I’m having one of those days that I can write about a hundred 1 liner funny Facebook posts, but when I start to flesh them out I run into a problem. They either get too serious, could be taken as offensive, or my good little southern mama might disown me. Most of the really funny one’s fall under the last category. In you’re from the South, and your mama is still living, then every woman (even if you’re over 40 and a mama yourself) knows that when your mama ain’t happy then ain’t nooo body happy. Trust me- I still strive to make my mama happy. My mama’s dispensing guilt gene is unparalleled. She can dispense guilt with just a glance -she doesn’t even require speaking. I think there’s a super power in there somewhere and I just pray mine develops.
What’s funny about my mama is her super power can cross generations. My parasites are much more scared of disappointing “NA NA” they they have ever been of me. They play a good game of pretending to be scared of me, but the reality in this family is that NA NA holds all the cards! I spend most of my time just trying to keep them fed, bathed, in clean cloths, continuing good grades, driving to practices, trying to keep them out of prison, and avoiding letting them kill themselves with stupid behavior (Just the later is a full time job as they get older). NA NA on the other hand actually has the patience and time to teach them respect for themselves and others. I used to feel a little jealous, but then I realized there is something comforting when my daughter comes out and says “Oh no- I can’t wear that- NA NA would have a heart attack right then and there” or the boys inform me “I need a suit coat and a tie for that wedding or funeral or NA NA will disown me” It sure does make my life easier!
As I look back over my life now I am starting to understand many things in my upbringing and why my children fear and respect NA NA so much.
Now part of being really (and I mean REALLY) Southern is growing up in extremely large extended families. Now in the south related can mean anywhere from 1st cousin to 27th cousin or 1st cousin 26th removed for those from other parts. We grow up playing with, spending time at family reunions and church with these people regularly. These are all considered family and if your mama is from the south she can tell ya every generation. Hell- I’ve got some my mama can tell me how I’m related to them twice on two different sides in generations that are 7 apart. A southern mama’s memory is long and very very scary! That’s why southern women spend so much time at the funeral home and making dinners- they are related to everyone.
Because of this closeness to family, most of us don’t move real far. When I grew up I lived next to my grandparents and the very next house up was my great grand parents. Now most think that’s CRAZY, but in the south it’s completely normal and sometimes even expected. Believe it or not- almost all of my friends lived in very similar situations. If it wasn’t next door it was no more than 1/2 a mile away from their grandparents. My great grandparents got me off the bus. I spent every afternoon with them hearing stories and learning all sorts of things. I can tell you county and family history now with the best of them. I can wash cloths in a wash tub, prepare a chicken from alive to the table, grow vegetables, cook fried okra, and mend a shirt. I refuse to do any of these things, but by-god I’m southern and I can! We’ve been doing that “It takes a village” thing for generations and we take it seriously!
There’s an old saying that you should give your children roots so they know where they come from and wings so they are confident enough to fly away from the nest. Our mothers give us both, but due to the guilt super power our mothers possess and being surrounded by family our roots stretch- oh 27 generations deep. Our wings are large and they usually let us fly away for a little while or roughly until our own little birds start to fill up our own nest and then amazingly we start looking at houses that are back close to mama. Our wings are strong, but getting roots like that out of the ground just requires more strength than Hercules much less our poor little wings. The roots seem to get longer once we have our own smaller birds in tow. Some do pull it off, but don’t be fooled- those children of southern mama’s still call almost every day.
I am completely southern so as usual when the first parasite began to show in my belly the immediate draw home began. I had spent 30 years trying to get away, but there I was 8 months pregnant and waddling moving in next door. The draw home was powerful. I felt like Odysseus listened to the Sirens song. I had no idea what this sudden urge for my mama and my family land was all about or even who I was anymore. I felt like Scarlet saying “I know- I’ll go home to the red earth of Tara” Who was I? What strong woman does this anymore? Why do I not want to be on my own? Do I think I am not capable? Am I weak?
As I pondered these questions I looked around and thought about all the things I learned in my grandmothers and great grand mothers house’s and smiled. I had learned respect for my elders, respect for myself, respect for other people, love of family, to relax and see the comedy and beauty of life, and that roots are good and powerful. The largest and strongest tree’s have the deepest roots. I wasn’t weak I came from something stronger than myself. I came from a huge strong tree and I was about to help it form new branches and those branches spirits needed to be fed in order for them to develop and be strong. I couldn’t nor did I want to do it alone. The parasites needed a NA NA.
There’s an old saying in the south when you are doing something your ancestors wouldn’t approve of “your granny (or grandfather) is rolling over in their graves” I have done a lot in my life to make my granny roll over in her grave, but bringing the parasites home to raise I’m pretty sure made her smirk and dance a little jig. I just hope the Red Earth of Tara and Na Na can help me keep them from making my granny do somersaults. 🙂
As I’ve said many times- I should not be allowed to watch the news!! It is a confusing and disturbing time of day for me. Today I saw a an 18 year old teenage girl in New Jersey sue her parents to support her because she didn’t want to live by their rules. Now I live in the South and I’ve watched Jersey Shore, but I truly thought those producers sure are good. There could not possibly be that many people that self absorbed – Well – I stand corrected. I have some great friends who are from Jersey and they don’t exhibit this trait, but hell they also moved to the south. Now- I also saw a New Jersey judge throw the case out so my faith has been semi restored
I’m by no means saying my family is perfect. Insanity comes in a takes a long slow stroll through periodically just for fun, but I was taught to respect my elders even if I didn’t want too. The reasons are many but her are a few:
1) They hold all the money so they hold all the cards
I thought I was all grown up about the same age and informed my parents I was leaving. My daddy being the unreasonable man he was promptly went in my room, put my suitcase on the bed, sat down and said “Pack” Now as I’ve told you my dad and I can both be stubborn so I obliged his request. As I folded my first shirt he asked “Did you buy that or did your mom?” I replied “Mom” He said “Put it back- you can take anything that you bought” This exercise was repeated through my entire wardrobe. Needless to say after I finished packing my 3 pair of underwear and one pair of jeans I decided to stay. Pride always cometh before the fall they say- well I fell off the cliff.
2) Youth and Enthusiasm will lose to Age and Treachery every time
When your young you always hear about this stuff called wisdom. You think it’s only a scam that old people say to feel better about getting the wrinkles. As I age I’m realizing there might be something to this thing. Wisdom isn’t really the ability to be wise, scholarly knowledge, or even good judgement. Wisdom is the ability to out maneuver your off spring. The parasites which you carried for 9 months, you fed, you rocked, you changed, you sang to etc etc etc and in general accomplished keeping alive will soon TURN ON YOU! They will think you are now the dumbest human alive. I am not insulted by this phenomena. It actually brings out the evil in me. I remember starting in the business world in my 20’s and having “men” underestimate me and me feeling the evil Grinch smirk form on my face- I get the same reaction now with my teenagers. I now just sit around and formulate plans. My favorite so far – If you get in trouble in any way during middle school- I will come eat lunch with you for a week. I will make a big scene about how cute my babies are and in general embarrass you to death. Two though middle school and no issue’s yet. Why are you crying mama cuz treachery is fun!!
3) Guilt is a powerful thing
My parents and I learned from the VERY best the ability to dispense quilt and it’s power to motivate and manipulate. Now over the years manipulate has taken on an evil context and I don’t understand why. We all manipulate. When we talk our spouse into watching the chic flick instead of the blow em up movie for a little nooky- that’s manipulation. Why is it evil to use it on our children? My Great Granny was the QUEEN!! She demanded command performances for holidays. It went something like this “We WILL be having lunch on Thanksgiving day and you will be there, unless you seem to think you have something more important to do than your family?” These could only be considered optional, at your own guilt free risk. The most powerful guilt manipulation words of all time are “We are disappointed in you” followed up with “if we didn’t know what you were capable of it would be ok” Now I always knew and understood exactly what they were doing and swore I would NEVER parent like them. Guess what I said to my eldest 3 days ago who is failing his first subject ever- yep – word for word! Amazingly it still seems to work.
Our families teach us many things as we grow. We learn respect. We learn to deal with people we don’t like or even understand. We learn to let arguments go because they’re not going anywhere anyway. We learn wisdom, treachery, and manipulation techniques. We learn the roots to keep us grounded and that we really need our wings to sprout so we can get the hell out for a while before we kill each other.
We all from time to time wish we could return or at least exchange a family member or two. Thankfully God made family with a no replacement policy cuz I’m pretty sure I would of replaced all of them by now at least once. Since it’s not an option I guess I’ll just learn and teach the lesson that many a generation have been passing down on to me- unconditional love. If ya can’t beat em might as well join em- and hey- the treachery part is fun!!