The story below is an excerpt from our July/August 2015 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, view our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app!
I am a southerner, born and bred. My family has called Virginia home since before the Revolutionary War and we are all quite pleased to still be here. While some may think the hundreds of years we have spent living here is my family’s way of establishing heritage, the truth of the matter is decidedly less noble.
My ancestors either owed money to, or had sorely disappointed, most of Europe’s population. Hopping a leaky boat to the New World was one of the better options available to them. After that shaky, not-exactly-the-love-boat ride across the Atlantic so many years ago, my people swore that they would never endure another move. Where are we? Virginia? This will do. Mama put the kettle on, we are home.
So we are well and truly Southern. To be Southern is to be naturally comfortable with unconventional behavior, particularly among your friends and family. My own family tree is festooned with eccentrics like Christmas trees bear lights. I am proud of my family, and would like to think that having a liberal sprinkling of peculiar folk around during my formative years taught me some serious coping skills that I put to good use later in life.
For a taste of my family’s own slice of weird, I give you this story. I had a great-aunt Gertie who didn’t care much for people. People should not feel unfairly excluded because truth be told; she didn’t care much for anything. Gertie was well known around the region as a crotchety old girl.
Gertie lived with her younger sister Alma who was kindness personified. She so enjoyed the company of people. Actually Alma had two great loves, people and pie. If someone came to visit and brought a peach pie, Alma was over the moon with happiness.
Gertie’s approach to the Sunday afternoon visit – a Southern tradition of calling on people after church and Sunday lunch – was diametrically opposed to Alma’s. When Gertie heard a knock on the door, she threw down whatever she was working on and dashed out to the vegetable garden. There she would stand; arms stiff out to her sides and head lolling, pretending to be a scarecrow until the visitors left. This was her response no matter what time of year it was, no matter the weather.