February 25, 2013

A Letter to Evie: Raising Her Right

I don't mean this to be an over-adulation of Southern culture, but below the Mason-Dixon line and especially in the deep South we raise our children right.

That's not to say that other folks don't raise their children properly or without merit; it's something we say.

Oftentimes compliments on our manners or cooking are met with the response, "Well, my momma raised me right!" It's an acknowledgement that this compliment you've just received is a reflection of your upbringing, and a compliment back to your own mother.

Now that I too have been tasked with raising up a girl I often hope and wonder that I am doing my very best to raise her right.

Dear Evie,
You are being raised to be a Southern lady. Along with this comes a certain kind of responsibility to yourself and to your culture. 

First, always always be proud of where you come from. Trust me baby girl, other people will make fun of it. They will insinuate that you are a backwards, racist, ignorant redneck hick who lives off of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Mountain Dew. Never ever let these people make you doubt for one single second who you are and where you are from. I'm not saying you can't leave it, explore worlds beyond it or even eventually move away from it (although please stay near your mother), but never doubt it dearest. Talking slow doesn't make you stupid, backwards or ignorant; it just means you talk slower.

That being said, while the South is a very lovely place it does have a sordid past. Slavery, Racism, Discrimination, Persecution, KKK. They are all a part of the history of the place you call home. There's no use sweeping it under the rug. You must always base your judgements of other people based on their hearts, your head and the content of their character. Desegregation was not that long alone little one and while your momma has never known a segregated world, your grandparents did. Racism is still alive, and not just down here. It's all over the place. Use your life and your heart to love other people based on their hearts, not their skin color.

Write thank you notes and put them in the mail.

Always make the effort. Primarily, I believe this to be the tenet of Southern women. Make dinners for people who are sick, never find yourself with out the makings for iced tea and a few balls of frozen cookie dough in the freezer, make sure your hair is brushed and your mascara is on even if you are just going to wal mart.

Learn to cook. There is no such thing as a complete and total culinary failure and you can't live off of take out and ramen for forever. You don't have to love it like I do, but you've got a great opportunity to learn how to cook from your GiGi, Nana, Grammie and me. There's only so far a recipe can take you on its own. You have to learn to smell when the butter is brown, hear when the frying oil is ready and feel when the cake is done, and the best place to learn that is from your mother and grandmothers and great-grandmother. Putting a meal on the table is a great way to show someone you love them (and incidentally everyone knows your Daddy married me for my chocolate pie).

Make something that is all your own, that people know you for, that you are asked to contribute to bake sales, potlucks and fundraisers.

Covered dish catering is the way to go.

Pearls are not your Grandmother's jewelry. They are timeless and classic. Cammo is never cute on a girl. No cammo jackets, no cammo boots, no cammo shirts -- just basically no cammo period. Unless you want to go hunting.

Learn to say ma'am and sir. You might get made fun of for it, but trust me darling, manners matter. Use yours. Say please and thank you, and hold doors for other folks. Rethink dating a boy who doesn't use his. A boy who doesn't open the door for you and call your father and me sir and ma'am isn't likely to find favor. Hey is for horses, not for getting someone's attention.

Don't overuse y'all, and never use bless her heart as an excuse to talk badly about someone behind her back.

Don't you ever let me hear you say you are going to college to get a MRS Degree. You are going to college to learn, to study something you are passionate about and to hopefully get a degree that will let you stand on your own two feet. Speaking of college you cannot attend the following: University of Florida, BAMA, Ole Miss, LSU, South Carolina or Georgia. Sorry butter bean, and trust me I'm being generous. Your Daddy would knock a few more off the list.

I hope twenty-eight years from now you are able to look back at your life and say, "My momma raised me right!".

I do love you ever so much my budding little Southern Belle.