Our Southern Mothers…

A woman born and raised in the South carries with her the wisdom of the ages. Most of us had more than just our mothers watching out for us- we had grandmothers, aunts, sisters and cousins; we had our mother’s friends and neighbors- the list was endless. Our mothers told us that they ‘had eyes in the back of their heads’ when really they had eyes and ears all over the place! They dispensed an ongoing wisdom, usually in third person-  ‘I can’t believe her momma let her leave the house in that getup!’.

They taught us the rules, how to behave, how to dress and why; regularly dispensed advice about men and what to watch out for; these women were our moral compass, why, they could even foretell the future!- ‘If you keep crossing your eyes, they’re gonna stay like that!’; they taught us about consequences ‘She’s played her stunts, now she’s payin’ for it’ – or ‘If y’all don’t get down out that tree right now, I’m going to jerk a knot in you! was the first warning- the second warning – ‘Alright, if you fall out of that tree, you’ve got yourself to blame for it’, third warning, ‘Just wait ’til your daddy gets home!’. For some reason, shoe advice was important- I’ll never forget my grandmother coming home from one of her meetings saying- ‘That Edna Earle embarrassed me to death wearing those white sandals after Labor Day- looked like weinies hangin’ out of a bird cage!’ Who can make this stuff up? Change your shoes, they’re eating up your socks and no, you cannot go barefoot until June!

It was ‘coarse and common’ to be poppin’ gum, smacking while other people were trying to eat a decent meal, and for heaven’s sake! Get that hair out of your face! The fashion advice was carved in stone- don’t wear white shoes until Easter, don’t wear white clothing after Labor Day- take a sweater, you’ll need it- that dress is hiked up in the back, how did the hem of your dress fall out? and ‘How could you even think of wearing that? I will not have one of my children going to church looking like that!’ Advice to children was straightforward- ‘y’all get outside and play before I lose my mind!’ – ‘Be home before dark- and don’t go too far or the boogey man will get you!’ ‘Here, take this jar and catch some lightening bugs, we’re trying to watch for Sputnik!’ ‘Settle down, y’all are making enough noise to raise the dead…’ ‘Where’d you get those chigger bites?’ The issue of weight gain was another subject- ‘Well, Gene, she’s gained up so much, bless her heart- I had to sit between her and Thurman on the way and it was like sitting next to dough and it risin’…’her ankles are so thick- she ought to know better than to wear ankle strap shoes’ and this- ‘darlin’, her legs are like tree trunks, you can hear her thighs rubbing together- that’s why they invented talcum powder, poor thing – her momma ought to be ashamed lettin’ her get that way’. To be too skinny was just as bad- ‘honey, you’re skinny as a rail, why a puff of wind would blow you away, a little padding wouldn’t hurt one bit in the right places’. My grandmother thought there were only two things that would cure you- a dose of milk of magnesia if you felt bad and a permanent wave if you looked bad. You had to watch out for men that were ‘down at the heels’, who looked like they hadn’t shaved, who had BO and the worst of all – was if a man just looked ‘seedy’ in general. The man’s condition was of course, not his fault – it was that sorry mother of his. Men couldn’t be expected to stay nice and neat!

We were taught the basic nice things to say- thank you, please, I sure enjoyed that supper, yes sir, no ma’am, oh yes, I’m just fine (because no one wants to hear you whine). And we all knew to stand up straight (we didn’t want to end up all bent over), keep your voice down, don’t sing too loud, cover your mouth, wear clean underwear in case you had to be taken to the hospital, and for heaven’s sake keep some Kleenex or better yet, a nice ‘hankerchief’ with you at all times. But probably my all time favorite advice came at a low period in my life- I was explaining it to my grandmother- she said ‘Now, stop crying- go wash your face. Hold your head up and don’t ever forget whose child you are!’

So to all of these strong, sweet smelling prophetesses who wrapped us up with towels when we had goosebumps from running through the sprinkler, who held us in their laps, who cooked decent meals for us and passed along their sense of fashion and good taste- on this Mother’s Day, thank you! Bless your hearts, you made us what we are.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Photographs are from private collections and cannot be reproduced or reprinted without permission. Thanks to all who shared photographs! Couldn’t have done it without you!

We’ve been nominated for an award!!!

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‘We’ve been nominated for a Liebster award! Can you believe it Walter? I hate to disturb your nap, but Camellia’s Cottage has been nominated for an award!’~ Walter is looking at me like I’m crazy but Allie Mac, Brenda and I are excited around here! I mean, an award? y’all…really?photo Let me tell you what it is…The Liebster Award is given to new bloggers by another blogger. A big southern ‘Thank you darlin ‘- goes to an amazing blogger -Agatha Chocolats ! I think I’ve gained weight just looking at her blog with all of that chocolate! You have to go see what that little Southern girl is up to! To thank her properly here is a thank you note especially for you, Agatha- imageI like Agatha’s blog because of the images she uses- some are even short video clips, the 13 recipes she does once a week, the unusual combination of mystery and chocolate is intriguing and the playful, tasteful way she produces her blog. Currently it has to be my favorite! She has inspired me to be a better blogger.

Agatha had some questions for me when she nominated Camellia’s Cottage-

  • What would be the motto of your blog? Agatha, I would have to say, ‘Our Sweet Home in Alabama ‘.
  • What is your favorite childhood book? Hands down, it’s ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ – I love the question in it- ‘How do you know you’re ‘real’? And the reply, ‘You know you’re ‘real’ when your eyes fall out, your fur gets loved off and you are very shabby ‘ – by that definition, I am well on my way to- ‘becoming real’!
  • What is the best pairing for chocolate? It took one second to answer that one! Coffee!
  • What forms of social media do you like best when connecting with your readers outside of your blog? I’m old timey here, I would love to chat with them by phone or at an old fashioned ‘tea’ .
  • If you could invite 3 people (living, dead, fictional…anybody!) who would you invite? Well, darlin’ I would have to have 2 parties or one ‘dinner in the ground’! If I could have them back for just one meal, I would choose my grandmother, my husband’s grandmother and my precious mother in law for the first party. For the second party I would invite the ever inspirational Jesus Christ, who attended and even served some of the most miraculous meals ever! Then, C. S. Lewis,  one of the most scholarly and prolific authors ever! And of course, Thomas Jefferson- whose wide range of interests never fails to amaze me!
  • What would you serve? Agatha, I would want the ladies to cook for me! My grandmother’s turkey and dressing, my mother in law’s famous fresh coconut cake and my husband’s grandmother made delicious ‘southern baked-with-brown-sugar acorn squash’! For the men I would serve Parisienne Chicken, steamed broccoli, Sweet Orange Rolls, and a Mandarin Orange/toasted almond salad.
  • What are your 5 best qualities? Well now, that’s a hard one- I suppose (1)my sense of humor, (2)my love of place, (3)I hope I am creatively inspirational, (4)my concern for victims of poverty and domestic violence and the welfare of children; and (5)I would never want anyone to leave here- hungry or empty handed.
  •  What is the best thing covered in chocolate? Agatha! I hate being pinned down but I would have to say-  my homemade English Toffee!
  • What is your passion? My threefold passion is a love of learning, reading and writing, all of which come together at Camellia’s Cottage.
  • If you had 3 wishes what would they be?  Bless your heart, who wouldn’t want 3 wishes? (1)I wish Alabama could be experienced, not by the headlines, but by her natural beauty, a place where talent and  technology rub shoulders with farmers, football players, fashion designers and fishermen, where world renowned chefs and home cooks learn from each other; where goodness and greatness show their generosity regularly and where writers and publishers, art and industry exist on a level barely acknowledged; where kind gentle folk work hard, love their families and appreciate what true southern hospitality really is.(2) I wish I could read at least 100 books in 2016- I’ve read almost 50- so I’m making a good start, and finally, (3) I wish folks would choose watching, listening and reading things that aren’t loud and cynical ( where are Huntley/Brinkley?) but factual news which would inform and fill us up with hope and goodwill- I think those things should start with me and hopefully Camellia’s Cottage will do that.

Finally, Agatha Chocolats asked, which is the my most favorite published blog post? No contest! It was the least ‘liked’ or noticed on Camellia’s Cottage- called ‘ Lookin’ for Fame?’ Posted on March 23, 2016, about the amazing music, talent and recording genuises in the ‘Shoals’ of Northeast Alabama -I hope it will inspire you to at least see the ‘Muscle Shoals’ documentary! here’s a link- https://camelliascottage/2016/3/23/look-in-for-fame And we hope to do a part 2 to go with it, because world famous fashion designers, Billy Reid and Alabama Chanin are doing amazing work up that way too!

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There is more to accepting this award, including my personal nominees for the Liebster Award, which I will do in my next post…

In the meantime go take an indulgent visit to- Agatha Chocolats @ https://agathachocolats.com !   Love y’all, Camellia

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