The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

there is a different kind of etiquette down here

The Hubs’ grandmother died a few months ago and she has been on my mind the last couple of days. Actually, the day of the funeral has been on my mind. Because she was older and ready to go, it was a bittersweet day that brought tears and smiles. Even now, thinking back, it makes me smile – but probably not for the reasons you think…

 It was in south Georgia at a Primitive Baptist Church. There are some experiences that are too…something… to put into words and a south Georgia visitation and funeral would be an example. Specifically, a rural south Georgia visitation and funeral.

I’m glad Emma and Ben have been able to see this way of living first hand. To describe it, makes it seem too eccentric to be real – particularly when you compare our list of priorities today. While I was giggling (to myself) at times, I was still comforted and comfortable just being there. Of course, that much streak-o-lean and ham hock can do funny things to your system.

I don’t know how my parents made me want to leave our little town and search for a different way of life, but they did. And I did. So, now, while I’ve not strayed too far off the path I grew up on, what was once commonplace to me and still, to a degree, what is “natural”, is also…well…absolutely hilarious. Not that my current town is some big metropolis, mind you, but when you go that far off any major highway, it’s just different.

One of my favorite memories from that day is how all the men from the funeral home wore matching ties…bearing scenes from a library. Books. Desks. Lamps. When my head finally hit the pillow that night, I was still trying to find the connection.

 We ate lunch at the church before the funeral and all the church ladies prepared the food. I overheard them talking about Mrs. Sheldon, who is 100 years old if she is a day. She brought a pot of peas – cream 40s – and they were to die for. That’s probably not the best choice of words, but getting back… One lady asked if they were good and another answered, “I don’t know, but she lives off 33 Hwy where her Mama picked peas for the Nelsons for 30 years. She should know what she’s doing.”  Sweet tea was dipped from a trash can, but even the FDA wouldn’t be able to find a germ in the vicinity – that was the sole purpose of that piece of equipment. We ate on paper plates – the divided kind. Glass plates would have been too heavy for that aged group. Plus, not everybody likes their pot liquor to run into their other food. It was all very practical.

Later that afternoon, I went to a local store to get a few things and a big, big, big lady with snuff seeping from the corner of her mouth said, “When I first seen you, I’s gon say you wadn’t from here, but then I seen how you blowed them gnats from the corner your mouth and I knowed you’d just come back for Sista Fay’s homecomin’.” Granny’s name was Fay and that lady’s voice was like music to my ears. Community is a serious term down here so while hardly anybody is considered a stranger, one can be spotted a mile away.

It is an entirely different way of living when compared to most people who live in the general direction of North and ya know what? It’s wonderful. These people work. And, they help each other. They don’t get wrapped up in much except farming, hunting, fishing, the weather, church and family. I just love it. They learn how to behave at an early age; they know what’s right and what’s wrong and don’t bother with calling it ‘etiquette’. It’s just what you do. And, anything you do that isn’t right will get you a visit from the preacher.

My parents went to the funeral, too. Mama and Daddy live right in the middle of all this and it gives my mother’s Ferragamos a straight fit. I think she withers a little with every subject/verb disagreement.

It wouldn’t bother me to live a little further off the beaten track. I’d have to learn how to bait my own hook and get right with chicken gizzards, but I have always wanted to know how to make lacey cornbread. It all just makes me smile and I couldn’t be happier about that.


10 responses to “there is a different kind of etiquette down here

  1. Jay Remer December 16, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Oh Kate. Thanks for a walk down memory lane and for your most important etiquette point – “it’s just what you do”. Blessing to you and your family. Jay

  2. Marti Tolleson December 16, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Can I hear a big AMEN from all you girls raised in the south & relate to this blog??!! And yes, “it’s just what you do”.

    • Stephanie Shaw McMillan December 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm

      I’ll give you an “AMEN”, Marti! I proud of my “raisin” and sometimes there is no better reason than “it’s just what you do”. I loved reading this.

  3. Skotti Frese December 16, 2010 at 9:56 am

    I’m just glad to hear your Mama is still wearing Ferragamos. Loved this post, Kate, it brought back a lot of long-repressed memories for many of us, I’m sure.

  4. Deborah McCall Pegues December 16, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Kate, I enjoyed this immensely! I especially enjoyed the manner in which the lady identified you as a southerner because of the way you “blew the gnats” off your face. What a reminder to what is important…community no matter where you live.

  5. Sweetie Berry December 21, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I’m from just such a space and when I had the chance, we took our young children back to that life from the city for five years of their childhood. There is value in knowing who you are and what your significance in a small town is…people are needed and intertwined there in ways no city can achieve. My claim to fame in Stephens, Arkansas our little town, was I drove one of them foreign Volvo’s but I could skin a deer as good as my husband and there was always pie on the counter. This said aloud on a radio show called Town Talk about six weeks after we moved home. Success.

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