Yesteryear’s Memories — Don’t Thank Me
Sometimes you can tell a lot about someone by a chance phrase or maybe a tiny inflection in their voice. Perhaps they threw in a “y’all” when you never heard them say that at all. Maybe they had a catch phrase from the past or from a certain region of the country. Just one small hint and you suddenly know more about that person.
My upbringing had a decidedly Southern influence. Most of my family came from Southern Illinois via Kentucky, as had many people from this part of the state. I didn’t know that as a kid, but it became apparent as I grew older. When I talked to people from other parts of the country, they commented on my Southern accent. I was a bit surprised because I didn’t think I had ANY accent. Going to college in Kentucky for two semesters didn’t help at all. Seems to me that they have more of that accent in Kentucky than they do in Alabama. I tried really hard as a young adult to eliminate those drawn out syllables and twisted vowels, but it still stuck out to others.
The influence of the South still shows up from time to time. Recently a dear friend of mine gave me a couple little ‘starts’ for plants. I was appreciative, and my upbringing urged me to immediately thank her for the gifts. But there was another influence that conflicted badly. I didn’t realize that it was a “Southern thang” that would make me balk at basic courtesy. My grandmother always told me, “Never thank a person for a gift plant.” The unspoken part was that it was bad luck; maybe the plant would die or worse. I never knew exactly what the bad outcome would be for breaking this rule. My aunts and neighbors reinforced the rule. It was somehow more than a superstition, it was a commandment. Kind of like walking a visitor to the door as they leave. Basic etiquette.
So here I was, trying to be polite and still follow the guidelines of my upbringing. My solution was just to say, “Oh, that’s nice — y’all are so thoughtful!” No harm, no foul. I didn’t break the rule, exactly. She never had a clue that I had that secret Southern influence in my past. No clue, except for my penchant for sweet tea. I told her I was fixin’ to put out some garden, anyhow, and I could mess with plants till the cows come home. She didn’t notice that I really didn’t thank her proper for the gifts and she didn’t have a hissy fit. My secret was safe — and it didn’t amount to a hill of beans, anyway.