24 March 2010
Many years ago my mother drove a big black Lincoln Continental. It seemed like it was as long as a Greyhound bus, but, at the time (1980s) it was the perfect car for an incredibly successful real estate agent. A client jokingly told her one evening, “Georgia, I love it when you stop by the house. Our neighbors always think that someone has died, the Hearst has arrived, and they all bring us food.”
We southerners are known for our hospitable treatment of visitors and friends, especially in times of despair or crisis. Although few can explain the Southern hospitality phenomena, few would ever deny its existence.
Case #1: At one time, my friends Grant & Rebecca left Little Rock and moved to Colorado for a time. They both had good jobs and worked with an army of people. You would have to know them to understand that these folks are “instant friend makers” who are filled with kindness and caring for others. For goodness sakes, Rebecca is even from Texas!! While there, they gave birth to their first baby. Before and after Sarah’s birth, those folks in Denver had one piddly office baby shower. And when Rebecca returned to work, there were a few who asked to see a photograph.
What?? How dreadful for them! In the South, the arrival of a newborn means several baby showers, flowers, coordinated food deliveries, more gifts, and several home visits to “Oooo & Gooo” over the tiny one. Well-wishers might even arrange for little extras, such as a gift certificate for a “New Mom” Massage, or a gaggle of friends helping with the endless baby laundry. In the South, we think of it all.
Case #2: My caretaker Tim is a native of Milwaukee, WI. Attending law school in Chicago, then some time practicing law in San Francisco. Throughout the past month, he has been marveled at the amount of food and flowers and visits and other acts of kindness from friends. After moving to Arkansas in the 1990s, his mother, who still lived in Wisconsin, passed away. He shared with me one night . . .
“My office colleagues and neighbors began to call with offers of food. I didn’t understand. We had food, and plenty of it to feed our family.”
I asked him the loaded question: In Milwaukee, how would your friends offer their personal condolences to you. Tim said, “They would call you up and offer to buy you a beer.” Hmmmmm . . . a beer, you say?
All the more reason that it’s great to live here where hospitality and helpfulness are a natural part of the Southern experience. In our part of the country, there are no strangers.
“You sick, or new to the neighborhood? Well, food is on the way.”
“Lost your cell phone? Here, use mine.”
“Having a bad day. Here’s a big ole hug for ya.”
Just last night, my friend Jordan stopped by with a bowl of Caramel & Pecan ice cream along with some camellia blooms from his own garden. My colleague Jennifer wants to stop by and add some color to a few front yard flowerpots. Now both of those rank as total TENS on the southern hospitality scale.
From Arkansas native Shirley Abbot’s book, Womenfolks: Growing Up Down South:
"The southern courtesy was not to invite but to go. People just showed up and were always made welcome. To stay less than an hour was an insult, and there was always a meal. And nobody was ever let out of the house without the goodbye ritual, which could take up to three hours"
Today I feel very blessed to live in the South, and to have so many great friends who live by the traditions of Southern Hospitality. Many thanks ya’ll! You are certainly making life more enjoyable and colorful.
My physical update: Chemo #2 seems to be going rather smooth. I’ve been extraordinarily tired today but the nausea medicine seems to be working well. I’m not flirting with disaster so I’m staying on a rather bland diet. All seems to be going rather well today, including these glorious naps. My sweet Abbey Rose has been the perfect nap partner too.
Posted by Stacy Sells at 5:45 PM