Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Tobacco Plantation in Marlboro County

My mother still to this day refers to her family home as "a tobacco plantation in Marlboro County." (That is pronounced mawlboro, if you didn't know.) Of course, no one takes this literally except her. In her mind the memories are wistful. I can see these words playing over and over again. "There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South. . . Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow. . . Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair,. . . Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A Civilization gone with the wind..."

Even as a child I can remember the farm. Pictures I have today corroborate my memories which differ from those grand memories Mama claims. There was no long avenue of oaks, no Greek revival home, or some grand lawn in the back that gently sloped down to the river. But, whatever. I guess those are just minor details.

Like so many other "details" that interfere with Mama's romantic memory, for her it was just better to overlook some realities. Although it was a rather large working tobacco farm with cattle and cotton, I still do not think the Oxford dictionary would use it as an example for the word "plantation". As I mentioned earlier, it was lacking some of the more basic elements.

Friends, I have made as I have gotten older, often comment, "God, you are southern." My usual response is "Wait until you meet my Mama, she is the poster child." And when they do, they are rarely disappointed. I'm not sure if it is a romantic longing for something that never existed or just believing in the legend you have become.

Margaret Mitchell is responsible for a lot of this non sense. Sure, there were many old stately mansions hanging around when she published Gone With The Wind. But, those were for the few families who had somehow held onto to them (or yankees, who had come in and bought them).

Gone With The Wind gave everyone down here the idea that, yes, somewhere in their past, there was a Tara. Of course, it's very convenient that since the carpetbaggers came after the war and took almost everyone's land and homes that were not burned, no one has to produce the actual residence to validate their claim.

So here we are, living for this time gone by that for some reason we think was grand - hiding any Yankee ancestors in the closet, for fear they spoil the lineage. What we have left is the gentility,which is truly bred into us, our southern accents that some find charming and others offensive, and the family silver. Where is David Selznik when you need him?

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