It occurred to me recently that my family and I have been in North Carolina for just under four years and I think I am finally adjusting to life in my small town. Sitting in traffic the other day, I marveled at all of the other cars on the road, until I remembered that this amount of traffic in Ft. Lauderdale would have made me wonder where the Hell all the people were!
The adjustment process has not always been easy for me. For example, in Florida, all of the ground is sand. It's a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water so it stands to reason. And I could grow ANYTHING in sand; tropical plants and palms, African Bush daisies and Cuban buttercups. When we sold our townhouse and moved to NC, our real estate remarked that our house looked like all of the others but no one else had our curb appeal. And she was right. I assumed that it was because I was a SOUTHERNER, thus a natural born gardener, but it turns out I was wrong. I'm not good at gardening OR being Southern.
We moved here and settled on life in a small town in what is known as 'The Heart of the Triad.' We had no sooner moved in than our neighbors showed up in droves with food and baked goods, invitations to their homes and solicitations to their various churches. We were a bit surprised but absolutely charmed, and very grateful for their kindness. We still are. Of course these thoughtful gestures made me realize to my horro that I am not really a true Southerner. Not even relocating from the southernmost part of the United States allowed me to join their midst, because we had to move north to live in 'The South.' For example, we heard that one of the houses in our neighborhood had recentlsold, so we would be getting some new neighbors. Naturally, I wanted to get all neighborly and take them some yummy baked goods. I mentioned my intentions to hubby Jerry and he was in agreement, which is a blessing since he is a wonderful cook and I, well, it's just not a talent I possess. Imagine my horror when Jerry showed up from the store, ready to meet the new neighbors with a store-bought lemon bundt cake from the day-old bin at Food Lion!!
Please tell me that you have something better to offer our new neighbors. This here is the SOUTH, Jerry. Day old bundt cake ain't gonna cut it!
"No. It's still soft. It'll cut fine. It'll be fine. Really."
It'll be fine IF the new neighbors relocated here from New Jersey, but if they are from anywhere near the Mason-Dixon line, we're going to be the laughingstock of North Carolina. Assuming we're not already, which I think we are.
That notwithstanding, we marched over to the new place, like some perverse General Sherman (redundant!) burning a swath to the coast. Of course the new neighbors were from Georgia or Tennessee so they took one look at our stale-ass bundt cake and immediately pegged us for freaks. Yankee Freaks!!! Okay. I guess they were smarter than I thought.
So I spent all of our money on every Paula Deen cookbook in existence and used all of our food for casseroles. I made casseroles for births, deaths, and everything in between. I made dishes with hot peppers and peppy dishes for hot flashes. I almost felt sorry for Jerry when he came home one night and said "Ummmm....something smells wonderful! What's for dinner?"
"What?! Something smells heavenly!"
Yes, and if you touch it, I'll send you to Heaven. I am prepared for anything; pregnancy, childbirth, death, graduation, divorces, and menopause. And whatever our neighbors come up with, I have a casserole for it. So don't touch anything in the freezer. I don't have anything prepared for killing your own spouse!
Anyway, I felt that I had gotten a handle on the whole greet-your-neighbors-with-a-dish thing, until I met someone who I just couldn't get a handle on. Strangely, all of my neighbors knew him. In fact, everyone in town knew him except me, and I vowed to find my way into his inner sanctum.
His name was Mamanem.
He was a very popular sort. I assumed he was the mayor or something because his name to everyone in town, in fact, in the entire state. I first became familiar with him by talking to the people I met....
"We're busy tonight. Gonna go see Mamanem."
And then, " We all gone go to church this Sunday with Mamanem. We'll see you later."
It hit me that Mamanem was a non-denominationalChristianBaptistMethodistMoravianLutheranHolyroller. In fact, he attended every church in town except for the little Episcopal church around the corner that Jerry and I attend. I know he didn't go to our church because I excitedly asked one of our fellow parishioners, Is Mamanem here today?
"No, Mamanem's at the the Baptist church, but thanks for askin'!"
Uh, sure. Give Mamanem my best regards.
Enlightenment came in the form of a rather glaring miscommunication, well, no, just a giant gaffe. I was talking to one of my neighbors one day and after she mentioned Mamanem, I indicated that I would surely love to meet the amazing and wildly popular Mamanem. She looked puzzled.
"Y'all met Mamanem at little Lucy Rae's birthday party. 'Member?"
Jerry flashed me a warning look. You know, the one that means 'shut up' and the one that I rarely heed? Anyway, this time, I obeyed. Oh yes, I 'member now. Ha ha....
Jerry leaned over and whispered, "He isn't a HE. It's MAMA AND THEM, spoken in deep Southern.
Oh Lord. Actually, no, OOOH LAWD! I could hardly call myself a true Southerner and not be acquainted with Mamanem. How could I have missed that?! Most of my ancestors come from the Deep South, but somehow I missed the boat. Lawd, bless my heart!
So here I am, desperate to get in touch with my Southern roots, and unfortunately, the ones in my hair don't count. My summer reading list now consists of everything ever written by Paula Deen, Ernest Matthew Mickler's 'White Trash Cookin' and the John Deere catalog. I have given up Chardonnay for Mint Juleps, and I am trying my hand at canning and cooking.
If I'm successful, y'all come on over for supper. Bring y'all's Mamanem!