught to treat everyone with kindness and respect regardless of their color. Even with all of this “treat everyone equally” rhetoric, there was, however, one underlying understanding within the family: the daughter can be friends, but she cannot date the
by Carol L. Gee
Reaching for the “cow” pepper shaker with its rosy painted cheeks, as always, made me smile. With its cow twin forlornly looking on, as I struggle to avoid salt, I glance around my sunny kitchen with its small collection of plates with State flowers decorating them, and my mind wanders back to the years my husband and I spent in the Air Force.
Three miles to Pecan Paradise! Riding shotgun while my husband drove, we headed south where mile markers indicating “gas, food, and sparkling clean restrooms could be found at the next three exits” beckoned us to stop and stretch our legs. From the highway, Stuckey’s familiar red/white and yellow façade came into view. While my husband pumped gas, I went inside.
Inside, rubber snakes, salt and pepper shakers shaped like cows (the same ones mentioned above) and other items lined both sides of the aisles. Plates representing the states we sped through solved the mystery of where my mother-in-law most likely obtained the plate collection that covered one entire wall of her dining room, as nearly all of my in-laws had once served in the military. I bought her one hoping that she didn’t already have that particular
by Jan Fink
I met my husband, Will, in the late ‘60s while living in New York. A year after we were married, he suggested we take a trip down to Alabama for Christmas and a chance to meet his new, extended family. As much as I missed my home in Alabama, as soon as this suggestion left his lips, I was filled with terror. My husband had never been south of Manhattan. I knew what he was in for.
I had spent time with his family. They were sophisticated and proper. As an American family, they were right up there on the same page with Ward and June Cleaver and Ozzie and Harriet. On the other hand, if you researched my family history, you would find us on the page titled “Outlaws, Moonshiners and Wild Indians.” So you can see what I was up against, but the visit was inevitable.
We rented a car, trekked South, and arrived at my grandparents’ farm Christmas morning. The old home place was located in an isolated area of South Alabama. The house had no running water and was heated by fireplaces and Big Boy stoves. Downwind of the house was a barn, pig pen, smokehouse
by Jamie Berube
It’s 10 a.m., and I haven’t showered. A lazy Sunday ponytail and my blue and orange Florida football shirt make me dreamy with thoughts of home. I think back to a moment two years ago in which I sat in my mother’s kitchen with a bowl of cheerios before church, prayin’ to Jesus for no rain.
“You’re a California girl now, cut it out.”
The newly–made, sun-kissed Southern California girl mindset of mine fights against those memories.
As I cruise a familiar, sleepy street in the urban sprawl of Orange County, I flip on the radio.
Then it happens.
I hear “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynryd Skynyrd, and it doesn’t matter that my hair’s a mess; and I haven’t showered today.
The rugged 1970’s guitar riffs, and the image of the band in their black cowboy hats and bell bottoms awaken the Southern twang in my soul; and all I want is to be eating BBQ by the river where my roots lie.
I should not admit this publicly. The refined So Cal elites and West Coast bros may never forgive me for what I’m about to confess.
I miss the South.
I let my car windows down and take my foot off the gas a bit.
by Diana Beall
The raging storm came with a mighty roar. The wind blew fiercely, lightning flashed every few seconds, and thunder roared as the rain came splashing down against my window. It was so frightening, I couldn’t close my eyes. I wanted to scream, and I held it in for as long as I could, until a huge shadow passed by my window. “Mom-ma, daddy,” I yelled at the top of my lungs. They both came rushing in as the loving, concerned parents that they are.
“It’s only a bad storm,” my Mom would say as she kissed my forehead. “But, there’s something at my window,” I explained. My Dad walked over to the window and said, “Oh, I see the problem, son. What you see is a shadow of a large branch that keeps moving in the wind. I’ll fix that and close the curtains and make it disappear. Now, everything is all better.”
With my eyes still wide open, I asked, “What if there really is a monster or ghost out there?” As my Mom stroked my head, she talked about the bottle tree in our front yard. I listened as I did when it was Christmas Eve and she
by Ruth J. Hartman Last June, I traveled with my parents to a family reunion in Mississippi. My husband couldn’t get off work, so I rode the two-day trip from Indiana in my parents’ backseat.
The condo we stayed in was nice, but crowded. There was only one bedroom so I bunked on a scratchy, lumpy couch. It just happened to be six inches too short for anyone taller than a gnome to stretch out on.
Always a light sleeper, I tried to get at least fourteen minutes of shuteye before the next day’s onslaught of loud and affectionate relatives. But I kept hearing a bird that would not quit singing. The silly feathered thing sang all night long right outside the living room window. Were it not for the six inches of plastered wall between us, it would have literally been sitting on my head.
After several hours of lying on the too-short, scratchy couch, listening to the obnoxious bird twitter and chirp, I realized he was singing several different songs. With nothing else to do, I kept track. I counted twenty-one different melodies in his repertoire. He would only stop for a few minutes at a time. I assumed he was taking