I love being Southern. And I especially love being from Mississippi. It’s hot as the Devil’s front porch and Lord help us in the war of man vs. mosquito, but I still find it to be a breathtakingly beautiful state. There are massive magnolia trees that just beg to be sat under, people who ask “How y’all doin’?” and genuinely care about the reply and antebellum homes alive with history and stories of people before us who enjoyed our cozy way of life. In this town I call home women wear full make up to run to Wal-Mart, men still wear a suit and tie to church and children always know their manners. Nothing quite warms my heart like hearing a little boy say “Yes, ma’am” with that distinctive Southern drawl. But lately, as I look around, men my age seem to have forgotten the one thing that makes us Southerners stand out against the rest: Chivalry. Where did it go?
A few weeks ago, I was running frantically late to a “Manner’s Tea with Mother Goose” at Prinny’s school. It had been a crazy, chaotic day, one of those days where you’re quite certain that you shouldn’t even have gotten out of bed that morning. All I wanted to do was simply get in my car and drive the five minutes to see my baby. But when I got in the car, it wouldn’t crank. Of course, right? So there I was on Main St, with my car hood popped and me pretending I knew what the heck I was looking at when I lost it. I started crying right there on the corner of the street for God and everyone to see. While no one stopped to help me, fortunately I have a Daddy who always runs to my rescue and one hysterical phone call later, he was there to save the day. But lo and behold, a mere three hours later, I was in the same predicament. Except this time, it was a woman parked next to me. She too was panicking very much in the same way I had been only hours earlier. She was from out of town, had driven in to pick up her wedding dress and was supposed to be on her way to meet her fiancé at the Birmingham airport where they would then fly off to Las Vegas and get married. She had already called 911 to come help her and the two of us stood on Main St with her car hood up as not one, but two police cars not only drove by us, but waved. Protect and serve, gentlemen. However, we were approached by two women with a baby offering to help. As it turns out, not only was the frantic bride’s battery dead but her car was out of gas. The women offered to stay with the car and charge it with a portable kit while I took the hysterical woman to go get gas. The bride flagged down a police officer at the gas station and he followed us back to the car and so gallantly offered to fill her car up. While his efforts were appreciated, it was almost like the fire department showing up after the house had burnt down. Standing on the street with these three women, Prinny, and a baby, I couldn’t help but wonder where all the good men went.
I have this incredibly vivid memory from when I was a little girl. I was lying on the floor at my grandmother’s house, playing a very intense game of Candyland with my cousin (if memory serves me correctly, the little sucker always cheated) while my uncles were on the porch frying catfish. I swear it seems like just yesterday; I can still close my eyes and smell the fish and hear the popping of the grease. My grandmother was at the dining room table pouring a glass of tea when she not only dropped the glass but the pitcher as well, spilling tea all over the place (and uttering the only four letter word I ever heard her say in the process). Every single man in my family rushed inside to help her clean up the spill. Between my Dad and my uncles, at least half a dozen men were fussing over my grandmother. Now maybe it was the shock of hearing that sweet lady say such a foul word or maybe it was just the way they were raised that got them all running to help. Either way, whenever I see a teenage boy walk past in blissful ignorance as a woman struggles in Wal-Mart with an armful of groceries or can’t reach an item on the top shelf, the memory of that Saturday afternoon at my Grandmother’s always comes to mind.
Standing there that day at the “Manner’s Tea”, I was reminded of just how proud I am of our good ole fashioned Southern values. The children all loved Mother Goose and paid rapt attention as she exclaimed that you “Neva put your elbows on the table!” (Can’t you just hear her saying it?) I stood and watched as a little boy with a clip on tie complimented Prinny on her new haircut as he escorted her to their table, pulled out her chair and then offered to share his cookie with her. In that moment, my heart swelled with pride and I was positively certain that there is no place I would rather be than Mississippi. Because this is home and all it took was a little boy with a Southern drawl to remind me that while sometimes you might have to look to find it, this is the South and chivalry is still very much alive and well.