It has become somewhat of an art for me, that of studying Southern culture and deciphering what makes us different from others as well as downright peculiar among ourselves.
Some missing something or the other required me to prowl through closets at Mama's house. That's when I found it. I pulled it out and smiled broadly, warmed by the memories it evoked.
One Sunday while sitting around the dinner table, Louise and I began to tell Daddy stories. You know the ones that stretched back to the early days of his preaching life.
To this conclusion I have come: The most deadly years of our lives are the ages 16 to 21. Those years give us a headiness that comes from new freedom - a driver's license - and the passing of the torch from strict childhood rules to more trust, different restraints and relaxed curfews.
Their histories, accurate and complete, are lost to time and buried with them and those who knew them. I wish I knew more, for their stories would read like a page-turning novel.
My grandmother, Daddy's mother, was sometimes called "crazy" by others who didn't quite understand her eccentric ways.
It was an early summer morning, an enchanting time when flowers are blooming, blackberries are spurting to full growth and the birds are happy to have sunny warmth. I had taken myself out to the back porch where often I settle down to write after I have finished a gentle run.
Mama used to fry biscuits. If you knew Mama, that doesn't surprise you because she fried every food possible. In the course of her life, I knew her to fry green beans, corn, grits and cornmeal mush.
There are many things I love about the South. We're fiercely patriotic. We're neighborly. We're storytellers without equal. We're unabashedly and unapologetically faithful. We're proudly hospitable.
In the tiny country church where I spent most of the first 22 years of my life, where I found the Lord at the age of 11, where without fail I had the leading part in every Christmas pageant and where my daddy laid down the law in more ways than one, we sang hymns from a brown songbook and a green one, both filled with the haunting melodies that have penetrated the Appalachians for many decades.
Not long ago, a friend of mine was huffing, puffing and carrying on something awful about an injustice she had recently suffered. She had dealt with someone rather devious and the result was, well, rather devious.
Somewhere along the line, it seems, people have stopped talking about the American dream.
For those of you who are faithful to this column, you will, no doubt, recall I made brand-new resolutions last year. I tossed out the old ones that I had failed at repeatedly and trudged ahead to new ones, optimistically believing that success was mine for taking.
Christmas is the time that we pack expectations into every package we wrap and for weeks anticipate that one, perfect Currier-and-Ives day.
Thousands of days filled with clouds, rain, snow or sunshine have passed, yet one lesson sticks stubbornly to my heart.
A few years back, someone I knew ever so slightly died. Though I didn't know him well, I knew him to be mean, egoistical and quite a bully.
My husband was out of town working on location when he called one night and discovered I was still working though the hour had grown late.
It happened a few months back. My father-in-law celebrated, to our great joy, his 88th birthday.
It happened the other day. It's funny how things so simple can remind us of things so meaningful, of those sweets tucked inside our hearts and unknowingly treasured.
My parents, according to the world's definition of "cool," were not.
A few years ago, the magazine I have long loved - Southern Living - changed.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about moonshine runner turned stock car champion, Lloyd Seay, who was murdered in a dispute about sugar purchased to make illegal whiskey.
There are few who cannot say truthfully they miss their parents after death has laid claim to those loved ones. The parents who taught us, scolded us and, at times, annoyed us are never forgotten, never put away on a shelf to be remembered no more.
One afternoon, I had a hankering, a primal-like craving, for a supper of pinto beans and cornbread with a tall glass of cold, rich buttermilk thrown in for good measure and extra filling.
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