If you live anywhere besides the deep South you probably already have an opinion about people with Southern accents…right? Don’t deny it…I know you do!
But, if you live in the deep South you don’t always pick up on how distinct the accents truly are most of the time. Ya know it’s just the way we talk and no one pays much attention to it on a day to day basis. We all sound alike for the most part.
In fact, we often hear how “country” we sound from folks in other parts of the U.S. Television and radio hosts sometimes mistakenly believe that everyone in the South is uneducated, stupid, and incapable of speaking the English language correctly. Let me just tell you…that is soooooooo NOT the case!
In the deep South there are a variety of dialects that can quickly identify where (or in some cases how) a person was raised. The slow drawl is the most common and the most recognizable for sure; but there is another one that absolutely fascinates me…I like to call it “The Southern Lady”.
Recently I had the pleasure of eating lunch at the best kept secret in Fayette. Sweet Digs is tucked away in the back of a renovated apartment building downtown. It is off the beaten path and has (hands down) the best food you have ever put in your mouth! Mrs. Ann (who also happens to be a widow herself) makes sure that every item tastes just like it would if you were at your grandmama’s house. I normally call my order in, but on this particular day I decided to sit down and eat my lunch on a real plate…at a real table….using real silverware. It just tastes better when you eat food correctly sometimes.
I also enjoy talking about life with Mrs. Ann and she always gives me a leg up when I need one. Widows do that for each other. We are kindred spirits and we tend to flock together. It doesn’t matter if you start to date, remarry, or never talk to another man as long as you live…once you are a member of the widow club you immediately recognize other widows. It’s a little weird, I admit…but it is also very comforting when you know another woman understands your daily struggle to survive.
Anyway, on this particular day I was sitting at a table eating lunch by myself. There were four ladies sitting at the table next to me and I could not help but overhear their conversation as I quietly ate my chicken casserole, cheesy potatoes, purple hull peas, and buttermilk cornbread.
Just as I was taking a bite, one of the ladies began to tell a story that drew me in like a moth to a flame. Now, being raised in the South I know full well that it is rude to eavesdrop on someone else’s conversation…but when you are sitting alone in a pretty little dining room with only you and four other women it’s really hard not to listen to what other folks are saying!
The conversation itself was not what I was interested in…it was the lady’s voice that made my ears dance in anticipation of what she was going to say next. She had that true Southern accent that you see people try to mimic in movies…only hers was as genuine as a monogrammed seersucker dress. Think Julia Sugarbaker.
I’m telling you this lady’s voice was a smooth as Tennessee Whiskey…it was strong and easy to hear…yet soft and soothing like a warm breeze on a moon-filled southern night. The tone and the way in which she spoke made you want to listen to her talk all day long.
I don’t have a clue what she was actually saying, but I do know that the other three ladies sitting with her were equally well versed in “The Southern Lady” accent. Their laughter and conversation flowed so easily around that table! It truly was pure joy for me to listen to them laugh and talk while I ate my lunch.
As I finished eating and stood to push in my chair, I glanced over at their table and smiled. The lady with the wonderful voice met my gaze and smiled back. I picked up my purse and headed for the door, but I stopped just behind one of the other lady’s chairs and thanked all of them for helping me to enjoy my lunch. They all smiled and told me they were glad to have kept me entertained! I quickly explained (so as not to be considered rude!) how very much I enjoyed hearing them talk and how I wished I had their accent.
I don’t have “The Southern Lady” accent. In fact, I’m not exactly sure what you would call my accent…”The Educated Redneck” maybe or “The Laughing Drawl” (Thanks Brandice!), or “The Emotional Country Girl”. I’m not really sure what the official name would be, but I know without a doubt that it is not “The Southern Lady”!
The ladies smiled and bid me a good day. I walked to my car thinking how nice it was to have witnessed true southern, gentile ladies having lunch. They were polite, kind, and dressed just like you would expect a true lady to be dressed for a lunch date out with friends. I felt like I had just exited a movie set and my heartbeat quickened when I realized that this scene had truly happened in my real life. What a blessing!
Today, I had the pleasure of talking to another sweet, sweet woman who also embodies “The Southern Lady” accent.
Mrs. Ann (yes, two different Ann’s) is a widow who lost her husband of 47 years almost three years ago. I have passed by her home several times over the years, but today I decided to stop and formally introduce myself.
See, when you are a widow other widows sometimes go out of their way to contact and/or interact with you. In the deep south it’s a rite of passage I guess you’d say. Even though I had received a tear inducing card and letter from this sweet woman in the mail a few weeks after Greg passed away, I had not been formally introduced to her in person until today.
Just imagine how pleased I was when she opened her mouth and I heard that wonderful “Southern Lady” accent flowing so gracefully into my ears. I knew I would never be the same. Two and a half hours later as I climbed back into my truck I smiled as I waved at my new friend. I was definitely not the same woman who had parked that truck when I first pulled into her driveway!
Meeting new friends is one of my all time favorite things to do in life. Spending the afternoon with a woman whose story is so similar to my own was wonderful for my soul. We laughed…and cried as we shared our stories with one another. I now feel as if I have known her children and grandchildren my whole life. The stories she shared about her precious Andy reminded me so much of my own memories. The things we enjoyed in life are very much the same…as are the things we miss about the men who helped us create those enjoyable memories.
Today I found a friend in a woman who knows what it is like to have your life ripped apart with no warning. I saw myself in her eyes and I realized that she truly knows how deeply a person can be hurt. I saw a woman who is just as determined as I am to keep getting up everyday and she is making the best of each day that she has left here on Earth. I saw a woman whose strength comes from above…and who is willing and able to share story after story of how God has taken care of her since Andy’s death.
And, I saw a woman who now knows why God took her husband so soon.
Sitting on Mrs. Ann’s floral fabric covered sofa, listening to her sweet “Southern Lady” voice, I was given the gift of understanding.
This sweet woman shyly admitted… with tears streaming down her face, that she would not have been able to be WHO God wanted her to be if Andy were still alive…and she was grateful for being left here without him! Talk about an humbling, life altering, unforgettable moment!
I don’t know why God took Greg Hubbert when He did…and I don’t know why (for Greg’s sake) He decided that his time here on earth was up so soon. However, what I learned today was that Greg’s leaving had a direct impact on MY purpose in life. I have a mission to complete and I could never have been ready to complete that mission if he were still here. Hearing Mrs. Ann shyly admit that she now knew that God wanted her to grow deeper in Him…and the only way to do that was to take her dear Andy was like opening a door into my soul.
I realized that I am now ready to charge ahead with my own mission in life. I am not afraid of my future anymore…and I am not willing to walk away from my calling. I am excited to see where this new life will take me. I am looking forward to what I am being called to do and the lives that will be impacted because I am willing to say yes to God. I can and will serve the Lord with gladness all the days of my life. I don’t think I really, truly, fully understood any of that about myself until today.
Towards the end of our visit, Mrs. Ann shared a story with me that I will always treasure. She told me that throughout their 47 years of marriage she and Andy would look for pennies on the ground as they walked places together. She said that each time they found one, they would pick it up…smile….and say “In God We Trust”….then they would lay it back down and continue on their way. She reminded me that every penny has “In God We Trust” written on it…and to always remember who takes care of us if we will just trust Him.
My heart was so happy to be reminded of that promise! Of course I could not leave without telling her about the dimes. I have every dime that I have found since Greg died all together in a jar. The other night, I was telling Bo about the newest dime story while we talked on the phone. I decided that I wanted to know how many I had found in all, I got them out and counted them…I was shocked when I saw that I have 51 dimes in that jar! Mrs. Ann just smiled as I told her this story and encouraged me to keep on looking for those dimes…she was sure they were meant to be found!
Tonight I was given the opportunity to share my story publicly for the first time. I have been asked to speak at a Ladies Event this coming Saturday. It is crazy that I have known that this is the direction God wanted me to go for some time now…and tonight the call came in asking me to actually set a date. God has a way of working things out and His timing is unbelievable sometimes!
Please continue to remember me when you pray. I want my life to show people that God is good all of the time…even when we feel like He has left us, He still holds us in his mighty hands. If one person can be helped by my story, I pray that God will put me in front of that person so that they hear His voice loud and clear. This journey is not about me…it’s about what God has done through me and what He wants to do through others if they will only let Him. We all have to be willing to say “use us Lord”… even when it hurts.
So, I guess I’ll spend a lot of time this week (and the weeks to come!) preparing for the things God wants me to say. I will also attempt to turn my not-so “Southern Lady” accent into one that people can actually understand! Ha! In the meantime, I will use my “Emotional Country Girl” accent the best way I know how…by just being myself and adding in lots of laughter as often as possible!