It is of paramount importance that I teach my husband how to be a Southerner, at least a half-decent one if not one of regal bearing.
Back in the summer, unwillingly, I would rise early and take a run to beat some of the oppressive heat and humidity that smothers the South when the sun inches higher in the sky. Many mornings, I encountered something that would stick with me for the rest of the run.
Little Danny McGuire was the scrawniest kid in class. He was so frail, so downright skinny that his dungarees clung to his bony hips, only thanks to a well-worn brown belt that was pulled tight to the last notch, causing the fabric to gather in folds. What a sight he made with blue jeans cinched to the waist and little ol' legs hidden somewhere in the yards of material.
Mama's favorite phrase when I was growing up - particularly during the defiant teenage years, especially when I sassed her - was "you're gonna pay for your raising one day, little lady. Let me assure you of that. You just wait until you have children and see how they behave."
Boy, can people be mean. I'm thinking particularly of a reader named Samantha, whose scolding of me turned into a scalding.
Occasionally, someone truly interested in the art of writing will ask me, "What does it take to be a writer?"
It was one of those days. The kind when you have a lot of work to do and none of it you want to do so you just piddle.
One evening back in late spring, I returned home from two weeks of flitting through major airports and hurrying bare-footed through security sensors. I was bone-weary from cramped planes - the center seat too many times - and delayed flights.
(Editor's note: This is third in a three-part series)
Of course, I'll be having black-eyed peas and collard greens for New Year's Day. It has become more than a tradition. It's almost downright superstition, though I hate to admit that.
When Mama was a small girl growing up in the Nimblewill Valley in the Appalachian foothills, it was the midst of the Great Depression. As she often said, "Times were hard but it's all we knew so we didn't know how poor we were."
There's a woman I'm looking for. Perhaps you know where she is. If you do, please help me find her again.
(Editor's note: This is the second installment of a three-part series. It is running over a five week period rather than three consecutive weeks.)
In those days - the ones of my cherished youth - my cousin, Ronnie, a year older than I, worked for my daddy. Ronnie had cotton-colored hair and a face that, like mine, was smattered with freckles. He had what the lucky ones on Daddy's side of the family inherit: a quick-thinking sense of humor that is succinct, clever and smart.
His name is Charles Almerin Tinker and he was the great-great-grandfather of my beloved.
Coming home one Sunday from the family dinner after church, I said out of the blue, "I feel like we should volunteer for vacation Bible school."
My people, as I have long said, were raised on hard times in the Appalachian foothills. I don't know I had a grandparent who ever saw the sum of $500 at one time or even held a hundred dollar bill in hand.
It was over Sunday dinner that my sister told me what I did not know.
It started accidentally. Some good ideas and memorable moments are like that. They aren't planned. They're born, bringing with them an ability to nudge a way naturally into our lives and become a tradition.
My sister and I stood in the charred remains of a life that once was and did not say a word. What was there to say?
To be honest, I was more than a mite worried. I was plenty worried.
It often amazes me how many words of kindness and encouragement I receive for the stories I tell.
You may be surprised to learn people sometimes disagree with me.
Sometimes, I look across our yard and sigh somewhat woefully, "Too much of that stubborn red Georgia clay shines through." I think, "Oh, one day." I have been thinking this for six or seven years.
Hollywood, more often than not, gets it wrong about the South in movies and television. When they do get it right, we Southerners are amazed and appreciative.
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