My mom is a good ol’ Southern gal, born and raised. Born in Mississippi, raised in Tennessee. Mind you, she’s been out of the South for about 40 years or so, but she still sounds every bit like she’s just here (the Midwest) visiting. You know what they say – “you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl”. They were talking about my mom.
Her stature is small, but her personality is mighty. Pretty sure this is where I get it from (on both counts). Like every good and true Southerner, she’s still a little bitter that the confederacy lost. But don’t let the accent fool you. I’ve seen her go toe to toe (in Mexico) with a 6’5”+/- Canadian man who had the audacity to bash Americans. She has a no-nonsense, straight-shooter approach to many things that I find very endearing.
One of the reasons why I have dedicated an entire section of this blog to “My Southern Momma” is because there are so many things she does and says that just deserve their own attention. She and her little ways are so funny and cute to me on many levels. And I have perfected my imitation of her accent – pretty proud of it if I do say so myself.
I will admit, more than a time or two someone has commented on ‘my Southern twang when I tawk’. I say it comes from years of living with her. If I am around anyone with a thick Southern drawl for any length of time, mine comes out full force. (Like Madonna’s fake British accent that only comes out when she wants to sound sophisticated…except mine isn’t fake, and it shore as hail don’t sound sophisticated – but I love it, it‘s a part of me, just as she is).
Since you have to read this and not hear it, I need to give a phonetic breakdown of some general words and how different they sound when my mom says them. The basic theory is that the syllables get stretched out and added onto, or in-fact, just the opposite. It depends on the word.
Examples as follows, refer back to it as needed:
Actual word What it sounds like when my mom says it
Damn/Damned/Damn It Day-um/Day-umd/Daymit
Well Wail (or whale would work here as well)
Baby Baybee (same but with drawn-out “i” sound as well)
*Totally unintended use of those particular words in that particular order, which might have a hidden meaning, but I’m leaving it as is. I’ll talk about that in therapy years from now.
Anyway – a few years ago, I was going through the first round of separation/divorce proceedings with my then husband. I say first round because we went through a nasty, ugly round a few years back, and somehow amazingly reconciled, stayed together a few more years, then finally had to call it. Second and final time was quite amicable. THIS time was brutal, to say the very least.
My heart was heavy and I was a big ball of stress and nerves – unable to eat, sleep, concentrate, breathe, etc. I was at work one day – and I mean that’s it, I was just “there”…that was all I could manage – and was just having “a moment”. A thank-God-I-sit-in-the-corner-so-no-one-can-see-me-sobbing…moment. And I needed my mommy (who lives five hours away).
I called her and she knew instantly that something was wrong – an innate “mom thing”, but her radar is way finer tuned than most. Freaks me out half the time, to be honest. I was sniveling like an idiot, breathing/sobbing spastically, taking 15 tiny breaths in 5 seconds because I can’t catch ONE – all the while trying to talk and explain what had me so upset.
Now…my mom is very sympathetic and coddling when I am THIS upset – at first. Another great thing about my mom is that if someone has done her baby wrong, she will get on an anti-whoever/whatever bandwagon like none you’ve ever seen. And it matters not who you are. It also does not matter if I am right or wrong at the time. If I am that upset, she is on my side at that moment. She waits until I’ve settled down to remind me that I might be wrong. And she always – without fail – eventually tells me “baybee, you need to stop bein’ so sad and upset and get pissed, dammit!”
I was still in full-on meltdown mode when she asked (knowing me) what I’d had to eat that day. It went a little something like this:
Mom: “Jeet anything yet this mornin?”
Me: “No…”(sniffle, sob, etc)
Me: “Mom, I just can’t – I can’t even think about eating, I’m too upset, I just can’t do it…”
Mom: “Wail ya kaint do that, baybee, yer gonna hafta eat somethin’ before ya make yerself seeick…even if it’s just peanuts and a Coke…I mean, sheeit…”
Me: (Abrupt pause in my sniveling) – “…what? Did you just say peanuts and a Coke? …and then ‘shit’?”
Mom: “Wail, you know what I mean…ya gotta have somethin’!”
And in an instant, I went from sobbing hysterically to laughing my A$$ off. Then she started giggling. And the more she tried to defend herself, the harder I laughed. #1 – I hadn’t drank a “Coke” in years. But then I remembered that in the South, almost any beverage is “a Coke” (ie. “y’all want a Coke?” “sure” “what kind?” “root beer”) #2 – Why THAT combo? Why THAT specific nut and THAT specific drink? I could throw out the same advice to someone and never in a million would I come up with THAT particular combo. My state of mind, combined with her saying it, and THE WAY she said it (like that was the most logical nutrition she could recommend for someone who just can’t eat) sent me into a spiral of gut-busting, deep belly laughter – which was exactly what I needed. She’s so stinkin’ cute.
The moral of this story is: Moms rock – especially mine. There is no greater earthly power than that of a mom. And as they say in the South: “wail…bless their little ol’ hearts” …all of them.