After you graduate from college and get married and real life starts, it seems like you still don’t have everything figured out (imagine that), even concerning yourself and who you are. Sometimes I wonder if I’m strong enough, resourceful enough, or “mama bear” enough to be a good Southern woman. There are times that I see it in myself, like when I want to grab people by their ears and tell them to have good manners, and when I itch to get my hands in the dirt and grow something, and when my first instinct when someone is going through a hard time is to feed them. “Let’s get you some pie and coffee, honey, you’re going to be just fine.”
Reading Edie’s “31 Days to Hospitality” at www.lifeingraceblog.com, watching the new series “Nashville,” and reading Southern Living magazine help inspire me. I’ve always been Southern at heart (of course), but only now am I realizing the hold that the Southern heritage has on me. I need music with soul and harmony. I need peach cobbler. I need early mornings. And I definitely need a guest room that’s always picture-ready so I can offer it to people on a whim.
But there’s so much more to being Southern than just those few stereotypical things. It means we’re rather good at storytelling, and our stories and our history shape our lives in powerful and often unexpected ways. One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is to sit at the table with coffee and pie, listening to my aunt Elaine tell stories about her childhood with my dad (who is 10 years younger) and the funny things their mother used to do.
To be Southern is to eat your vegetables. This comes from a long tradition of home-grown food, and I’m here to tell you that a grocery-store tomato can almost be considered a completely different fruit than a home-grown tomato. There’s no comparison whatsoever! I could make an entire meal out of my mom’s fresh squash and greens. Add lots of salt and pepper + some beans and cornbread = perfect meal.
Being Southern means laying aside your uncertainties in favor of comfortable simplicity. The good side of this is exemplified in our quick forgiveness — no matter what you did, we can still say “bless your heart” (and mean it) and move on. A negative side of this is that strict religious fundamentalism has stuck around for far too long – we like something to hold onto that’s rock-solid, even if it means denying the hard questions at times.
We have a hard time being cynics. It’s not natural to us. Yes, we can get cynical about things, but it’s only when we’re exaggerating our complaints or are in our darkest moments. We have too much faith in God and in each other to be cynical for too long – we never stop believing that love can conquer all.
I feel Southern when I use plain white “flour-sacks” to dry my dishes. My Nana swears by them, and I’ve found in my non-dishwasher home that they truly do the best job with no fuss. I feel Southern when I cook a big meal, and especially when people go back for seconds (if they don’t, I’m slightly insulted). I feel Southern when I go country-dancing and nearly get teary-eyed watching the guys swing the girls around with their white lace dresses and boots to rock me mama like the wind and the rain, rock me mama like a southbound train (credit). I feel Southern when I seek wisdom from my mother-in-law in the best ways to cook fresh green beans (with butter, garlic, and bacon, and you let them simmer “forever” [verbatim]).
It has a lot to do with food, God, kindness, simplicity, and soul, and I’m so glad to be a part of it.
What Southern traits/traditions do you identify with, or are thankful for?