July 3rd 2010 passed in a blur, DU and I struggling through the infamous, hellish 14 hour drive from NY to NC. The next day I woke in a new house, facing a new, different life. I was as green as I had ever been, feeling like a kindergartner in a new class; shy to the point of being terrified if anyone even looked in my general direction, lest asked for a crayon. Titus was terrified, Oscar was absolutely freaked at his new brother, and I had a strong feeling that I would not make it in the south. Once the Fourth of July reared up from the horizon, I was settled enough to realize that my life had changed. That day, less than 24 hours after I moved 735 miles from home, I met DU's entire family. Timing not being the best of friends with me at that point, I smiled, talked little and attempted to blend into the backdrop, praying that I would survive the night.
365 days have passed since that day and I cannot comprehend how a southern year has already passed. I not only survived my time with DU's family but also dealt with being so far from mine. I learned many things living in the geographical opposite to my hometown, a life shrouded in love, support, and quintessential southern hospitality.
I remember thinking that I wished there was something I could read to understand what I had gotten myself into, what exactly was this southern life all about? Well, I've been here a year and figured I could throw out some life lessons I've accrued..
HLYH'S GUIDE TO ALL THAT IS SOUTHERN:
Southern Lessons for the Yankee Minded
Lesson #1- You sound like a yankee, and everyone knows it.
The first place that DU ever took me was the fabulous Bass Pro in Concord. Awed with my surroundings, I walked like a zombie, yearning to take in each iota of hunting wonderfulness. While passing the gun section, a Dirty Harry pistol caught my eye. The counter help was quick in his advancing towards the gun-loving girl.
His words came out like a tumbling of consents and vowels, mashed together without punctuation uttered in a single breath. Bewildered by his obvious master of the southern diction, I smiled, turned my heel and vanished into the waterfowl section.
My biggest hurdle in getting acquainted to southern life was to realize that those, like Cheerwine, who were born in the south, speak the way they were taught and it was I who talk funnily.
More than once I was faced with the quandary, "where are you from, exactly?" when I said words like hockey, copies, stocky, Rochester, hot, crayon, etc.
Lesson #2- Y'all
Y'all may be the best word that I have ever, in all my years of English glorification have ever come across.
If you frequent this blog, you may be thinking aloud, "Didn't she graduate at the top of her class? Wasn't she published during her junior year? Doesn't she weekly admonish people via Twitter for their misuse of it's and its?" These allegations, while being very true and overly complimentary, make me blush which makes this all the more of an important lesson.
In Latin, conjugations may be the most annoying thing that a scholar must know in and out, whether he or she like it or not. Conjugations bring a verb through the various persons:
English- I, You, [He, She, It], We, You All, They
Latin- O, S, T, Mus, Tis, Nt
English (Present) Verb: To Walk
Conjugations: I walk, You walk, He (She, It) walks, We Walk, You all walk, They walk
Latin (Present, regular) Verb: Ambulare
Conjugation: Ambularo, Ambulas, Ambulat, Ambulamus, Ambulatis, Ambulant
Take notice that in the second person plural (You all walk), the latin form of "to walk" is ambulatis, turning the words YOU and WALK into one word, essentially an English contraction that means, simply, Y'all.
Y'all is uttered by southerners easily, as if it were instilled since birth, however I had to work on it. But, it not only is an accepted contraction that is lovingly and overly used by my neighbors but also, amazingly, has The Writing Huntress' stamp of approval.
Lesson #3- Waving isn't just for friends or even people you remotely know.
Where I'm from, waving is an action that friends and family partake in. I barely ever waved before moving here, except for when I thought that I recognized someone and had to turn the wave into some sort of strange over-the-head stretch in a matter of moments.
DU and I were driving around within the first week I made my southern relocation when I noticed he was waving to practically anyone, a slight four-finger raise of the hand off the steering wheel move. Thinking my boyfriend was possibly the most important person in Concord, I asked if he knew all these people. When he responded no, I realized that southern people, for the majority, are, in a word, nice.
Changing my New York attitude to personal contact or waving had to change dramatically, especially since we moved to Mount Pleasant (population: somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000). I routinely feel like the mayor or princess of the town when driving home from work, as I wave like a maniac to anyone and everyone meandering past my Jeep.
Lesson #4 Townsfolk wear camouflage to church.
As a child, everyone got dressed up as their much as their bank accounts would allow and donned the pricey outfits to church. Everyone would check everyone else out, ensuring that no one's children looked disheveled or had smudges on their God clothes. I remember thinking that it was all so unnecessary, that if God truly loved all of his children unconditionally, why did we have to dress up like prom queens to pray? However, as pretentious and ridiculous as I believed it was, I went along with the status quo, at least wearing clean jeans and nice button-up to services in college.
My first outing to a southern church roused me from slumber hours early. Thinking that I'd be surrounded by big hats, suspenders, and shoulder pads, I wore one of my nicer dresses then made DU dress up accordingly. We walked through the vestibule to the main room, to the main stage where our preacher stood, wearing blue jeans.
People filled in around us, some dressed up, but most were just comfortable, wearing camo hats, partially-clean slacks and famer-esque shirts. Part of my brain shouted SACRILEGIOUS! while the other part was comforted by the bare-bones Christianity, not a trace of pop or circumstance, just love of God and the good things he does in our lives.
Lesson #5 Fried Pickles, Sweet Tea and Cheerwine are all God's gift to the world that he sequestered to the south...
for good reason.
Lesson #6 Movies set in the south do not lie.
Sweet Home Alabama is one of my most favorite movies because of the small-town life, the dirty man who never lost sight of his love with the great dog who barks all the time, and for the girl who found her way back to her home, to her Southern Momma, where her heart always was.
I admit, I wanted my southern adventure to be like that, full of great characters, maybe a love story and a dog who roams around whatever art shop I'll open, of course in a red barn while I drive a big, green tractor in circles. While I can't say that I have opened a random art shop, I can say that the rest of the movie rings quite true. I will be partial to civil war reenactments and 4-H festivals, filled with kids who wish to be farmers someday. The cast of characters who have filled my southern memoir are richer than the memories I've accrued, their stories, personalities and influence have changed my perspective on life forever.
Southern movies and country songs paint the south as a landscape of vivid, gracious, beautiful hospitality. Unlike most things you see on TV or hear on the radio, you can believe what you're being told, for the songs ring true, at least in my south.
The southern United States have deep roots whose people have made me realize that I may be from the north, but I am southern spirited.
Most of all, that I wouldn't have it any other way.