Inklings: A Southern exploration
I’ve recently been introduced to G.R.I.T.S – Girls Raised In The South. I bonded with this organization – created by Deborah Ford – because that’s what I am, a G.R.I.T.S, not a G.B.I.T.S – Girl Born In The South.
I came to Georgia from Ohio during what was then referred to as grammar school. My whole family enthusiastically adopted the Southern way of life. I grew up in the Dogwood City and then went to St. Mary’s College in Indiana, where I always wanted to go. During freshman Christmas vacation I boarded a train home from Chicago. It was a local and stopped about every 20 minutes to decant holiday students in a variety of states. Collegiates gathered in the club car and sang seasonal carols and Fighting Irish football songs all night as we journeyed South.
During this auspicious occasion I met a comely lad from Notre Dame, the university across the Dixie Highway (isn’t this a grand name?) from mine. He was also getting off in Atlanta and hitchhiking to his hometown Augusta. We “clicked” as they say, and when we parted at the terminal he told me he’d call when we got back to school – and said he was so glad to meet a “girl from the South!”
My heart sank. I knew this was someone so special and he thought I was a true Southerner too. By that time I really was, but not native born. I blush to admit that – in my 18-year-old silliness – when our romance blossomed and he came to visit me and my family, I actually asked my parents not to mention the Buckeye State. I didn’t want him to know I was (help me Lord) a native born midwesterner! My mom and dad, who were justifiably proud of our heritage, were nonplussed but they reluctantly went along. By the time he found out I wasn’t a “genuine” Georgia Peach, it was too late – for both of us.
It’s taken me 54 years of marriage to find this G.R.I.T.S group, full of anecdotes, rebel tests and a myriad of fun Southern expressions and laughter. Some of my favorites include our penchant for quasi-compliments by saying something like, “Bless her heart, she’s as sweet as she can be, but she can’t help those ears.”
G.R.I.T.S. also explains that Southern girls know everybody’s first name: it’s either, “Honey,” “Darlin’” or “Shugah.” And our chosen movies include “Gone With the Wind,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” and “Steel Magnolias.”
G.R.I.T.S says bad manners, (and I was duly warned against these specific iniquities) include drinking straight out of a can; not sending thank-you notes; wearing velvet after February; and donning white shoes before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.
But my favorite of the tongue-in-cheek G.R.I.T.S comments goes, “Just because your children were born in the South does not make them Southerners. After all, if a cat had kittens in the oven, that wouldn’t make them biscuits.”
I’m glad we can laugh between and among our sisters and still move forward. I’m happiest being South of the Mason Dixon Line – and as I’ve lived all over the United States and Europe, that’s a pretty good test.
As they say in G.R.I.T.S, I like to think I’m still quick on the drawl!