Sunday, April 12, 2009

Growing Up Southern

I wrote most of this a few years ago on my xanga, and with us moving to Mississippi at the end of the summer, I thought it was a good time to post it. It is my hope that Albany will also get to grow up Southern... :-)

I was born in Louisiana and lived there until Andrew and I got married about six and a half years ago. While Oklahoma is definitely not a Southern state, it does have a little flavor from home. Depending where you are in Oklahoma, its personality tends to represent whatever region it is closest to. With quite a few universities here, people are from all over the place. Adjusting to living here has not been too bad, although it has it’s moments of confusion. I get tickled when I hear someone use the word pop. Before moving to Norman, I’ve actually known only two people who use this word. My Mammaw who grew up in Iowa and a roommate I had from Kansas. Where I grew up, we always used the word coke instead of soda or pop. We were specific when we needed to be. When I was going to OBU in Shawnee, I was also waitressing at Goldie’s Patio Grill. It hadn’t been long since I had moved there and I hadn’t realized that I spoke a foreign language. I asked one table if they would like a coke. They replied that that sounded good. So I proceeded, what kind of coke would you like? Confusion clouded their faces and they asked me what I meant, what kind of coke do you have? I replied, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Root beer, Dr. Pepper, and Fruit Punch. “But you said coke,” the man reminded me. I had no idea what he was talking about, “yes, and we have several different kinds.” He smiled and asked me, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

I was asked that question frequently in Shawnee. My first floor meeting was a headache. The girls were so taken aback by my Southern accent, that I had to repeat everything at least once, and then they would try to say it like me. It wasn’t long before I smothered my speech to one with little accent. Although, it always seems to slip out, just when I least expect it; especially after talking to my Momma or visiting home. My Momma always talks about how when I was learning to count, she could tell I was a Southern child. My I’s have always been a bit exaggerated. I would count one, two, three, four, fiiiive, six, seven, eight, niiiine… I often slip up when giving someone directions and tell them to turn riiiight.

My friends had finally gotten used to me, but my mother was another story. My roommate’s name was Cameron and she was from Kansas and I was fascinated by her total lack of an accent. After getting home from work one night, she informed me that my mom had called and that she might have made my mom mad. When I asked her why, she explained that she didn’t understand my mom. Cameron said, “She kept saying Ha-lure. And I kept asking, ‘what?’” She said it took a few tries before she realized my mom was saying Hello. I laughed so hard and told Cameron that Momma did not have a Southern accent. She was a military kid and traveled all over the US and to Taiwan. It wasn’t until I heard her voice on my answering machine, that I realized Cameron was right. She had it bad!

What I learned, was that you can drop the accent, but sometimes that doesn’t solve all of your problems. We were cleaning and closing at Goldie’s one night and the television started blinking that we had a tornado warning. I ran to the screen and shouted back to the cook, “What parish are we in?” Everyone just stopped and looked at me like I was crazy. Thinking they may have not heard me I shouted again, “What parish are we in?” Mike started laughing and I had to rack my brain to figure out why they didn’t understand me. Oh yeah, Oklahoma has counties! So after finding out that I was in Pottawatomie County, they asked me if I was Catholic. Nope, just Louisianan.