I’ve always believed that the true mark of a Southern lady is left on the hearts of those she blesses and the cups she stains with her lipstick.
Being a 22-year-old raised in a Southern home, I haven’t strayed too far from the metaphorical pasture. I still wear lipstick despite the fact that it stains my favorite coffee cup, and I maintain to this day that I glisten instead of sweat, but Lord knows that every trip to my hometown in Mooresville reminds me just how “citified” I’ve become.
Now Mooresville isn’t necessarily “in the countryside” as some say, but it takes a few miles to get into town. In high school, I spent my weekends at one of three places: the stands at a football game, the movie theater or the bowling alley. In comparison, and from the lovely people I’ve interviewed and worked with in Robeson County, life here is similar to life back home.
I recently made the three-hour journey to Mooresville to visit my grandfather on his 72nd birthday.
I was quickly reminded of Southern hospitality when my mama came through the door after some errands with my brother, and inquired why I didn’t tell her that I was home. She had gotten off the phone with me only a few minutes before. After my mother walked in, my Nana toddled into the living room, pushing her walker.
Everyone had to be in the room when I arrived.
The South once again presented itself, this time as a heap of fish on my grandfather’s plate on his birthday. He smiled wide at his birthday dinner, and even wider at the homemade pound cake that my mom and I whipped up for him.
My last Southern reminder came via my mother, who was suffering from hip pain at the time of my visit. She walked briskly down the ramp at my house, hugged my neck and stood in the grass as she waved me off.
I thought of my life and suddenly felt like I had betrayed my Southern heritage. Each visit home brought a familiar warmth that lessened as I traveled closer to my current home in Hope Mills. I remembered visits home from college and recalled the stark differences from my life in the ‘Ville at Methodist University to my life at home.
Most notable were holiday visits and seasonal breaks.
Good-old fashioned Southern people know how good-old fashioned Southern households work.
In the summer months, the heat was always so intense, but that never stopped my mama from cooking up a good Sunday dinner, which all Southern people call that meal between breakfast and supper.
Winter breaks back home always came with a lot of laughs. I would have about a month or two off from college around Christmas and New Year’s. The funniest part of my winter visits was watching my mama sneak into the ABC store to get rum for rum balls, a treat she makes only around Christmas. She was a master sneak, always being cautious that no one from our Southern Baptist church would think she’d turned to alcohol instead of God.
I reminisced the whole way to Hope Mills. The familiar warmth was gone as I unloaded my bag and the several cooking utensils passed to me before I left. With a heavy heart and even heavier bags, I walked through the front door and my roommate noted my silence.
I explained what happened, how I didn’t feel like I had a warm Southern home like the one I had left only a few hours ago. My roommate was taken aback by my dilemma and replied in his usual matter-of-fact tone, “You’re kidding, right?”
He reminded me of the way I always feed anyone who walks through our door and how I even fix them a plate instead of letting them make their own. His words reminded me of the funny little Southern twang that rolls off my tongue when I’m mad and how I always seem to be the one people turn to when they have something they want to talk about.
I hadn’t betrayed my Southern heritage, I’d just applied it a little less aggressively than my mama and my grandparents. I learned that even though my Southern tendencies may be muted, I’ll never stop blessin’ hearts or drinking sweet tea.
By Gabrielle Isaac