despite all evidence to the contrary

10 May

I suggested that most childhoods have themes if you look hard enough — a theme like “our family has a distinguished heritage that you must live up to” or a theme like “we are suffering because your father deserted us,” and I acknowledged that, looking back on it, the theme I was hoping our daughters’ childhood in Greenwich Village had was “Despite all evidence to the contrary, you are being raised in Kansas City. -Calvin Trillin

Once again, my soulmate Calvin really says it best.  The theme of my children’s childhood is hereinafter declared to be: Despite all evidence to the contrary, you are being raised in Greenwood, Mississippi.  Cotton Capital of the World.  The most southern place on earth.  Heart of darkness.  Into the cannibal pot.  The sweetest people anywhere.  More good restaurants per capita than New York City.  Snake and Mosquito Heaven.  Rendering one unsuitable for anything other than the good life.  It’s alligator sightings and the subsequent searches for more.  Vigils for foxes and deer.  Grass too tall to walk in and rivers that are rising.  Threatening to spill their chocolate milk contents over the levees built to contain them.  Trees so green they appear black from the air.  Twisted and hung with Spanish moss and thick vines suitable for swinging and jumping into said brown waters.  Sunsets like a giant orange ball hanging just over the ground.  The complete lack of contour in the land.  Just the vast horizon punctuated by the occasional stand of trees.  No hills to mess up your perfect view of the cotton and soybean fields.  Fine-as-dust silty topsoil that resembles nothing I have ever seen in a nursery potting-soil bag.  It isn’t black unless it’s wet.  Generally it’s grey with a consistency like talcum powder.  The richest topsoil in the world, stolen from lands to the north and deposited by the mighty Mississippi when she floods in the spring as she has done for thousands of years.

Hard to get to and hard to leave once you’ve gotten there.  Time hasn’t exactly stood still.  They have yoga classes and a spa.  You can get a good massage.  Everyone has the newest and best kitchen appliances and technology on the market.  Because you have to support Viking.  They have sustained us and made Greenwood a lovely place to live with amenities usually reserved for larger cities.

So to my children, when you are asked where you got such lovely manners, where you learned to dress so appropriately, to remove your cap when dining, to stand up when a lady approaches, to hold the hands of little old ladies long after you are ready to let go, to find something nice to say to the people you are speaking with, to laugh readily and often, to maintain a jolly disposition, to say “yes ma’am and yes sir”, to know that everyone you talk to knows exactly who you are and how long you are staying and what you’ve been doing, to say “hey” when you pass on the sidewalk, and that you don’t throw the football or jump rope in the house: you can tell them that you learned that in Greenwood.

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6 Responses to “despite all evidence to the contrary”

  1. sec040121 May 11, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    Claire,
    I’m sorry we missed you last weekend; y’all were like snail darters, zipping in and out, and Jimmy and I were off working on the ultimate fishing hole for your children on the next trip. Today’s blog should be printed out and stuck up on every Viking refrigerator in Leflore County. Thank you.
    MC

  2. Ann May 11, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    Serious question here… how have you instilled the “yes m’am” and “yes sir” into your kids. We try and try and try here, correcting them constantly, and they just aren’t getting it. They know to use it when they are in trouble, and they use it sporatically otherwise, but I want it to just be natural. The kid who was cutting our grass this week was awesome. JC asked him, “So, did you have a nice vacation?” “Yes, sir.” Then, “Thanks for coming on a weekday. The grass looks great.” “Thank you, sir.” I was so impressed. He clearly wasn’t thinking about it, that was just what came out naturally. That’s what I want for my kids, and I haven’t made it work yet. 😦

    • brightenthecorner May 11, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

      Constant haranguing is the answer to your question, Ann. Every time I ask a question and receive “yeah” or “uh-huh”, I say “yes ma’am?” and the child isn’t off the hook until I get a “yes ma’am.” No ma’am and no thank you are interchangeable to me. It’s just constant. When I say “get your backpack” and she replies “I AM getting it!” or “in a minute”, my blood starts to boil and I reply “did you mean to say yes ma’am?” and she says “I just said I AM getting it.” I keep on until I get a “yes ma’am.” When I hear something smarty from the backseat, I say it again…”yes ma’am?” We aren’t perfect about it, but I do keep trying and trying. Rudeness and disrespect from children to adults makes me crazy.

  3. Ann May 11, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    OK… I’m going to go with more haranguing. I definitely do that to some degree but not consistently enough which would certainly explain why they aren’t consistent in using it.

  4. Esmer May 11, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    I love that my godson will grow up to be a southern gentleman! 🙂 Thanks, Claire!

    • brightenthecorner May 11, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

      thanks for entrusting him to my care, Esmer. I hope he will make you very proud.

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