Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Welcome To My World

Right now I'm re-reading To Kill A Mockingbird, as I do almost every spring. In simple terms, it is my very favorite book in the history of all time ever. That's a pretty fancy critique, isn't it? Anyway, yesterday I came across one of my favorite lines from the book, which occurs when Jem recounts Miss Maudie's reply to his offer of chewing gum: "...she said no thanks, that - chewing gum cleaved to her palate and rendered her speechless."

Now y'all, that's Southern.

I was thinking about Jem's comment this morning, and it reminded me that I have never seen my very own mama chew a stick of gum. I've seen her tear the teensiest piece off the end of a stick of Doublemint and chew that, but a whole stick of gum? Forget it. Sister and Stacy will vouch for me on this one.

Mama has never used Miss Maudie's explanation to justify why she doesn't chew gum, but she definitely has her own little Southern eccentricities. And I got a little tickled when I started thinking about them.

1) She has never, to my knowledge, worn blue jeans. Or any denim, for that matter, with the exception of a blue chambray dress that came with a matching jacket.
2) She always, always wears pantyhose. And I'm fairly certain that she's never worn a pair of pants to church.
3) She cooks three hot meals a day. Three. hot. meals. Every day. Every. single. day.
4) If she goes to the grocery store, she will have on her make-up, and she will be wearing an outfit. You can bank on it.
5) She won't drink out of plastic because it "burns her lips." By the same token, she will not use an insulated coffee mug. She says they taste like metal. So only china or crystal for her.
6) For the first eighteen years of my life, I never ate off of a paper plate, because Mama would not buy them. We used china at every single meal. Period.
7) Until I was around eleven years old, I did not know that cake mixes existed. EVERYTHING Mama baked was from scratch. Still is.

And then there's my mother-in-law, about whom I could write a novel or nine, as her Southern qualities are colored by tragedy and glossed over with a heavy layer of denial. But I'll save all that stuff for the book I'll never write and share some of her more amusing Southern-centrities.

1) She does not know how to fill up her car with gasoline. When she comes to visit and actually drives herself (which has happened approximately four times in nine years of marriage), she can't make the return trip home until David follows her to the gas station and fills up her car.
2) As far as I know, she has never washed her own hair. She has a standing appointment with Betty every Friday at 10:00, and I am still convinced that for Martha the worst part of Hurricane Katrina was that Betty's shop was without power and therefore Martha could not get her weekly wash and set.
3) When she was eighteen and about to leave for college, her daddy offered her a car. She refused it because she didn't like the make and model. She rode the bus to and from college instead. Oh yes she did.
4) She is the only person I've ever known who eats two Pringles and considers that a serving. On the rare occasions when she eats a sandwich, she will open up the Pringles, take out two, and eat only those two. She has hang-ups about how women should have dainty appetites, but I double-dog dare you to get in between her and a Krispy Kreme donut.
5) She feels certain tasks are impossible for her (in addition to filling up the car with gasoline). Some of those impossible tasks would include changing lightbulbs, setting clocks, resetting odometers, and participating in any form of do-it-yourself project.
6) She will not use a hammer. Southern women, in Martha's mind, don't swing at anything.
7) She cannot sit down for a meal in a restaurant without saying the following: "These portions! I've never seen such large portions! Have you ever? I mean, I just can't imagine anyone eating such a large portion!" Then she eats her three bites of food and sits there until the waiter comes back, at which point she says, "These portions! I've never seen such large portions! Have you ever? I mean, I just can't imagine anyone eating such a large portion!"

And in case you were wondering, I've never seen Martha chew gum, either. Or wear jeans, unless it was "this cute little denim jacket that I got at Steinmart, and it was just darlin', just darlin', but I didn't really like the way the embroidery - see, there's embroidery all across the front of it but it's floral so you know it's real cute, REAL cute - only I didn't like the way the embroidery came down over the buttons on the cuffs, so I got my friend who alters things for me, well, you know the one who used to alter things for me died and I was just sad, just so sad about that but I had to find someone else because nothing fits me straight out of the store because my shoulders are so narrow and everything I put on just flops straight down over my shoulders so I got the alterations lady to re-do the cuffs for me and now the jacket is just adorable and I love to wear it with my new red pants, you know the ones that I got at McRae's on sale, only of course they didn't fit me right off the rack, and that reminds me of the time that Barbara Walker found a lampshade she really liked at Fred's, because you know her house burned...."

Happy Wednesday, everybody. Y'all come back now! Ya hear?


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