I identify strongly as a Southerner. It’s not a choice. There’s no denying it, really, when I wallered on the floor as a toddler. If my mother was not going to do a thing right now, she would do it d’reckly. When I was playing with, instead of eating, my food, I was told to quit messin’ and gomming. (I don’t even know.) The exclamation of choice in the adult conversation around me was “Well, I declare!” The middle-of-the-day meal was dinner and we wiped the table after it with a rag. We never had a pop. We had a coke, no matter what brand it was. I had a housecoat; not a robe. Crappie, the best of the best fish to catch at Hollis’s Lake, rhymes with copy; not with happy. (And, by the way, when fishing, I was watching my bobber.) I really didn’t know what a utility room was until I was an adult. It was the washroom. I had wonderful fluffy aunts (Aunt Lizzie and Aunt Bertie Mae) and the word aunt rhymed with paint; not rant and surely not font.
I remember “Cousin Cliff” and I remember southern advertising jingles like
Jack’s hamburgers for 15 cents are so good, good, good…. You’ll go back, back, back to Jack, Jack, Jack’s… For more, more, more.
I was on the five o’clock news on Birmingham’s channel 13 live from Hibbett’s in January, 1978 purchasing my Bama National Championship jersey, even as the title was being hotly contested.
I like mah-naise on my sandwich and I push a buggy at the store. I climbed Mimosa trees as a kid and caught lightning bugs (not fireflies) and tied a string on a June bug’s leg for hours of flying fun. I had several memorable whippins with a hick’ry. Sometimes, my mother would even make me go out and find the switch, myself. (Now there was a lot of thinking going on around those bushes.)
And never were there days as purely southern as the very rare snow day. First off, the weather-man (not meteorologist) never got it right in Alabama about snow, so there were many very disappointing awakenings on Lynn Dale Lane. But, when the world was white, after lots of excited shrieks, we scraped for snow cream first, and then we donned layers and layers of mis-matched pajamas, topped with a layer or two of Buster Brown snap sweaters, and a coat from the next kid up. (It had to be big by then.) Then three pairs of socks and rain boots (never galoshes) if we had them, or bread bags tied around our tennis shoes. Metal trash can lids down the back hill between the house and the garden were the best! On rare occasions, we even got snowed in, and couldn’t make it to Adamsville for church, so we put on all those layers and we walked a couple of miles down the mountain to Sandusky, where Dan Jenkins or, later, brother Jarrett, was preaching. Those memories, before live-streaming, (or any of the conveniences and conflicts that have come with the internet) are pretty wonderful.
There were some very good things about Southern living that have left vestiges (remnants) for my life in Alabama still today. People did not pass people who had flat tires or over-heated radiators. People stopped to help. People in the store let me bring things home to try on before paying. “Just bring it back next time you’re in town.” People took up collections for neighbors—door-to-door— when they were sick or had lost a loved one. People were not afraid to answer the door and many people routinely left their doors unlocked. People called on neighbors—not door dash— when they were missing an ingredient. People scrunched up and made pallets when relatives came for extended visits and they had fun doing it. Mothers sewed and baked and were not afraid for their kids to walk home from the bus stop alone. Small-town kids could walk to the grocery store or up-town to the square and bring home the necessities without even having any money. The clerk knew and trusted the family to make it good on the first of the month, when billed.
Trust is the thing. It’s so important for making life work together. It’s essential for good marriage, for good neighborhoods and for good business— and it’s making a quick exit from our communities.
When we turn from the ultimate trust—trust in God—we become untrustworthy (and untrusting) toward our fellowmen. We are like the Jews to whom Jeremiah wrote in 9:4-6:
Take ye heed every one of his neighbor,
and trust ye not in any brother:
for every brother will utterly supplant,
and every neighbor will walk with slanders.
And they will deceive every one his neighbour,
and will not speak the truth:
they have taught their tongue to speak lies,
and weary themselves to commit iniquity.
Thine habitation is in the midst of deceit;
through deceit they refuse to know me, saith the Lord.
And then we slowly lose, not just the goodness of community, but the simple joys of community living. There are many fun things I got to do, when growing up, that my grandkids will not experience because of eroded trust.
I know these are mostly idle musings of a nostalgic grandmother. I know, too, that all good things must come to an end. Every society in history, left unconquered by enemies, has lost its way, and eventually crumbled from within. Though I am unable to prevent the demise of wholesome adherence to principles of integrity that engender trust in my country or even my community, I am able to BE trustworthy. I am able to be helpful to elderly Mr. Jimmie, across the street. I am able to take bread to neighbors and to check on them when something seems off. I am able to have people in my home for soup and to take soup to others who are sick or lonely. Most importantly, I can still say, “Would you study the Bible with me?” as I am praying for some soul that needs so badly to trust in the One who is the essence of integrity. The gospel is the truth that grows integrity in the lives of the people around me. It is the truth that transports us, rather quickly, from a place that has little trust left, to a place where there is no lack of trust, ever again. I want to be the spiritual remnant that is given the new order of trust spoken of by Zephaniah in 3:12,13. Faith in God changes everything and gives us hope for a home where trust is never eroded. May I share the “trust” that takes away fear.
I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people,
and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.
The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies;
neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth:
for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.