Saturday, April 14, 2012

Shut That Door!

       It has been one of those marvelous spring days down south today.  It seems so strange to me that folks in other parts of the country are shoveling snow when I look at the thermostat and see eighty degrees today!  I had to look out the window when I woke this morning to make sure it was daylight.  My goal was to sleep in a bit and I managed to do just that.  Normally on a spring day like this some alpha male will be up before dawn cutting his grass.  Now I am all about Billy Bob taking care of his lawn for his "Mrs" but some of us enjoy our Saturday morning beauty rest.  This afternoon, my son and I were talking about all the things we love that comes with spring and summer - the bar-b -ques, sitting on the back porch sipping iced tea, eating a fresh watermelon or a bowl of strawberries, and long sunshiny days!  This is not one of those places that is so far back in the woods that they have to "pump in sunshine".  We have it in abundance!  

          I remember days like this as a child.  When I was a young girl, one of my favorite places to go in the spring and summer was to my Mama Rich and Paw Paw's house. They lived in the rural mountainous area of north Alabama.  They came from a little community called Hokes Bluff.  My daddy was the star running back for Hokes Bluff High so the Rich's were well known in the community.  To this day folks still tell stories about "Speedy Rich".  Now honestly, I am not a country girl and have no desire to live there, but visiting my grandparents as a child was just better than hot butter on cornbread.   I was raised WAY down south in "L.A." (that's lower Alabama for you northerners), so where I came from everything was flat. Mama Rich's house, however, was at the foot of a small mountain. Imagine miles of green rolling hills, clear blue skies and a quaint small framed house at the foot of those hills. When we stepped out the back porch we had to step up because the foothill was right there at the back of the house.  It always reminded me of that story of the old woman that lived in a shoe.  Well,  Paw Paw was a farmer and had an entire foothill covered with the most amazing garden anyone could imagine. He grew squash, green beans, butter beans, peas, watermelons, okra, corn; he had plum trees and grapevines and everything in between! It is no wonder that my grandmother lived to be 97 years old with all that healthy diet, clean air and exercise that came from harvesting such a large crop each year. 

          Now one thing about the south is the deep religious tradition.  As Mama used to say I "cut my teeth" on the back of a church pew.  Maybe that is why adults sometimes walk around with a toothpick hanging out of their mouth - the taste of wood is like a pacifier!  Speaking of wood, the church that my grandparents attended was a little country church like you might see in the movies.  They had those old fashioned wood pews that very well could've been hand me downs from the courthouse or even the  jail house.. The book racks on the back of those pews had portable "air conditioners" - well not exactly.  They had "funeral fans" tucked into each rack.  Summertime in the south can be blazing hot and you would never be so unkind as to allow a visitor come into the church in the heat of the morning without something to cool their brow - especially if they were a "sinner".  Some of those fired up sermons would cause a mighty trail of sweat to pour.   You've never lived until you've sat on an old wooden pew in the summertime,  sweat pooling all around you (excuse me perspiration) and nothing but a funeral fan to cool you down.  My grandparents' church had about fifty or so members; sometimes much less in attendance. 

          One common characteristic of most country churches is how serious they take their "freedom of religion" rights. When I say freedom, I mean there was little structure or ritual to their services! If someone had something to say it really didn’t matter if the minister was at the height of his sermon and every “sinner” in the house was holding on to the pew for dear life.  (My other Paw Paw the preacher man used to call it "white knuckling" because they would hold on so tight!)  Well in a country church, when someone felt the “need” to speak up – they did. I remember one night when my grandmother was terribly annoyed with the fact that the door on the stage behind the preacher was open. First she whispered “shut that door”, still he continued to preach. Then she spoke softly, “shut that door”. She was totally ignored. Finally she stood up and shouted “I said shut that door!” What was he to do? She was ninety something years old. So he said “yes ma’am” turned around shut the door, turned back around and began to preach again. 

          You know I think being a part of the south with close family and friends is kind of like that old country church.  Sometimes there are things about each other that annoy "the snot out of us" as my grandmother used to say, and we might get a little loud in expressing our frustration, but there is always an attitude of respect.  Everyone says "yes ma'am or sir" to each other regardless of their ages and the elderly are treated kindly, children are loved on a lot and visitors are treated with true hospitality embraced as one of the family.  Like that country church we don't like our "doors" wide open for others to know our business but yet we are as transparent and honest as old Abe'.  It's just a simple way -  a good way.  So if you come visit and want to open the door on all our 'back rooms" we might let you and we might not, but be ready to hear just what we think about it; and when all the yelling is over, you'll get a smile and a hug and probably hear someone say "ya'll come back now" and you will know that all that has been said about southern hospitality is more than a myth it is a true way of life down south.