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?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where in the World is DIS? (Southern Registration Ovals)

I was in Ohio a week or so ago and was surprised at the number of vehicles sporting a white oval sticker on their back window that read "HHI". For some reason Ohio residents have always loved visiting Hilton Head Island on vacation. We used to joke that one of four cars on the island had an Ohio plate. Back in the south, you can see these stickers representing many of the coastal areas, KI (Kiawah Island), SI (Sullivans Island), IOP (Isle of Palms), MB (Myrtle Beach), SSI (St Simons Island), JI (Jekyl Island), TYB (Tybee Island). And, you always had those trying to show off that they vacation in exclusive spots where few of us can afford to go - JH (Jackson Hole) or ASP (Aspen Colorado).

It is almost a game trying to figure out the location associated with the letters. I'm usually pretty good at the game. but I will admit that a few had me stumped. DIS, Disney?, Dataw Island? DR, Daufuskie Reserve? Or TSS? Try as hard as I could, it just didn't come to me. I had to admit that these stickers seemed to be as legitimate as the others, so they had to represent some place. Now, I am sure that there are many places I am not aware of. But still, I figured eventually it would come to me. And, one day it did.

These letters do represent vacation spots, where families take their campers, and spend a significant amount of money. They look forward to their visits all year. And return home with memories that will last a lifetime. Therefore they are very proud to have these stickers on their vehicles. And, you'll only see it in the South - DIS - Daytona International Speedway (The Great American Race), DR - Darlington Raceway (The Lady in Black, The Track to Tough to Tame), and TSS - Talladego Super Speedway (The Big One).

It was the big hair, the leather jackets, and the NASCAR stickers that clued me in. I should have realized something was amiss. The white oval stickers just didn't quite fit in with the "Locked, Loaded, & Proud" sticker on the right rear bumper and the "My Blue Tick Hound can beat the Hell out of your Honor Student Any Day" on the left. It takes all kinds to make the world go around. But, it is just a "special" group who truly understands the world that only makes left turns, at high rates of speed, in large groups on Sunday afternoons. Of course, they also think the last line of The Star Spangled Banner is "Gentlemen start your engines."

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Last Half - Is it Full?

Turning fifty was not a big deal, or so I told myself. I was in pretty good shape, things could be worse. After all, I was just "turning fifty". However, as of today, I am now officially "in" my fifties and that sounds ancient. The Hell with complaining about how old thirty seems and how life ends at forty. Get over it. Wait until you turn fifty.

I just don't think of myself as being "old". Am I fooling myself? Am I in denial? Do I need help? If so, just let me live in my own little world. Being accused of being "frumpy" is nothing new. I have been there for ten years or so, according to my youngest child, who sees herself as an expert in this field. She continues to remind me of how much my fashion failures embarrass her. As you can tell, I do not lose sleep over this much to her dismay.

Those age lines are now prevalent on my face. I do not have enough vanity to deal with them, although I do find myself looking in the mirror and more and more wondering what the difference would be should I take advantage of some of those miracle creams offered on TV. I can remember Aunt Kat covering her face with gobs of Ponds Cold Cream every night. And, the day she died, in her eighties, her face was soft, beautiful, and clear, but those lines were still there. My Aunt J'Nelle, always being a little more sophisticated, used Eterner 27, and, although she died at a much earlier age, she, too, succumbed to those dreaded creases.

But all that aside, if you are as old as you feel - I'm doing OK. In my mind I just assume I am going to live to be one hundred, so I can justify that my life is only half over. I would sink into a deep depression if I was only shooting for seventy five and therefore only had twenty five percent left. However, with fifty percent remaining, I need to start enjoying it, which leads to life's ultimate conundrum. Do we enjoy life as we want to and throw caution to the wind? Or, do we live cautiously, to ensure that our days are extended as long as possible.

Take Krispy Creme Donuts for example (only hot fresh ones) (See August 17, 2010). Do you enjoy one or two daily, because you really want to take advantage of the true joys of life. Or, do you abstain because you have read all the articles on the horrendous health consequences of partaking of such food? (And, die an earlier death due to the stress of having to forgo all those foods you love so much.) Oh, I could go on and on with my list of difficult decisions. Use the pedestrian cross walk or live dangerously and jay walk to save time? (Is the safety of using the cross walk going to give you more time to live than the time saved by crossing the street where you wish?)

I've paid my dues, cleaned my plate, returned my library books (with the late fees), remembered the birthdays, forgotten the pains of childbirth, and watched time fly. I think I can eat the donuts (as long as my pants still fit) or cross the street (as long as I look both ways), after all at fifty one, this dog can stay on the porch. That is until, I see something that merits my running with the pack.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Promises of the Plague

For the life of me, I will never quite understand the idea of Botox. Just the thought of injecting Botulism into my face makes me question the sanity of these people. Now I realize vanity will make folks do strange things - especially southern women. But if someone told them that a shot of the Bubonic plague would guarantee slender thighs, I bet you would be amazed at the number who would sign up.

OK, I'll be the first to admit, as I've said before, I failed to get the vanity gene. however I'll also admit, not having an older sister, and my mother, although a natural beauty, had this notion that girls from 'good families' were not so concerned about makeup and such, it's not like I had a lot of adolescent support in that department. It's a wonder that I figured enough of it out by the time my girls came along to spare them that agony. Or at least I knew to send them to the Lancome counter for professional advice. My youngest daughter would say I never came close to figuring it out and her life was saved by Mac and Bobbie Brown. But I digress.

OK, let me get this straight, I am going to pay someone $125 a session for an injection of neurotoxin for the purpose of achieving the perpetual look of a Barbie Doll. Then, I will need to repeat this insanity every two or three months. And, what happens when a year or so down the road, some young whipper snapper of a medical researcher discovers, oh yeah, this 'wonder drug' has side effects, such as permanent facial parallelization, not necessarily where you intended. (You would find it upsetting that only half of your mouth can smile). Well, Miss Scarlett, I hate to tell you but the War is over, we lost, and the drapes don't fit.

Next thing you know, Cosmopolitan Magazine will come out with an article touting a new, sure fire way to ensure thin ankles for life - Typhus. Or, how eternally toned abs can be achieved, not with multiple trips to the gym, but a simple dose of Leprosy. And, Syphilis - guaranteed to stay off your dreaded gray roots for life. Just think of the promises Ebola, Distemper and Black Plague may hold. I choose to think not. After all, I'm still working with the lady at the Lancome counter on eye liner. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Don't Mess with Grits

I just saw a small clip from the TV reality show "Real Housewives of New Jersey". In full disclosure, I have never seen an episode of the show. The clip I saw was enough for me. These women are out of control. Actually, they just don't know how to handle a situation with other women. Southern women have made it an art form, with a smile. Now, there is a similar show, "Real Housewives of Atlanta", but this does not represent true southern women. I watched an episode of that show and I'm not sure where those women came from. Worse yet, it is scary that the world would think that those "ladies" are representative of the fairer sex down here. But, I digress.

Back to New Jersey. These women, yell and scream and cuss. In one clip, a table was overturned in a fine restaurant to make a point. Then in a "reunion" show, the host could not even get three of the "housewives" to sit on the same sofa without civil war breaking out and the police being called with stun guns. Don't get me wrong, we know how to yell, scream, and cuss. And, can go toe to toe with the best of them. However, we chose not to do it in public, especially not on TV. No, we are more - well subversive.

First of all, no southern woman of good standing would ever consider being on a reality TV show. And, if we did, we would not last long, because we are just too nice. We would never be filmed screaming in the face of our "costars", turning over tables, or cussing out yard men. There would not be enough drama to be interesting.

In our world, when a southern woman is wronged, and it happens a lot, we take it with a smile. And, we remember. We are like elephants, we never forget. Especially, if you do something to hurt or offend one of our children. Oh, we will still smile and chat with you at bridge. You'll never know that there is a problem as we "enjoy" dinner with you and your husband at the home of mutual friends. I may even come to your house to ooh and aah over your new kitchen (even though I know you can't boil water.)

However, next year when your name comes up for membership in the Junior League, you best be assured that there is a reason that it only takes three anonymous "no" votes to keep one out. Our predecessors built in an "I'll get you back and you'll never know who did it." clause in most old clubs. And, when you are on my committee for the our Couple's Christmas Dance, I'm going to assign you to help check the coats or maybe clean-up (which has to be done immediately following the event just after the band leaves.) I just know you'll do a wonderful job.

If you really push me too far, I will find you alone in a hall and give a piece of my mind, using words you had no idea I knew how to use at a low, steady, firm tone of voice that will leave no doubt in your mind that you have crossed a line you never want to cross again. And, once we are back in public, I will act as if nothing has happened. But, you will get the point.

So next time you see a southern bell and think that she has charm, grace, and beauty but would never stand up for herself, think again. Southern women with grits takes on a whole new meaning. Don't mess with us.