And That's What I Like About the South, Part Three

Snow, Waffle House, Cemetery Days, and Fashion Rules. Part Three.

Here you go, sugar, part three as promised. In case you missed the first two parts, you can catch up here and here. If there’s one thing southerners like almost as much as actually being southern, it’s talking about being southern.

Snow. In the South, and especially in Georgia, snow is a rare treat. Nothing sends southerners into a frantic tizzy faster than a forecast of snowfall.  We race to the Kroger to stock up on milk, bread, and eggs. (French toast is obviously the official Snow Day Dish. Who knew?) Because snow is so infrequent, we don’t have all the fancy schmancy snow removal equipment they have in colder climes. Driving on snow and ice here is an adventure -- in terror! And it’s one most of us wouldn’t dare miss. We delight in trying to make it out of our driveways so we can slide around and see who couldn’t make it out of theirs. We know we don't know how to drive in it and we LIKE it that way – it’s half the fun. I know this irritates our northern transplants and I hate to tell them this but we’re going to do it anyway! You’d best stay home, honey – for the sake of your blood pressure and all.

Waffle House. You can’t swing a cat in the South without hitting a Waffle House. Founded right here on East College Avenue in 1955, this 24 hour diner has its own special appeal. The décor is pretty basic but the colorful clientele more than make up for its lack of style. At any given time (2 a.m. is a good one) you can encounter truck drivers, roadies, a youth choir, post-binge revelers, and you will almost certainly see someone you know. I love hearing the friendly waitresses holler, “I need those hash browns scattered, covered, and smothered, please!” Make fun of Waffle House all you want, but the truth is they serve a darn good, affordable meal. Plus the jukebox loaded with classically bad tunes and the exceptional people-watching make it worth an occasional visit -- cholesterol level permitting, of course.

Cemetery Day. I am really dating myself with this one. When I spent summers at my grandparents’ farm, my grandma always made sure that we participated in this activity at least once. In very rural parts of the South, family cemeteries used to be the norm. They might be on someone’s farm or behind a church, but the families of those buried there were responsible for maintenance so everyone had to take a turn cleaning up. It was an all-day event. We packed blankets, hedge trimmers, gloves, shovels, and a picnic lunch (which always included Vienna sausages, hoop cheese, saltine crackers, and homemade pickles). For the first part of the day, my brother and I pulled weeds and cleaned the moss off headstones. My grandpa cut the grass (with his big-wheeled push mower) and my grandma tamed the wild rose bushes and kudzu that had crept in. We’d break for lunch while grandpa built a fire to burn all the weeds, clippings, and branches we had collected. While it was burning, Grandma gave us the full cemetery tour -- complete with a round of “once removeds.” (Explained here under “calculating cousins.”) Once the fire was out, we returned home -- dirty, smoky, mosquito-bitten, and with renewed respect for our family heritage.

Southern Fashion Rules – Winter Edition. I might step on a few toes with this one, but as long as they aren’t clad in white shoes, it’s okay. (I’m kidding. Well, sort of.) To misquote Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde:” “The rules of fashion are simple and finite. Any good southern girl knows that.” Here's where you might want to grab a pen: No white shoes, linen, seersucker, straw hats or bags before Easter or after Labor Day; corduroy only after October 1st; no suede and wool until the first frost; and no velvet before Thanksgiving or after Valentine’s Day. Winter white (ivory, cream, champagne, etc.) is perfectly acceptable but as my mother would say, “Dirty white shoes will not pass for winter white.”

I realize there has been a dispensation of many of these rules in recent years, but I can’t bring myself to break them – especially "no-white-shoes-after-Labor-Day." But don’t worry, honey, I won’t think poorly of you if you do. (Well, maybe just a tad.) It’s not like you drank straight out of the can or anything. You didn’t, did you? Bless your heart.

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Cyndi Culpepper January 10, 2013 at 06:52 PM
Thanks, LilZ! Your Nana was my kind of lady! I'm sure there are very few people under 45 who have ever heard of Cemetery Day -- but like you, I thought it was pretty cool. :)
CJM February 23, 2013 at 10:39 PM
“Dirty white shoes will not pass for winter white"--that made me laugh. Your mom reminds me of my grandmother a little bit. I think Cemetery Day is a tradition that needs to come back. I've loved this series, Cyndi. Lots of smiles and good memories. Thank you.
Kip February 24, 2013 at 05:03 AM
What a wonderful series. I love your writing. Can't wait for part four!
Cyndi Culpepper February 24, 2013 at 05:18 AM
Thank you, Cary! Cemetery Day was loads of fun and because of those wonderful memories, I've never found cemeteries to be scary or creepy. My brother and I used to fight over who we would "sit on" for lunch and then make up crazy stories about them. Life before the internet. :)
Cyndi Culpepper February 24, 2013 at 05:22 AM
You are too kind, Kip! Thank you so much. I hope to get the next part up soon -- it's a special "food edition." :)


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