November 23, 2009 11:05:00 AM
Early on I attempted to rid myself of all things Southern except, of course, my charm. I believed the accent and expressions made me sound ignorant, and I wanted to be cosmopolitan, sophisticated and smart. Then over dinner once in the North Country suddenly, "Well, that ''bout knocked me slap dead" came flying out of my mouth.
The words wafted across the room, and my dinner companions turned. The room froze like someone had hit the pause button. Laughter broke out. I was neither cosmopolitan, nor sophisticated and maybe not even smart. I had been found out.
Years later, returning to my homeland, I found that I was as happy as a lark in my Southern ways. They were warm and inviting. I slid back in like a pig in slop. I began to embrace the words, the sayings; even craving black-eyed peas, corn bread, turnip greens and the like.
We Southerners have a language, an understanding, and perhaps a food addiction, all our own. I once heard, "the warmer the climate, the warmer the people" and I have found that to be somewhat true. We are warm. We talk to strangers and even ask them all about their business, which really means nothing to us; just being friendly.
My neighbor once invited a young couple home with him for hot chocolate after simply standing next to them at the Christmas parade. They became fast friends. Recently he told me he was having continuing conversations with an out-of-state elderly woman who kept dialing his phone number by mistake. She had claimed, "You are the nicest man." I assured him he would soon be making friends with a wrong number!
Recently I have noticed myself sounding just like my very Southern aunt who, upon greeting me, always said, "Geet?" This was the contracted sentence, "Did you eat?"
My step-daughter, a college student, now flies in and out of the house with me yelling before and behind, "Geet?" as if eating is the most important concern which, of course, it might possibly be, to a Southerner.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.