Dedicated to the Memory of
Marta Anne Martin
Marta Martin of Charleston was a beloved friend, membership chair, editor, and group moderator of Southern Humorists. She was a woman of many talents, writing humor being just one of them. Marta completed her final writing assignment on this earth and has been called to a higher position where there are no more deadlines to meet. She is sadly missed by all of us who enjoyed her wonderful sense of humor and whose lives were enriched through knowing her.
Slipping Into Southern
I don't recall the exact moment I became a Southerner though my older sister will tell you that my brother and I were Southerners at birth. We were born in Pittsburgh. Southern Pennsylvania, of course. It might help if you knew my life was a study in contrasts. I married a Southerner named Grant. I can still see my Uncle Miles rolling his eyes at the irony.
My brother left home soon after college graduation and found what made him comfortable----a pair of cowboy boots, a Tanya Tucker cassette and a job coaching college football.
All my life I wanted to go to Clemson. It was simply an urge. My mother forbade me to go so far from home. Instead I wound up at a small private school in Ohio. I began working country radio my sophomore year of college. Callers on the request line said, "Where are you from? Arkansas?" Maybe I was born with a drawl.
My sister, meanwhile, took cooking classes and learned to make delicate swans out of puff pastry. She filled them with crabmeat. I never did understand all the formality in her life. Twenty some years later we still reside on opposite ends of the spectrum and the Mason-Dixon line. She says, "po-tah-toe" and I say "grits".
Still, it goes without saying that I learned the most from a true Southerner; that bastard I married. I can remember being tickled to hear him say the name of the fast food restaurant where I had worked as a teenager. "You worked for Wanky's?"
"You mean Winky's."
"What'd I say?" he replied, eyes twinkling. Oh, that Southern charm.
Because of him I learned to make Dirty Rice, Pralines, Etouffe, Gumbo and Beignets. His family was entrenched so deep in the south that their thick drawls could barely wrap themselves around the "R" in my name. From these people I learned much.
Beaucoup. You should go to Target. They're having beaucoup sales right now. It became déclassé to say many or "a lot". Why not speak French if you can?
Reckon. My elderly mother, born in Croatia, battling an organic brain disorder, cocked her head at me and said, "Vat is reckon?" She began tuning me out when I came home to visit her. I realize now we were no longer speaking the same language in more ways than one.
Grant also taught me the fine art of might-could and might-should. Just in case one of those words wasn't enough, why not use both? "We might-could make the 7 o'clock movie if we left now." Or "You might-should take your jacket. It's supposed to get cold."
Then there are those fine expressions you use when you just don't know what else to say. They're very handy.
"Ell, I'll be." That should be WELL, I'll be--but after a while that old W just drops off. You should use it when the course of events surprises you. Events that are unfortunate and leave you at a loss for words will require a blessing. Bless your heart! Oh, bless his heart. When the victims of sad or unfortunate events are very young or small, we go one better. "Ah, love its' heart!" It doesn't matter that the gender of the baby has well been determined by its' birth. You will love ITS' heart until he or she walks and talks.
Another expression I have fondly made my own is "Have at it" ...it sorta means go ahead you dumbass-it don't matter how many times I've said no-you're gonna do it anyway. Or quite simply, "be my guest". Can I try out your new chainsaw? Have at it.
This year marks my 23rd year as a Southerner. Three of my children are natives. I talked with a college friend last week who shrieked with laughter when I called. "You are such a hick," he said. This morning I listened to a phone message I left a colleague at work. He's right. I sound like one of those damn Hee Haw Honeys. Ell, I'll be!