Friday, May 21, 2010

Nothin' could be finer...

I had a moment of clarity over a Moon Pie the other day.

Last weekend, I drove past three grocery stores just to shop at the only Harris Teeter in town. I was feeling all superior to the Super Wal-Mart, and I wanted some “good stuff”, higher-end “good stuff” that you can’t find at the discount grocers. As I was perusing the bakery hoping to find some fancy artisan bread or a delicate pastry to add to my cart, I came upon a Moon Pie display. Honestly, it seemed out of place, like a redneck showing up for High Tea at a Garden Club soiree. How did these marshmallow fluff-stuffed graham crackers find themselves stationed next to fresh baguettes and pesto spread? Excuse me, but didn’t I just pass by a Japanese chef preparing fresh sushi?

I stood there staring at those simple blue and white boxes. Out of nowhere, I felt like I was being swept back in time to a hot, sweaty station wagon in any random June of my childhood, and we were on our way to Garden City for the annual family vacation. I remember so clearly how we would always make a pit stop at a gas station in McBee, South Carolina to break up the trip and grab a snack to tide us over. (Yes, it was an actual gas station!) What a treat it was for me to be allowed to have a tall, cold bottle of RC cola or Mountain Dew paired with a Moon Pie or a pack of Nabs. I would climb into the back of the wagon and press the glass bottle against my cheek, letting the condensation leave its wet mark on the stray hairs that had fallen out of my pony tail. And in the grips of that memory, right there in the grocery store, I came to a realization about myself: Why have I always fought so hard to deny that I’m a Southern Girl, born and raised in the land of Duke’s mayonnaise and liver pudding? I should be proud!

I love the South. I love Spanish moss and kudzu. I love that our state dance is the shag and how no covered dish supper would be complete without deviled eggs and fried chicken. I love that we never stop calling our parents “Mama” and “Daddy”. I love digging my toes into the sandy beach while being serenaded by The Embers, and then, in the span of a couple of hours, I can look out over the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You know, if it wasn’t for a misguided, love-struck governor and a school system that’s soundly in the toilet, this just might be paradise.

I had an English teacher in high school who told us to lose the southern accents. She told us that if anyone outside of our Podunk town ever heard us speak, we would immediately be thought of as countrified, hillbilly morons. And I believed her. I spent the next twenty plus years of my life trying to shake my accent along with any remnants of my lower middle class, blue collar upbringing. It’s funny how a Moon Pie changed all that.

It’s time for me to embrace my heritage. It’s time to quit hiding behind a two and a half car garage and a pool membership. It’s time to acknowledge that all the trendy clothes I sported as a youth were either knock-offs or were from the outlet store because my parents couldn’t afford the department store versions. Now that I have the means to dress how I wish, it’s painfully clear that you can cover me in Donna Karan, and I’m still just a small town girl from a working class family at heart.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still going to use proper grammar, stay away from Cooter Stew, and I flatly refuse to say, “ain’t”, but I won’t fault you if you let it slip now and then. Like all good Southern girls, I’ll just flash you a big smile and whisper under my breath, “Bless your heart!”

4 comments:

  1. I live far from home in Germany. I live a different life style but... My heart still cries out for the Blue Ridge Mountains, the sand of Myrtle Beach, and the kindness of Southerners. I am proud to be from the South.
    I too did away with most of my accent but... not the common sense I learned. At my age it is considered "Wisdom". Ain't it great to be old...? Sorry a slip...
    One of the wisest and smartest men I have ever known was a technician in a world of engineers. If he told you how to fix a problem and you did not take his suggestion he would smile and walk away. He would then come back to see you working the same issue and in a more pronounced southern accent make the same suggestion… Finally when you were at your wits end, he would come back and in an atrocious Southern Accent he would say, “I ain’t no COLLEGE boy like you but you SHOULD try this.” You then try it, it fixes the problem he just smiles and walks away.
    We are not dumb, ignorant, inbreed, or raciest just because we are from the South. We have learned lessons in caring and humility because we have been looked down upon and treated as if we all of those things. In a debate when someone does not agree too often the dumb southerner card is played. Many of us have learned an important lesson. You may not agree with me but in this great land “Everybody has the right to be wrong and God did not put me here to fix you.”
    Thanks for the post… This is practically a blog itself… You hit a nerve, thanks again.
    Buddy

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  2. Thanks so much for reading, Buddy! When I was writing this, I kept thinking to myself, "What other region of the country are people ashamed to call home?" NONE! And we shouldn't be either. You are so right in that being a Southerner doesn't automatically make someone a dumb racist. Some folks that I know from outside of this region still have a hard time believing that...

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  3. About a year ago, I decided to add "y'all" back to my vocabulary!

    I'm so Southern it would take me ten hours of driving north to get to South Carolina. :-D

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  4. Down here (Jacksonville, FL), it's such a mix of southerners and northerners that you see that stereotype all the time, even in the op-ed pages! I love being from here and I use y'all and even ain't, and don't EVER call me a "dumb southerner"! I do miss Harris Teeter though, both of the stores here closed.

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