The woman born in the South has forever been synonymous with the Southern belle—a soft gauzy stereotype that personifies the “moonlight and magnolias” legend of the region. It’s a silly romanticized caricature that originated in books and movies. Remember Scarlet O’Hara? But honestly, it’s nowhere close to describing the strong, richly diverse women who have thrived because of—and in some cases, despite of—where they were raised.
I’m proud to be one of them.
We think differently below the Mason-Dixon Line on just about everything, including the way we drink our tea. (Iced and sweet, if you don’t mind.) We were brought up to be soft-spoken ladies, who could lead an army into battle. (Well, I tend to be a little loud, but I do think that I could channel my inner general.) Y’all is our most frequently used pronoun because it is inclusive rather than divisive. Most of us like SEC football, pickup trucks and country music. Our mommas taught us how to have good manners and good grooming and to love Jesus while frying chicken for Sunday dinner. I guess a lot of what you might have assumed about us is true. But what you might not know, and what is most important, in my book, is that we have learned to care about each other and for each other. And for that, I am mighty grateful.
I am a motherless child, since mine has gone to live with the angels. I have no biological siblings either. Illness magnified that fact, but it also brought some precious women into my life who readily adopted me. Goodness knows, my sisters were there and “mothered me” when I needed it so badly. They were bold, unafraid of the worst. And their courage gave me courage. They popped in with casseroles and sweet-scented body lotions. They piled in the bed with me and filled me in on the latest gossip. They put a wet washcloth on my forehead to help with the nausea and disinfected everything in sight. And one (a transplant, I might add) arranged for pedicures and massages just to keep my spirits high (and my feet looking presentable).
I guess I have always understood the Southern woman’s creed, to take care of “one’s own,” regardless of how they managed to land in her life. You don’t have to ask her for help because she intuitively understands your needs, and, in fact, comes to the rescue even if you protest about being a bother. She won’t hear of your polite refusal as she fluffs your pillow and makes you laugh over the antics of some crazy neighbor. She knows that you would do the same for her. For there is a kinship among us even though we are not related by blood. The roots of those relationships run deep.
Yup. Southern women understand the highs and lows of life, the hills that must be climbed to reach the top in order to look down on the fertile valley. And they aren’t afraid of the journey as they follow a Divine roadmap and embrace each other as traveling companions. It is quite the wonderful mystery, a sorority of women who offer endless support, putting everything aside for a sister in need. They understand that a burden shared is halved because, well, it is. How fortunate am I to have them?
So this is about celebrating those women who were there for me at my lowest, who walked the rugged path with me, holding firmly onto my hand, the ones who never wavered from their resolve that we would eventually reach this destination together. Their prayers and love lifted me. Bless their sweet hearts.
And now, let the rejoicing begin. I do believe it is time for mimosas and uncontrollable laughter with my girls. For the present moment, life feels normal, and there is nothing more beautiful. Nothing.