I've never lived in the American South, and have visited only as far east as Tyler, Texas. But my mother carried her North Carolina accent and mannerisms with her throughout her life, even after living nearly fifty years in accent-neutral Arizona.
Now that I live in the upper Midwest, I especially appreciate the charm and grace of my friends who hail from the states below the Mason-Dixon line. Also, I'm grateful there's a Cracker Barrel close by for when I need a fried okra fix.
Three summers ago, Mom died suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly at age 74. Our relationship was stormy and complex, difficult on both sides. But I always respected the strong stand she took against a certain unsavory thing the South is known for: racism.
Mom grew up Southern Baptist, but converted to Catholicism at 18. She explained that decision by telling us kids how she noticed that the Catholic church was the only one with both black and white congregants — every other church in her town was segregated.
As I was thinking about this post, I discovered the work of slam poet Jason Carney. Carney is a former skinhead from Texas, and speaks eloquently about the mixed bag that is a Southern heritage.
Warning: if you have small children nearby or will be offended by a stray f-bomb, you may want to mute your speakers from :10 to :12.