Family Talk, Southern Style

I have established that Southern speak is its own form of English. Where else does your mama look at you and say something like “well, honey, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”.  I submit to you, no where.

Now imagine not just one Southern mother in a room but several.  Then imagine that they are all related.  Then add in their husbands, children, and grandchildren.  This is like a festival of sayings, slang, and general entertainment.

I was recently home for an extended visit due to the death of my beloved Auntie O. In the South when death occurs many visits and countless food deliveries follow. Luckily, my family loves to eat and there are plenty of us to do it. I have 13 first cousins ranging in age from 6 to 58, 14 second cousins, and 5 third cousins with one on the way.  These are just the cousins in my immediately family – on my father’s side they go on forever. In fact, there is one holler in town where I am related to everyone in it.  These 33 cousins are just the beginning. And, I know that this is not the proper legal designation for cousins – no need for some smart wills and estates lawyers to correct me here.  Of all those family members at least 29 were present at this sad occasion. In one house. Amongst the crowd were three lawyers, three physicians assistants, three nurses, five teachers, two ultrasound technicians, a speech language pathologist, nurse practitioner, a pilot, and a “hell of an engineer” as my Daddy says.

Below are some random comments that I overheard throughout one evening (please note that there is no way for me to put all these into context).  This will give you a taste of a close Southern family in all its glory.  Enjoy!

“I reckon we can tie a chain to it an pull it out?”

“That was the time we got that VW Beetle stuck in Bath County during the snow storm, that is what they are talking about.”

“We lived at the good end of the bottom, on the other side of the restaurant.”

“What is that (referring to a cousin’s tattoo)?”

“Donald slept in the Rambler that whole summer.”

“You were a happy baby, you just did not sleep.”

“Am I related to all these people?”

“Which one is your Dad?”

“Are you all still talking about the dogs?”

“Don’t give away my pickled beets.”

“Does he [vegetarian cousin] know that those green beans were made with fatback?”

“No, but I can’t wait to tell him.”

“She knew how to boss.”

“She hid the chicken and dumplings.”

“She made me give her a dip . . . the color drained out of her face . . . then she was laid out on the front porch throwing up.”

“This is no place for someone with a headache.”

“I can’t tell you I love you enough.”

“I can’t listen enough.”

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Beautifully Bleak, Part II

One amazing thing about the Midwest are the sunrises and sunsets. They are beautiful, no matter the season. The sky is so wide and open that during a sunrise you get shade after shade of reds, pinks, and oranges, depending on the day and weather.  The Queen and I get to see sunrises regularly (we walk at 6:00 a.m.), particularly the beginning of the sunrise when all you can see is the pink and orange glow peaking over the horizon in a wide seemingly never-ending band.

The sunsets are lovely for many of the same reasons.  My favorite part of a Midwestern sunset is looking straight up or to the east. If there are clouds in the sky they appear to be glowing as if someone is shining a black light on them as they sit on an iridescent blue background.  It is something.

If I were a betting girl, I would bet that many Midwesterners never knew that their sunrises and sunsets were special.  We all know that sunrises on the East Coast and sunsets on the West Coast and Gulf of Mexico are cool because the sun appears and disappears over the ocean.

But in the Midwest you can see the sun’s tiniest sliver as soon as it starts to rise in the east over cornfields, farms houses, silos, and tree lines.  You can watch that same little sliver disappear as it descends in the west when it sets, also over cornfields, farm houses, silos, and tree lines.

In the mountains it is not the same. You can see the sun come up but it is already high above the mountain tops when it first comes into view.  In the Midwest the sun comes up and seems to be at your level, as if you could walk into it if you walked far enough. In the mountains the sphere of the sun disappears long before it actually sets because the mountains are so tall – thus the saying that in the mountains the sun goes down at “three in the day” – daylight remains but the sun itself bids an early farewell.

In the Midwest during a full moon, seeing the moon appear in the east at eye level is startling if you are not expecting it or have never seen it in that way. I was driving across an overpass in FW and saw something out of the corner of my eye and looked over and was physically taken aback at the size and location of the moon. Admittedly, I felt kind of silly but, hey, it is not like that from whence I come. Luckily, after the shock wore off I recognized the pretty when I saw it.

I regret that I have yet to take a picture of a great Midwest sunset. But God willing I will have plenty more chances to find one.

Beautifully Bleak, Part I

Bleak: “An area of land lacking vegetation and exposed to the elements.”

Bleak accurately describes the Midwest in the winter. It is gray. Sometimes for days. The fields of corn, wheat, and soy are dead. The wind is relentless. Mountains block a lot of wind and as we have established heretofore there are no mountains here. The snow falls but is not permitted to lay romantically on the trees due to the intensity and consistency of the wind. The temperature is either bitterly cold or fluctuating wildly from day to night. Growing an affection for hats, scarves, and gloves is necessary. Static cling has become a near constant issue. Winter footwear is limited almost exclusively to flats and boots. Attached garages are priceless.

So, I understand how folks, like my friend The Statesman, can say that the Midwest gets all of the weather and none of the pretty. Nevertheless, I am undeterred in my commitment to showing you that it is pretty here, even when it is bleak. I remain positive in the face of the most unpleasant weather that I have experienced.

This is my favorite tree on Route 114. I drive this state road on a regular basis and have watched this tree go from lovely and green to lonely and bare. The tree sits right on the border of a soy field (on the right) and a corn field (on the left). This old fellow is as pretty now in the cold foggy winter as it was in a bright sunny day in July.

I spotted this charming scene near Roanoke, Indiana when I first arrived. I admired its peaceful and simple beauty, the curved lane, the tree-lined stream, and the two bridges. I do not know what is at the end of this lane but I imagine it is something lovely. Something warm, comforting, and old. Maybe an old farmhouse with a barn and silo? The stone bridge in the foreground appears to be hand-laid and weathered by water, wind, and time. But despite the weathering it will last forever because someone made it carefully with their hands. This is the perfect example of flat being pretty.

I shall continue to collect evidence of attractive bleakness to share. It is important for me to remember it is pretty and to prove The Statesman wrong.