Boiled Peanuts and ‘Bless Her Heart’ – Memorial Day Weekend in the South


    My husband and I have a cross-cultural marriage. I come from northern stock with roots going back to the Mayflower and my husband is a direct descendant of the family of Robert E. Lee. My husband is the only one in his family to marry north of the Mason-Dixon line; I am the only one in my family to marry south of the Mason-Dixon line. We have communicated across the boundaries of family and culture our entire married life. 

My parents were born in Massachusetts – home to the Boston Red Sox, clam chowder and the Kennedy clan. My husband is from the land of boiled peanuts, ‘Bless her heart!’ and the Confederate flag. One of my mother-in-law’s favorite sayings is “Save your confederate dollars boys! The South’s gonna rise again!” In my husband’s family it is not called the “Civil War”; it is called the “War of Northern Aggression”.

And this weekend we were in his territory, in his land, where the only thing that out rivals the friendliness is the food: biscuits and gravy, barbecue and grits.

It was a great weekend! Flying into Atlanta on Thursday night, we went from the cold and drizzle of Boston to a warm humidity. We were met with the hospitality of Cliff’s youngest brother and family and the next day we made the trip to the mountains of Georgia where my husband’s ‘kin’ have settled for the summer months, leaving the plant-wilting sun of Florida to work its warmth and sunburn on northern visitors.

Windy roads and drop dead views (I am being literal – you would drop dead if you fell over the railing) of the Smoky Mountain range was our terrain for the weekend. We sat on porches overlooking mountain upon mountain, drank sweet tea, picnicked by a river and took hikes around a lake.

We experienced fried green tomatoes,sweet peach tea, fried pickles, pecan toffee bars, smiles at every turn, and a small Baptist church where the preacher came off the platform to dialogue with the congregation. Quick smiles, friendly ‘hello’s’ and waves every time we drove by had us in a state of perpetual smiles. We couldn’t help it. It was so friendly; it felt so foreign. My youngest daughter, an extrovert who loves people and conversation, decided within minutes that she belongs in the south.

We heard about private schools and government schools and thanked God many times that we had a rental car and not our little PT Cruiser that boasts Massachusetts license plates. We were in a place where there was little separation between church and state and the Pledge of Allegiance along with the “Star Spangled Banner” started off the church service as a way to remember on this Memorial Day Weekend.

It was as if we were in a different country; a different world. The only thing that seemed to bind this rural area of Georgia with Massachusetts was the word ‘united’ in United States. It was quite remarkable.

I live in an area that can be somewhat arrogant. Boston and New York are both cities that boast education and enlightenment. Both these cities have been known to assume ignorance of someone who speaks with a southern accent as well as to consider anyone other than those whose ideology lies at the far end of left to be “ridiculously” conservative.  If someone expresses a different opinion, the general thought can come across as “Well you’re just out of touch”. But I had to ask myself during this trip “Who’s out of touch with whom?” The farmer, industrial engineer or retired veteran  in rural Georgia has as much right to an opinion of what will benefit them as the New Yorker or Bostonian.  The mistake both can make is that the other’s respective opinions, perspective and reality are not important.

And now we’re back – with a bit more lard in our systems and photographs to remind us of a great weekend. A weekend of communicating across boundaries and cultures over sweet tea and biscuits with a side dish of ‘bless her heart’.

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My “morning coffee” view! Rest for the soul.

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A local coffee shop has the New York Times delivered for customers and puts the names of those who subscribe at the top pf the paper. They come pick it up and cross their names off a list. Seems not many subscribe…..

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A shelf of old spices and bottles at a local flea market.

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Tallulah Point offered a perfect spot to look over Tallulah Gorge.

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View from above Tallulah Gorge

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Mountains upon mountains – a view off the balcony20120529-153514.jpg

12 thoughts on “Boiled Peanuts and ‘Bless Her Heart’ – Memorial Day Weekend in the South

  1. Hmm, interesting post. MLB is from Alabama, and I’m from Nebraska. We’re pretty friendly in Nebraska as well. But we live in California, which is different from both the midwest and the south. Loved the post.

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    1. I head to Nebraska later this month to do a training….will have to do a comparison :) And you’re so right – California can’t be compared. We spent a fair amount of time in CA when we lived in Phoenix and my son is moving there today! What is amazing to me is that we have this country where all these states are so different they could be their own countries. Boggles the mind! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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  2. Marilyn, I’m trying really hard to think of an un-complimentary “bless your heart.” ‘”She’s gained weight, bless her heart” or “you got caught for speeding, bless your heart” is more like “I’m so sorry she gained weight, bless her heart.” Or, “Horrors, you got caught for speeding, bless your heart.” I think the use of “bless your heart” comes more as a feeling of understanding or empathy. Anyhow, honey you do a good job, bless your heart. Now that’s straight from my heart.

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    1. Oh I loved this so much!! Especially the last sentence :) And you’re right, it does have that strong empathy factor. Anyway – you may be interested to know that I went on to Emory University’s website yesterday to look for jobs in Atlanta…:) I think I would really like living there! And with Addletons around the corner, what’s not to love? Do you remember when Nancy and I were 11 and 12 and we used to talk about how we were going to go to Emory University and wear mini skirts?

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      1. I don’t remember those dreams you and Nancy had, but not surprising at all. Another southern remark comes to mind, “Lord have mercy.” Now wouldn’t that be just great to have the Gardners in the south!! We will await any news that brings this closer to reality. Bless your heart.

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  3. I too had a North-South marriage, I was the one from the North, the one with the funny accent, from the place where there were mountains and where you didn’t have to phone before calling on someone and being asked to “Come awa ben!”

    (Very recently as the candidates for a partnership in business with one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs were travelling to Edinburgh for an assignment, one of the Southerners questioned as to whether they understood English in Scotland!)

    Amazingly in our past ten days or so of “summer”, it was the North of Scotland that managed the best temperatures and longest hours of sunshine.

    Vive la difference!

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    1. I am so happy to hear about other countries with a “North/South” divide Wilma! I think back to what Punjabis thought about Sindhis and numerous other examples of cultural divides within countries. This is a wonderful example and I love that the North of Scotland beats all with the weather! Vive la difference is right on!

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  4. Growing up in Boston I actually believed the PR… that Boston was the “Hub of the Universe.” Not so. Now when folks in SC ask, “Are you from around here?” My response is, “No. But I got here as soon as I could.” There’s no going back for me.

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    1. I love this. And I love how readers are letting me know where they are from and what it feels like. My daughter is plotting how she can move….and I may not be far behind!

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  5. Ah I’ve so had your experience in reverse. Born and raised in the south I moved to Boston for 3 years. People would look at me like I had 2 heads as soon as I started talking. For your information “Well bless your heart” is a very handy term and is the southern equivalent of “you’re out of touch”. :)

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    1. I love this! I did know that the way my relatives use “Bless your heart” is not always complimentary “She’s gotten so fat! Bless her heart!” I know you will understand it when I say “We need a little southern up here!” it’s a bit depressing being back. Other places I’ve lived are much quicker to both smile and get involved with strangers. This area just can’t seem to do that….

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      1. Yep, there is a bit of hospitality lack up there in the cold north. Another saying we have here is “strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.” And thus we feel there is nothing odd about talking to someone as if you’ve known them for ages.

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