I walked into the office, said to the first two employees I saw, two men who’ve come through this 6-month program to live a sober life and know my craziness quite well, “Let’s all talk with a Southern accent today”. They smiled and paid me no never mind.
We live almost as far south as one can go in our country, down near the tip of Florida but this is not the South. The accents here are more likely to be from New York and New Jersey or Boston or Haiti or a variety of Latin countries. Nary a ya’ll in ear shot let alone for a poor soul to even know what a yonder is.
Most of my growing up years were lived in Oklahoma and Arkansas, a few years in Louisiana where you really hear some accents. I was raised with words like reckon and ice box (though we never had an ice box) and drawers referred to under garments than to a piece of furniture.
Some days I miss those words. I miss those times when pop came in bottles and soda was in a box kept in our ice box. I don’t miss the times nearly as much as I miss the people and that is the connection I have to these words.
I was 17 and living with a family from church while I finished my last semester of High School. I was living in this South, Florida, the one that has long become home to me. The woman in this family informed me they didn’t have an ice box but a refrigerator. Yeah, so did we. We still called it an ice box. Your point?
Words like darn and gosh were akin to cuss words in our house. We were more likely to hear mama say sugar foot while daddy favored fiddlesticks.
Summers I spent at Granny’s and being as how she never drove, EVER, the church van would pick her up for services. Every week they’d drop her off and say, see you Sunday or see you Wednesday and she replied, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise” with a sly grin on her face.
We are in Tennessee this week for a conference and were surrounded by that familiar accent, a bit thicker in these parts than where my kin folk were raised. I’ve heard it start to slip from my tongue a time or two, my first language really.
Sweet tea is in abundance just like biscuits and gravy. The waitress calls everyone honey or sugar and no one is offended.
It must come with age. This clinging to things that bind us as a people. My kin from the sort of South, because Arkansas isn’t really the south, didn’t have that deep drawl that could make the name Nell into two syllables. But we have the language that seems to sweep through that part of this diverse nation. So I hold to these words as if I’m holding to Granny and mama and I hear Grandpa saying ‘gall durn it’ when talking football, the sport of the south. I pull out “well, bless your heart” which must be said slowly, each single word separated and with a hard R in heart. I reckon I always will, Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.