March 05, 2014

Southern Classics

Over Labour Day weekend I attended my second ever high school football game, ate my umpteenth home made cupcake, frosted my sisters hair, and taught my daughter and my niece what it is to be a Southern Woman. 

Yes those two are both in caps, why?  Because it's a title, that's why. 

Yes, to my own embarrassment I have only attended a couple of high school football games, this last one being one for my God-child.  My school was too small to offer football, but we did have basketball and I was at most of those games on any given Tuesday or Friday night.  I don't know how it is up north, but I do know down here, we take sports and togetherness seriously.  Most outsiders probably think we're obsessed with the game itself (I'm sure for most that's true) but there's also a sense of community that comes with those events.  Multiple parents yelling at referees, moms and dads watching their hard earned cash get covered in dust, sweat, and a little blood, all the while their baby is out there doing something that makes'em feel good.  My sister made the statement that she was proud to spend the money on her eldest, this would be the only year he gets to play football...."he's worth it", she said.  My sister is the epitome of the Southern Woman.  She cooks, the writes, she stresses, she cleans, she can feed a family of 5 for over a week on $50, can drive anything with wheels (and some things without), and doesn't let a soul run over her and hers.

When we got home and settled in, the girls helped my mama make mini cupcakes and a big cookie cake for my sisters birthday a few days prior.  While I was cleaning and cutting the yard at my house, my little one reminded me that she was needed and ran off to Grandma's.  I watched the two them all weekend, my girl and my niece.  They picked up the brush my God-child and I cut, they frosted cupcakes, they painted nails, squeezed kittens, giggled, watched silly movies, and had their hair highlighted together by me in my sisters dining room.  There's a rule in that mysterious Southern rulebook that spells out the rights of passage for Southern children.  For the boys it's the first day of hunting season, playing ball, going fishing, turning a wrench, and driving.  For little girls it's makeup, cooking, taking care of their home (inside or outside), and being allowed to take part in that kitchen/dining room gossip over hair and cheap wine.  Yes I know. It comes across very gender role-ish.  I'm not saying the girls don't play ball or the boys don't learn to cook.  I'm just saying, things get passed down.

To think back on one of my all time favourite books, Bastard, Out of Carolina, there's a part where the little girl "Bone", as they called her, mentions being in the comfort of her mama's lap while she has her hair brushed out.  That was where she felt safe and proper.  Her aunts chattering around her.  Her mother doting on her for those few minutes, just being a little girl at the feet of what are, to her, magnificent women.  There's not really a standard age so much as a point in life.  My girl and my niece are about 18 months apart, but they hit their milestones pretty much together.  Such as it is when young folks are raised closely.  While my God-child is ate up with football and my favourite one is ate up with big trucks and wrenches, my daughter and her cousin are ate up with growing into magical Women of the South. 

Just as Friday night lights, grilling on a hot day, and sipping sweet tea are quintessential are little girls turning into little women in mama or aunties kitchen.  Some of the best marital advice came out of a Southern kitchen, not to mention recipes for food, fun, and disaster.  I suppose you can equate a woman's kitchen with a fellas garage/yard.  It's the place where solace is found, treats are made, discussions are settled, anger and love are worked out in kind.  Typically the cook is dancing or cussing in regard to whatever is being concocted there, much like an engine being worked on or brush being cut.  I've know plenty of men who have escaped to the comfort and peace of their outdoor paradise.  For my dad it was on his lawn tractor, he would spend hours getting the grass to look just right then several more cleaning and tinkering with the tractor itself.  All the while my mother was in the house having conversations with the curtains as she scrubbed away the weeks dust and dirt. 

I find myself to be a strange blend in the Southern child regard.  I was a 4-H domestic queen winning dozens of ribbons for sewing and baking.  I got plenty of haircuts in my mama's kitchen and was silent witness to my share of chats between my mother and her sister and friends.  There were days however, that I was under my daddy's feet learning the proper way to hold a hammer and discover the magic wonder of wing nuts.  As much as I still enjoy the smell of grease, the feel of cold iron, and the sound of a motor running right, I still know my rightful place in the Southern mesh. 

It didn't take me long after I was married to figure out the easiest place to colour hair was in the kitchen. Especially if you had a decent sized kitchen/dining combo.  Hell, then you had the added convenience of the dining table to hold bottles of colour, conditioner, beer, and requisite snacks.

The trimming of hair.  The bright chatter of gossip.  The lilting sounds of football/baseball/racing floating in from outer rooms.  The constant smell of food cooking itself to perfection.  Children laughing or squalling.  These are all classic ingredients to what some consider a perfect world. 

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