This morning, I was working away on the daylily bed (again), and one of my neighbors was tearing around on his lawnmower. It seems his goal is to scalp his yard as fast as he can, so he can mow it as few times a season as possible, as quickly as possible.
His antics made me think of Steel Magnolias, with its quirky cast of color characters. Were they really so quirky? My hairdresser is blonde and has a home salon, even though her name isn’t Truvy. I regularly visit with friends and make new friends while getting my roots touched up. Our neighborhood is a celebration of eccentricities, and I’m among them: I’m the gardening lady whose backyard has been certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a backyard habitat, I compost regularly, I pull my recycling to the curb each week, and I’ve been known to venture into the cow pasture behind us for buckets of manure. In fact, among my friends and neighbors, I could probably find real-life versions of every cast member in Steel Magnolias, Cool Hand Luke and Fried Green Tomatoes – three of my favorite movies. (Thankfully, few of my personal acquaintances resemble extras from Deliverance.)
Living east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon has its charms. As a transplant who has been grafted in over the past 27 years, I can name you scores of things I love about the South. Here are ten of them, off the top of my head:
- Food is the answer to every single one of life’s trials and triumphs: funerals, sickness, new babies, moving in or out, you name it – everyone has macaroni and cheese, squash casserole and a pudding, cake or cobbler ready to bring over.
- We can run a red light and with a straight face defend ourselves by insisting it was a slow yellow. (We say it “yella” but you know what I mean.) Tickets for running red lights are pretty much unheard of in these parts.
- It is assumed you are from around here unless you happen to speak first and your accent betrays you. Upon being introduced, you may hear the question, “Now who are your people?” If you don’t have people from these parts, you’ll both prod around until you find some mutual acquaintances. If the search is fruitless, you will be asked/told “You ain’t from around here, are ya?” It’s a rhetorical question. Just smile apologetically.
- They replace the Christmas clearance items with garden seeds at the store. We don’t do winter.
- Meat ‘n threes. The meat will be barbeque, ham, or chicken. The three sides will vary, depending on the eatery and the time of year. But there are no bad choices among the sides, so go ahead and pick three. Sweet tea will go well with this dinner. Save room for homemade pie.
- Crepe myrtles bloom all summer and fall. Sorry y’all can’t grow them up north or out west but do come visit us in the summer and enjoy the view.
- We take tradition and history extremely seriously. Drive down the main thoroughfare of any southern burg or city and you’ll find the oldest homes will be beautifully maintained, even if there are shanties and shacks a block over.
- Snow never loses its novelty. It spellbinds and captivates us. Literally it captivates us: we can’t drive in it, and we barely know what a snowplow or salt truck is.
- We believe fireworks are not just for the 4th of July. They’re also for Christmas, New Year’s, and really anytime you feel like setting some off. That’s why we sell them year-round, alongside beer and gasoline and cigarettes at every convenience store.
- SEC football. Yes, football is played in other parts of the country, but the combination of fierce loyalty and the rich history and traditions of southern football combine to makes the SEC like no other. Basketball runs a close second although there are some decent yankee teams.
But most of all I love the South because it accepted and nurtured me. It took a while for my roots to sink into that hard red clay, but I’m a happy transplant. Whenever I finally shuffle off this mortal coil, just please dig up some of that red clay to bury my remains.