Special Edition! Camellia’s Valentine’s Advice…

img_3382Valentine’s Day is a veritable mine field of a holiday. I’ve interviewed a good many women who report feelings of depression, unfulfilled expectations and outright anger after this day of love. Valentine’s Day is fraught with problems for Southern men. Why? Because the south is a matriarchal society. Southern mommas take care of all the gift buying, the decorating, the meal planning, the teacher gifts, cookies and cupcakes and all of that glitter strewn around from card making- even cellophane bags stocked in at least 3 different sizes, perfect for goodie bags for? Every. Single. Occasion known to mankind. We might let men think they’re in charge of… say, the Deep Fried Turkey for Thanksgiving but it’s a woman who has the back up roast turkey just in case his fryer catches on fire! img_3376

Valentine’s Day is that exceptional holiday– she may done everything for the children’s parties yet southern women don’t think it’s asking too much for Billy Bob to turn into a Sugar Daddy on Valentine’s Day. For just one day, is it too much to expect Billy Bob to turn into William Robert Smith IV, master of all things sweet and romantic on just one little bitty day of the year? Is it any wonder that Every. Single. Year- most men manage to blow it? They need help and she’s put her foot down she’s not giving him even a hint.

Knowing the average male attention span is short, this is the Short List.

  • Avoid anything fuzzy, helium filled or a good deal like boxes of chocolate you forgot to remove the sticker which says- ‘Buy one Get one Free’.
  • I’ll let you in on a big secret-  Victoria or Frederick’s are names southern women associate with Hurricanes- this is not a good message to send and- really, you don’t know her size or preferences.
  • Do not buy matching camouflage outfits and take her to the hunting camp, even if she’s bagged more quail or pheasants than you did. She wants it served under glass.
  • If you do take her out to eat, make sure the place has tablecloths and seating- not just bar stools if you get my drift!

Now that I have your attention gentlemen, remember this above all else- Valentine’s Day is for her, not you.  Please don’t go into a store, and buy lingerie- if you can’t pronounce it- you don’t need to be there! Listen to me- you’re gonna bomb on this one because just when the sales lady asks for her size- you’re going to fall into this trap by sayin’ ‘Well pretty lady, I reckon she’s just about your size!’ and boom! Too big or too little will not be forgiven any time soon! Now, if you’ve stayed with me this long… I can get into specifics-

  • Do not- I repeat- do not buy her a digital bathroom scale. Do not sign her up for a gym membership! Do not buy sugar free candy or a trial membership in a weight reduction program, even if your Valentine has been asking you since New Year’s if you think she needs to lose weight- that is a trap.
  • Dinner and a movie is generally a safe bet- unless dinner is fast food and the movie is ‘Chainsaw Massacre’, ‘Jaws‘ or ‘Walking Tall- Part 2′ . It just kills the mood. Believe me on this one.
  • Please don’t complain about the prices at dinner or at the movies.
  • Whatever you do- don’t have photo booth pictures blown up into framed 8×10’s, she may have thought they were adorable at the time… yet for her desk? Probably not so cute.
  • About that desk- you might want to check with the florist- ‘Are there multiple orders going to her workplace?’ You wouldn’t want her to be mortified if she’s the only one there with no flowers! (I have known women, who in desperation have called the local florists and had her own flowers sent to cover for your gross negligence in this matter! Believe me, you will never live this down.

Speaking of flowers, we do know the difference in florist flowers and those bought at the big box or grocery stores. Whatever you do, please do not buy a neon blue orchid. Now, those are the basics, are you ready for more?

  • Going to look at tractors, single wide trailers or pre-fab storage buildings are not exactly her idea of a romantic outing.
  • Neither is taking her car for an oil change, new brake shoes or having the tires rotated- even if they throw in the Valentine Special of hot pink fuzzy seat covers. Just  do your duty to see about her safety and welfare- not as a gift! Note one exception- *If you’re thinking automotive- buy her a new car! *

I know you’re thinking of buying her something for the household- this is another trap, believe me. Please don’t buy household appliances of any kind- a new vacuum, a toaster, a leaf blower or an electric drill. Let the kids buy her those things for Mother’s Day! Or better yet, hire someone to do all those chores that you’ve been putting off for…ages?

  • Do not buy her an apron, oven mitts or dish towels. In fact, do not even think of buying her a trinket of any kind- especially if you found them at a truck stop or country cookin’ gift shop.
  • Even if she’s the one who yells the loudest during football games- do not buy a 65 inch color TV and have it mounted in her absolutely gorgeous bedroom! In fact, don’t give her anything that is suitable for mounting on a wall- especially your latest ‘catch’ even if she’s won more tournaments than you have!
  • A shirt with an Arrow pointing your direction- that says- ‘I’m His’ might be funny to you- believe me it’s not! Matching Tshirts are to be avoided at all costs for Valentine’s Day- especially if you’re taking her out somewhere nice.

By now, you’re probably thinking that a card is a nice touch and it is. Unless you’ve neglected to actually read the inside of the card! It might look great on the outside with romantic wording like ‘You are so beautiful to me…‘ yet on the inside there’s a picture of an Orangutan sayin’ ‘A face only a mother could love.‘  Now, you may have howled when you read it and gotten a big kick out of it all; believe methis will not be well received, any more than :

  • Wrinkle, hair removal, anti-aging products or the perfect shade of nail polish which you think will save on all of the beauty parlor bills! Leave this to the professionals.
  • Handwritten coupons for anything will not spell Sugar Daddy- even if your handwriting is nice- this doesn’t read nice. It shouts- Cheapskate!
  • Candy is always a nice touch as long as it’s not a fun-size bag, a quarter pound chocolate heart that she’ll need a chainsaw to cut (see above) Or…a cheap grocery store brand with four pieces of chocolates – go for broke here and get the kind of candy sold in free standing stores with nice gold wrapping paper- even if you think the price is ridiculous!
  • And, if you’ve been dating a while, please don’t buy a hard candy diamond shaped plastic ring, a big old fake diamond keychain, a heavily over advertised open heart or a boxed set of jewelry on the sale aisle. She wants a diamond not a friendship ring!
  • Listen up! Regardless of the song… Diamonds are a Man’s best friend! And of course-dogs, it just depends on where you’d rather be.

img_3376Southern men need help on Valentines Day. According to my hotline results- no matter how hard you’ve worked that day- she’s expecting you to show the same energy and enthusiasm you had for SEC football games. When you pick her up, please don’t say-

  • ‘Are you wearing that?’  or ‘How much did that cost?‘ no matter what she has on.
  • If she asks you if her shoes look funny- please don’t say ‘Well honey, they aren’t hilarious.’
  • If she exclaims that her hair looks awful- refrain from saying ‘It doesn’t look any worse than usual.’

Some final advice- if she’s over the age of five- your valentine doesn’t want a bouquet of lollipops, a stuffed animal of any kind- no matter what size it is- and certainly not a bunch of helium filled balloons! Save that for birthdays or fun days. And remember above all else- Valentine’s Day is for your sweetheart, not you. If you can’t remember anything else, gentlemen, remember that. Or. Believe me, darlin’, she won’t let you forget it for a whole year or…maybe your own natural lifetime.

Love y’all, Camellia

*These helpful hints have been gleaned from an informal poll of southern ladies who have experienced some frankly disappointing Valentine’s days. The poll is non- scientific and based solely on the horror factor of it all. *Men, you have my full permission to reprint this article, IF you commit it to memory and can recite it in your sleep! Ladies, you have my full permission to reprint this article- as long as you promise to give it to your sweetheart, right before or after Valentine’s Day- depending on when you need it! It doesn’t worry me…much- I’m a fictional character.

*The wonderful free images are from @over including the cute videos!

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Rest assured we will never ask your weight, height, shoe size or whether you tint your hair straight out of a bottle, or if you’ve neglected your charm school training. We will never ask your age, simply because you don’t look it anyway- still pretty as a picture and the very essence of health and vitality! We will never ask for or use your personal information- because really, that’s the height of being tacky. What we will ask for is that you will be on your best behavior and use your highest comportment skills- otherwise we will wonder ‘who your people are’ and worse – we might privately question the quality of your upbringing- so don’t go embarrassing your momma!

We love to hear your stories and hope you will continue with the highly witty comments; of course your high praise when warranted and… In return, we will try to maintain high quality postings and avoid things, such as the questionable use of double negatives, the horror of dangling participles and the inexcusable use of ending a sentence with a preposition. Still. Occasionally we do admit to mangling the King’s English when we deem it appropriate for emphasis.

Just know this- we are so thrilled you’re here! Thank you for stopping by, and you’re always welcome to stay awhile. Soon we will be back with more delicious recipes, a few hints and pinches and hopefully a few laughs as well!

Love y’all, Camellia

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Going Away Outfit…

2823124a-f856-4894-a1ac-30945ecce7b9.jpegWeddings have always been a big deal in the South, so you have to know Southern Mothers are reading everything they can get their hands on about the Royal Wedding…You see, we crown our daughters for everything known to man. It’s that royalty thing, I guess…

  • Weddings are supposed to be the one day of the year that a lady feels like Queen for a Day.
  • We hope the groom feels like he’s getting the deal of a lifetime.
  • The bride’s daddy hopes this fellow has at least a few irons in the fire and gainful employment to support his daughter in the style she deserves- Daddy’s gonna take it as a personal insult if he’s given permission to a man who turns out to be a deadbeat.
  • We hope the bride will swoon whenever she sees her groom- the perfect gentleman- okay, we also hope she’ll feel for lifetime, like Jane seeing Tarzan-or at the very least Buster Crabbe!
  • By the wedding day, the mother of the bride, hopefully will have satisfied herself, barring a criminal background check- that the young man has a sufficient pedigree to marry into the family. That his people go back at least three generations right here in Alabama! We must have a decent write up in the paper after all!

When the engagement is settled- the planning and partying begins….lest anyone think this is fun- let me disabuse you of that notion. A few days into the engagement – which should be a reasonable amount of time not years…(long engagements make daddy think the groom is shiftless, aimless or the groom doesn’t have honorable intentions)…and there’s the other reason, rarely stated- the longer this engagement goes on? The more the wedding is going to cost! Little bitty homemade bird seed bags for throwing turns into a flock of released doves, a small afternoon reception at the church turns into an all out champagne filled country club event… you get the picture.  At any rate- just a few days after the engagement…there are only two people still excited about this wedding – the mother of the bride and the bride! Ultimately, no one is excited except the Bride. Everybody has started worrying about the money…money, money, money…that’s all Daddy, the bridesmaids (who have issues as well) and the groom secretly worries about the money- ok, not so secret. How much is this wedding going to cost anyway? And how many parties did you say?AA0DBA26-F8C7-49A7-A577-6A23227EE508

There’s the formal engagement party- the registering for gifts, the formal teas, the sip and sees, the informal showers, the bridesmaids’ luncheon, the after rehearsal party and just when you’d think everyone has suffered enough- there’s the actual wedding, the reception and the honeymoon, by then everyone is sayin’ -‘I thought we’d never get that wedding over with!’ And then there’s the thank you notes but let’s not give ourselves a headache over that one just yet!

In between all of this – there are the clothes to wear to all of these events!  The bride has the added burden of not only-

  • a wedding dress, dresses for teas, showers, sip and sees and luncheons-
  • the Bride also had to have a trousseau,
  • a peignoir set for her wedding night,
  • honeymoon wardrobe and oh yes!
  • The Going Away Outfit!

B012247A-7495-49BB-90E8-4B5348016B16I have not read one word about the royal bride’s going away outfit! Why would any bride in her right mind give up an excuse to have another outfit?  Are Going Away Outfits out of style? Surely not! If there’s no Going Away Outfit to round out the write up in the paper… ‘The Bride and Groom have planned a honeymoon to Chattanooga.. ( Atlanta, New Orleans or Jekyl Island). The bride wore a worsted wool suit that matched her bridesmaids dresses, the groom wore… after their honeymoon, the happy couple plans to make their home in…’ Do you see what I’m talking about? With no Going Away Outfit, there isn’t a decent way to end the write-up in the newspaper! Whatever happened to good write-ups anyway?8482a35a-bc6c-4543-98e2-fdffccd5e8e4.jpeg

The Going Away Outfit was usually a suit or a nice dress with a corsage or  handheld nosegay as they rushed to the getaway car, waving and smiling for the camera. Not only was the Going Away Outfit a fitting way to leave after the wedding…after all, the wedding dress had to be boxed up- ready to send to Berthon’s Blue Ribbon Cleaners and preserved for future generations.42A279F8-8F5F-4B47-BDC4-FB52556D3ACA

The Going Away Outfit was symbolic- it represented a change of status for the bride. Recently, a few friends were discussing this subject and we were dismayed to think these Going Away Outfits could possibly be outdated. My own was a wool suit the same color of the Tropicana Roses in the center of my wedding bouquet and my bridesmaids bouquets too. It was a double breasted number with tortoise shell buttons, I had well made brown leather pumps which would come in handy to wear to church, weddings or even funerals later. One friend said her going away outfit was a brown striped church dress- which her sister borrowed a few months later as her own going away outfit. The rules for the Going Away Outfit were few- 112D02C8-9091-4A55-B944-2F56500F4B1D

  • It should be well made- befitting of her status as a married woman,
  • it should have a reasonably high neck- no low cut skimpy trashiness allowed!
  • The suit or dress should be knee length, not hiked up, with slits or a suggestively short skirt, ahem…
  • We’re not talking overtly matronly but let’s face it- when Queen for a Day is over- you’re headed into Matron of Honor territory, darling!

One friend was finishing up her senior year at Auburn University where she was majoring in fashion design, she made her own going away outfit! This was no easy task! She was taking a tailoring class, she had to design her own flat patterns with measurements taken from a ‘make your own dressform’ which entailed wrapping the body in gauze and flour starch, carefully removing it and mounting it on a stand. She decided to make a linen dress- a sheath dress cut on the bias in what else but Camellia Pink? and a matching Camellia Pink Boucle Coat with lining to perfectly match.

EDCE48EB-5E20-4458-AA23-CAAAC72A8084She married in mid March, so she wouldn’t graduate before her wedding- now, really can you imagine, planning a wedding and making the outfit and all of the rest of it? A dear friend and member of the wedding party, found the perfect two tone leather shoes to match at Kessler’s in downtown Birmingham. Ultimately, she had an orchid corsage and matching handbag to boot! She blushingly recalls that her wedding night peignoir set was white- okay, what other color would it be? So was mine! High neck, lace insertion- literally the whole nine yards…but I’m getting off on a tangent. Another friend married close to Valentine’s Day so her Going Away Outfit was American Beauty Red, she’s been married 35 years and still has her Going Away Outfit- okay…not the skirt but the jacket! The other smiling bride wore a medium green linen suit, while her new husband was decked out in striped shirt and casual pants! Now, why, may you ask was this Going Away Outfit considered  necessary?

B012247A-7495-49BB-90E8-4B5348016B16The bride has been trussed up in her wedding gown…endured photographs, the receiving line, the reception- perhaps the toasts, the cutting of the cake, the first dance and made the rounds to meet and greet the guests.

Imagine it, if you will… she discreetly withdraws from the wedding party- her wedding dress is carefully removed, folded away in it’s box or bagged…she changes into her Going Away Outfit… has a sweet moment with her handsome groom- hair is rearranged and makeup refreshed before she steps out of her bandbox- tosses her bouquet- hugs her mother, he hugs his… FDA17986-05C3-4A76-872B-87853CF5D899

Amid showers of rice, flower petals or birdseed, the bride is squired by her groom to the waiting car, like the dainty and delightful confection that she is- the car door closes with a solid satisfying thud.

C3ADBD7B-8629-486B-94E7-9DC928AEFE0DA box of wedding cake, cheese straws and toasted pecans is handed through the window. The happy couple smiles for one last photograph. Etiquette dictates the guests should stay until the couple leaves for their honeymoon… Sighs are heard among the crowd… ‘I thought they’d never leave!’

I sort of hate it that Going Away Outfits have Gone with the Wind… Here’s the importance of it- presumably, when the bride reappears in her Going Away Outfit, it represents her new status as a married lady, outfitted and ready to take on her new responsibilities- in her home, her workplace and her community. I think it was a sweet tradition and I still maintain- a wonderful way for the bride’s parents to make sure their daughter is prepared for the new important occasions in her life. Let’s face it, for the bride- an opportunity to get an extra nice outfit! Oh me, going down memory lane is fun!

Love y’all, Camellia

*A huge thank you to the Southern Brides who agreed to share their photos! All photographs were edited by me- they are the sole property of the community of Camellia’s Cottage and should never be used without permission. Can’t resist sharing one more…. No bride or the families can ever do it alone! There’s a whole community of folks behind the scenes- helping make it all possible- and that never goes out of style!dffa4905-aaeb-4792-a240-7176dba4fb53.jpeg

*Buster Crabbe was the original actor who played Tarzan, just in case you’re still wondering.


A Southern Mother’s Advice…

IMG_3477It’s a known fact that Southern Mothers dote on their menfolk and children. Wait a minute, it’s more accurate to say- Mothers tend to dote on their sons, but advise their daughters.  All. The. Time. Especially when it comes to dating. It is highly important for Southern girls, because their daddies have made them believe that no one- I mean in no uncertain terms, is good enough for their daughters.

img_3474.jpgSouthern mothers on the other hand, know what’s good enough for their daughters and what’s not. Okay. Here’s the thing… at some point the mother’s gonna have to write out an Engagement Announcement. For heaven’s sake and the surrounding communities, it better be a good one! For instance, when she asks- ‘Does he have a job?‘ a Southern Mother wants the answer to be an unequivocal ‘Yes’ even if he has a trust fund. As long as he has some gumption and it’s honest work, she can make the best of it-

  • Mechanic? ‘Harold Joe Smith is heavily invested in Automotives,
  • Pulpwooder? Buzzie Thompson is invested in Timber,
  • Farmer?  Billy Mack Hopkins III has acres of Prime Real Estate or
  • Coal Miner? Mickey Richards has Mining Interests.’

IMG_3457And if he has the semblance of a Last Name for a First Name, a Southern mother can get a decent write up for the paper. If he doesn’t have a Last name for his First name he’s probably a Yankee or a Redneck.  It doesn’t matter if his granddaddy was as crooked as the Mississippi River, a Southern Mother can overlook and explain it as a colorful eccentric background.. Now, if the young man in question is a descendent of Buster Crabbe- his rugged good looks might have translated into Tarzan on the silver screen then, but a Chest so Hairy it comes up out of the neck of his shirt? That is completely unacceptable. If his hair is like Conway Twitty or Willie Nelson, she will charm him right out of wearing it like that- Put him in a Navy Blue Blazer and Khaki Pants and no one will ever know the difference.

Basically, the Southern Mother wants the young man to have Good hair, Good teeth and Money. She can generally take care of the window dressing, especially if he smells good, too.IMG_3463

Now, if the young man asks if the Southern girl lives close to a Church or School Parking Lot because he needs to park his 18 wheeler there– for a first date? Okay, that’s not okay. ‘Sara Jean, you are not climbing up in the cab of that truck on a first date, what if he plans on takin’ you to a honky tonk or a truck stop then what will you do? And his CB handle is ‘Hauling Trouble’ !

Now, if he has money or comes from money? Even if he is ugly as homemade sin, the Southern Mother can work with that, too. She’ll talk about his triumphs on the football field or the golf course and say, ‘Well, for goodness sakes! Who would want a man to be wan and pale anyway?’ Especially if she can smell old money. IMG_2283

Southern girls have to endure the Inquisition… *Warning these are trick questions, so be careful of pitfalls here. The list of questions a Southern mother will ask, include but are not exclusive to:

  • Do you like his looks?
  • Does he have enough sense to get in out of the rain?IMG_3464
  • Does he clean up well? (If he does, no matter what he does for a living she will consider him to have potential.)
  • Does his wardrobe consist of T-shirts with sayings on them? Does said Tshirt have a pack of cigarettes rolled up in one sleeve?IMG_3466
  • Does the yard dog bark and growl when he comes to the door? Better yet, does that sensitive House Cat of yours screech and arch her back when he comes around?
  • Do children whimper and run?
  • Are you taken with him?
  • Is he conniving or wishy washy?
  • Does he have a limp wrist or a firm handshake?
  • Is he stubborn as a long eared mule?IMG_2121
  • Does he gallivant around?
  • Is he a thug or a hoodlum? Does he act like a hooligan?  (She will be checking for a prison record).
  • If he has a big set of keys jangling in his pocket and a big billfold with a chain hanging from his belt loop, she might smell money, yet not equate it with class.
  • Does he wear lifts in his shoes?
  • Is he Old School or Wild as a Buck?
  • ‘Are you just boring him to death Mary Lou or does he have narcolepsy?’
  • Are those his Real Teeth or does he have a Plate? ‘For heaven’s sake, he needs help with that halitosis! The cheapest thing you can buy is a peppermint!
  • Does he Yodel?IMG_3467
  • *Now this is important! Does he wear cut off jeans, a Speedo, or Board Shorts to the beach?
  • Is his hair a natural born color or is it green, blue or purple?
  • Is he a dude or a dud? ‘Gaynelle, is he a dude or a dud, that is the question…’
  • When you’re with him, is it Moon and Magnolias or a Buttermilk Sky and Blackeyed Peas?
  • Does he have a tendency to Howl at the Moon or just when it’s a Full?
  • Is he so Sweet it makes your Teeth Hurt?IMG_3471
  • Does he go by to check on his mother? Or, does he still live with her?
  •  Is he a Man of the Cloth? This is truly a trick question…

‘Now, you know Merry Beth, preachers that thump a Bible and run the rails have a tendency to stab you in the back, however- if he does actually wear a collar and cloth- well, now that’s different.’ Not. Really. But still.

  • Does he mostly take the Southern daughter to dance halls and honky tonks and is- ‘too drunk to kareoke’ ? (That’s coarse and common no matter how much money he has!)
  • Does he have any common sense? Is he able to extend common courtesy?  Does he have a sense of common decency? Hint: this may be the most important run of questions. Decency…

Now, even after all that, the prospective one will still have to have a ready answer for this one or she will never approve…‘Young man, who are your people?’ Remember she has a di-rect line  that rings into the State Archives Director’s Office. Really.

Assuming he’s passed all the tests, he still has to get past Daddy- who leaves the Porch light on if the young man seems nice. If Daddy is worried the lucky couple is lingering too long, the Porch Light will be flipped on and off. If his precious baby daughter doesn’t come right on in… Daddy will turn on the Floodlights as he opens the door- looking down the barrel of  his BB gun. Don’t get me wrong- Daddy doesn’t want to hurt him, just scare him a little bit.

It’s a wonder any Southern couple actually makes it to the Altar! But if he’s a good one…don’t let him get away! Even if you have to hog tie him and drag him fightin’ tooth and nail, get him to the altar! If you’re taken with him, if he makes you laugh, if he has some gumption and a sense of common courtesy and decency; the main thing is…when you can’t imagine life without him? Marry him, then dote on him like only Southern ladies know how!

Oh me, sadly all of this can or has happened.  Yet, like all good Southern tales, this one is part truth, part myth and part outright lies.

Love y’all, Camellia

*This is a humor piece, please don’t ever point a BB gun at anyone! * A huge thank you to all the Southern girls who contributed to the Inquisition, you know who you are! * ‘too drunk to karaoke’ is good ol’ southern boy, Jimmy Buffet’s line *Almost all photographs are part of the Camellia’s Cottage collection, please do not use without permission. *The vintage photo of the beauty queens holding large coins and the three cute old ladies are AOL images and may be subject to copyright


Sinking Spells…


vintage woman on fainting couchSouthern Ladies are known for vague conditions and symptoms, like Sinking Spells. We’re not looking for medical terms or specifics. We prefer eccentric descriptive health conditions like:

  • Having a Come Apart, Being in a Fog, In a Rigor
  • Suffering from the Change of Seasons, a Crying Jag or being absolutely Mortified
  • Wasting Away, Catching a Chill or In a State of Abject Horror
  • Being covered with Chigger Bites, Flustrated, or Working ourselves into a State.

We know the value and consequences of various Fits- Hissy Fits, Conniption Fits, Running Fits and if the situation calls for it- we might even Pitch a Fit. There are vague Nervous Conditions too, which are never labelled with Capital Letters. Nervous conditions are described in more colorful terms:

  • A Basket Case
  • Gone Over a Cliff
  • Being High Strung
  • Falling to Pieces (which made Patsy Cline a major Grand Ol’ Opry Star)
  • Breaking to Bits, Melancholia
  • Flighty, Nervous Ninnies, Having Spots before Our Eyes
  • Having Frayed Nerves with Hair Standing on End
  • Keeling Over (often accompanying an actual Sinking Spell)
  • Being Fragile or one of my favorites- Delicate.

Actually, any Southern Lady who suffers from nervous conditions such as Sinking Spells is not considered weak, oh no- it is proof of Ah-ris-ta- cra-tic Blood lines, Good Breeding, think of Melanie Wilkes here.  Southern ladies who chopped wood and kept the farm running during Wartime, become Fragile– so fragile she might break to bits or fall to pieces in Peacetime. . Some Southern Ladies who are High Strung  with an even Higher Temper and seem subject to Tantrams are also prone to being Delicate or having Sinking Spells when deemed necessary, Scarlet.   Really now, what woman, regardless of bloodlines wants to be thought of as a Battle Axe? No, Southern Ladies must be fragile and delicate;  look wan,  pale as a ghost, yellowed with jaundice, so delicate a puff of wind could blow her away, perhaps presenting with Chill Bumps then a Slight Fever.  Give us vague symptoms– certainly not a fever raging so high, her hair catches on fire- that’s tacky.  Having competing Visions of the Heavenlies or the Gates of Hell is scandalous.  It’s not ladylike. Eccentric descriptions of vague conditions- like a head swimming Sinking Spell are just enough to make Brows Furrow in Concern. This is not to imply we don’t have harsher words for more Serious Southern Conditions. We might say:

‘I was in such a state dealing with that Imbecile, I really should have been Medi-cat-ed but Momma warned me about Dope Fiends. I don’t want to end up like that! No sirree bobtail cat!  I just had to straighten up and be Gracious about the whole thing, so, I took a Minute to regain my Composure.’ 

Ladies must be on guard to always be Gracious and Ah-ris-to-cra-tic with our various, sundry and vague health problems! We would never appear in public with trashy conditions like Boils, Blisters, Carbuncles, Ri-sens, Knots or Pock Marks. It is unthinkable to appear Run Down at the Heels or be Prone to Hit the Bottle. Having the Heebie Jeebies or Raisin’ Cain isn’t done in polite company.  Showing Signs of overtly coarse and common conditions would send a Southern Lady Over the Cliff. We have long known that most of our vague symptoms and Sinking Spells can be cured with a Spring Tonic made from Wood Violets, Smelling Salts, the restorative Hadacol or a numbing dose of Paregoric. If a Sinking Spell occurs in the daytime, it is permissible to lay down fully clothed on top of a coverlet, but for heaven’s sake- please don’t disrobe and cover up by actually going to bed in broad daylight! It’s alright to put a cool cloth on your feverish brow in a darkened room, just don’t sit staring out into space with a washrag just on top of your head while out on the front porch! vintage fainting woman

Now I know you’re wondering- what is a Sinking Spell?

  • It is of unknown origin, ‘I told you when you let yourself get so thick, if you keep wearing those tight clothes you’re gonna start seeing spots before your eyes!’ Tight clothes are thought to be one source of Sinking Spells.
  •  Sinking Spells can be brought on by a Shock to the Nervous System. ‘Maddie Lou called and said, ‘It is with a heavy heart, I tell you the thing we greatly feared has come to pass, our skin has become lined and crepe-y. Wrinkled I tell you!’ 
  • A rise in Humidity and a sharp drop in Barometric Pressure can plague us with a Sinking Spell and a Sick Headache. ‘If this Fawg would just lift!’
  • Right before a Sinking Spell, one might be LeThar-gic (we love the word lethargic!) followed by a Queasy Stomach and Weak Knees. ‘Evah’ time I see Merry Beth in a new outfit, it just gets my goat the way she struts around. You can mark it down on the calendar, the next thing you know, my head’s a-swimming- then I’ll have a Sinking Spell.’ This is typical of a Change of Seasons Sinking Spell, a new outfit is the tonic for it and generally dispels the symptoms.

Sinking Spells are a Southern Ladies secret weapon for getting our own way. Remember ladies, this is how you have a sinking spell…  Delicate. Fragile. Vague darlin’, vague… Try having a Sinking Spell if you need a bit of sympathy, feel under the weather, need a lift or a new outfit. Don’t forget to lay in a supply of Pepto-Violet, a Spring Tonic  or a Restorative Bottle of Hadacol. You never know when you might need it. Just know that there are times when you definitely will need to take the cure. Like all good Southern tales, this one is part myth, part outright lies and in this case, mostly true.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Vintage photographs from Bing and Pinterest and are not designated with copyrights. Hadacol (20% grain alcohol) and Pepto-Violet are old remedies. Paregoric is no longer available but it was a numbing medication given freely to teething babies or women experiencing Sinking Spells.

Happy Birthday Camellia’s Cottage!


Well, you won’t believe this but I’ve been writing about Camellia’s Cottage for a year now! I looked at the first time I wrote y’all and …well, we stumbled and bumbled along, but managed to write over 200 letters to you- won a couple of awards, img_2305-edited

…gained a wider audience than I would have ever believed -and hope to reach even more.  I’m still excited about writing to you, with hopefully better content and better writing in the coming year; perhaps without too many danglin’ participles or obtuse grammar!  Jeremy Miniard’s photographs have made us look good when we weren’t all that good, then Sally Smith shared some of her photography too! Your comments always make my day and get me tickled, some make me laugh my sides off! The Word Press Happiness Engineers were so patient when we were getting started. Questions like- ‘Ok, now what is a widget, darlin’? You know, I’m tech challenged- really have no business trying to do this…’ were graciously answered and were a huge help for someone like me, whose hands shook every time I hit publish for months on end- the amazing ‘ edit’ feature is a treasure. I found out I really enjoy writing humor, sharing what’s growing, what we’re readin’ or where we’re goin’ , what we’re doin’ and of course describing mouth watering southern food. I continue to enjoy struggling to find a photograph to go with what I’m writing even if I have to get creative about it- here are a few early attempts- don’t you just love those sweet Easter Eggs? img_1453-editedimg_1779image

It’s always a joy to find words to describe our people, who, contrary to popular belief are not all the same. We might talk funny but even the way we drawl varies. Perhaps my deepest joy is writing a Sunday inspiration; and I completely adore showing off this beautiful state, Alabama. Some of our folks might be nutty as fruitcakes- but as Eudora Welty once put it, ‘The South takes care of our eccentrics’.  I know this to be true, the South takes care of me! I have more to tell you about how Camellia’s Cottage began, but now is the time to  celebrate! You won’t believe some of the new stuff we have in the works for you!  If you decide to hang around a while longer, invite your friends, I’d love to meet them.  In the meantime, I hope you laugh, I hope you dance, I hope life treats you kindly, I hope all your dreams are coming true… ok, I’m starting to sound like the lyrics to a country music song. Drop by Camellia’s Cottage every chance you get, linger a while -maybe sip a tall glass of sweet tea, nibble on some cheese straws, extol the value of living close to a tomato vine, chew the fat- whisper a bit of gossip and share a bit of wisdom and  inspiration…I truly look forward to visiting with all of you…

Love y’all, Camellia

visit Jeremy miniard’s work at Jeremy.miniard.fineartamerica.com or in our search engine- look for Porches of Alabama, Doors of Alabama, Backroads of Alabama and more!

visit Sally Smith at http://www.CampCreekCreations.com   *all of the photographs in this post are obviously mine!

Winter in the Deep South…


After the beautiful weather we’ve had this week, it’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, we had snow! That’s Winter in the Deep South for you.  The Seasons here are like a big family, we love to show off our Spring Beauties in all of their glory days, we have loads of fun with the Triplets- Lake, Bay and Gulf Coast in Summer, then we long for the weather to cool off for when the fun, colorful cousins-Fall, Foliage, Football and Holly Days arrive. But Winter in the Deep South is the fickle eccentric side of the family. Snow is like the flighty aunt who lives way up above the Mason Dixon Line, who makes sneaky calls to the weatherman sayin’ she’s coming home but changes her mind at the last minute. Aunt Snow is mostly a no-show, but when she does drift down it’s a surprise visit. She comes breezing in and before she can wear out her welcome she’s gone- leaving us to wonder when or if we’ll ever see her again. Snow is the most fickle weather condition in the Deep South. This sun-filled winter week, the flowering quince is showing out and bulbs are pushing up foliage- like when our colorful sun-loving cousins are around, quirky things happen. It’s because we’re having another weather pattern that actually does happen every Winter in the Deep South- a warm spell right in the dead of winter. We worry about the foliage and blooms- we would rather have blossoms near Easter. Old gardeners tell me that it’s actually a good thing for bulbs to put out foliage- if a killing frost comes through, the bulbs will have extra food to make it until Spring. Who knows if it’s true? Yet, somehow we do manage to have a beautiful show sometime along April or May- though I do recall one Easter when everything was just beautiful then lo and behold! Aunt Snow showed up before we had a chance to get out the bed sheets to throw over the azaleas!  We generally accept that Winter in the Deep South will be like having unexpected company, you know the type, the eccentric, unusual characters. Uncle Duncan Raines is quite a character- using colorful loud language, Uncle Dunc storms in, dropping by for a few demanding hours and then leaves you with a mess to clean up. vintage-burl-and-freesia-2

Or, the unexpected company is like Uncle Burl Frost, who always overstays his welcome. If he brings his sister with him? Let’s just say, we  nevah roll out the welcome mat when Burl Frost and his sister Freesia Butler drop by! Brrrr! It’s a chilling visit! Pipes rattle and freeze when they hear these two coming. Burl and Freesia are considered bonafide nuts! However, the most peculiar and eccentric of the whole Winter clan is- Uncle Gray Ova Caste. He doesn’t say much, so we don’t either. We tell ourselves that Winter’s occasional visits from Aunt Snow are fun, that Frost and Freesia kill off the bugs, we always need a Duncan Raine…it’s just the cold, gray overcast days that dampen our spirits. The doldrums set in when Uncle Gray Ova Caste settles in for a long dreary spell. They say he made his fortune in pharmaceuticals.  After one long stretch of heartbreakingly damp, overcast days, hanging heavy with fog- a friend once exclaimed, ‘If this fog would just lift!’ Uncle Gray Ova Caste is plain depressing, he shows up with heavy footsteps, damp boots and sits there looking dreary. We sit around longing for him to move along. That’s the part of Winter in the Deep South we dread the most, but then there are those clear dark starry nights when he finally drifts away. Without much warning, another warm spell will come along and lift our spirits. The Camellias will bloom, and we’ll tell ourselves that Spring in all of her glory will come by soon. I for one, am longing for it.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Vintage photographs of ‘Uncle Burl Frost and his sister Freesia Butler’ are from old family photographs belonging to Camellia’s Cottage- they were unnamed so Burl and Freesia seemed as good as any!vintage-burl-and-freesia-3

*Also, I would like to say- it’s at times like these that I truly wish I was a better writer and made better use of this beautiful language to convey what Winter is like in the Deep South, but hope you had fun with my folly and unusual cast of characters!

Snowed in…

jeremy-winter-22Weezie Walters opened her door with the intention of going out to get the newspaper and was hit in the face with freezing cold air, she eased it back shut and thought better of it, she was snowed in..for two whole days now. This is almost unheard of in the South- one day, maybe- but to be snowed in for two whole days, rare. The menfolks had braved the weather the day before to check on road conditions; one man opened his law office-a couple came by who were considering divorce after being snowed in for 24 hours. He talked them down with strong cups of coffee until a compromise was reached. The problem started when the husband let his hunting dogs in the house to keep warm- they had a running fit-knocked over the wife’s heirloom silver and crystal epergne and snagged her mother’s antique Christmas lace tablecloth. The husband had paid a whole lot for those hunting dogs, and were arguably worth more than the heirlooms but the sentimental value of the antiques rendered them irreplaceable. So with the lawyer’s help, it was mutually agreed upon that the dogs needed to be put in the garage with the heater running full blast while they were snowed in. As soon as possible, the husband needed to try to replace the heirloom epergne with one of equal or greater value with the firm understanding that one way or another he would spend the rest of his life paying for it. crystal-and-silver-epergne

Another man opened his Used Car and Antiquities location. He actually sold two cars and an old sideboard too. Now he had customers on the way over from the law office. He thought to himself, maybe it wasn’t so bad being snowed in. Another fellow noticed the dire reports of road conditions were true in some areas; one particularly well travelled road had slick spots bad enough to be closed off, folks all along that road were snowed in too. There was a pile up on the Interstate, which had changed the travel plans of several who were determined to get to Tampa to meet their Cruise Ship.Instead of flying they decided to just drive, the roads would be better the farther south they went and at this rate, it would take longer to wait at the airport than to bite the bullet and drive-far better than cancelling the trip because they were snowed in. William and his brother Billy decided to get out in the yard and split some extra firewood until the axe handle broke and they started hollering at each other about whose fault it was; they gave it up since they were set for firewood anyway and just needed to let off some steam. jeremy-winter-24

Mary Belle sent her grown son outside with a step ladder to break off some icicles, she held the step ladder for him and together they packaged them up in zip lock bags to put in the freezer for the next time her grandchildren came for a visit. Ray Vann’s Aunt Lizzie decided to close up her home, so- along with her two of bridge playing friends- they were headed to his house because icy sleet threatened their power and cable television. Ray Vann planned to make up a fourth and was well pleased; the ladies brought a chicken casserole, a pound cake, a big pot of soup, hot curried fruit and the makings for a hot punch. 2015-12-21 11.08.39

Ray Vann’s house has a generator and like his sweet momma taught him -if things got testy, he could always fortify the cider with cooking sherry. Ray Vann was pulling out the cooking sherry when he recalled that he had heard the Public Transportation Van had to cut the route short due to inclement weather the day it snowed…only one stop was made after weather reports were beginning to come in. First on the van that morning were two meek women who needed to run to Walmart for milk and bread. Then a church lady got on-she asked to be dropped off at the AME Church of the Jordan River to prepare the building for shelter.img_2264-1

She smelled of lavender and lemon, tight curls freshly coiffed, a starched shirt under a wool shirtwaist with a worsted wool coat, silk scarf, sensible polished shoes and a small overnight case, she was ready to get snowed in.  She sat right behind the driver to keep an eye on things and had a good grip on her large pocketbook. Next a third woman from one neighborhood over, got on-bundled up in her wool scarf, puffer coat, thick socks and puffer boots with fake fur, sort of trashy looking truth be told. The last stop took on a large male passenger who appeared to be a grouchy Veteran of Foreign Wars. He sat down so hard that it felt like the tires had gone flat on his side of the van and alarmed the others. It was told on good authority that he abruptly stated to the driver- ‘ABC Store!’ Well, the church lady looked indignant, stiffened her spine in disgust- while the other women cleared their throats and looked out the window nervously.   Since the Alcohol and Beverage Control Store was close by, the van driver pulled in there first- getting directives as to how to proceed due to weather concerns. This apparently pleased the veteran no end- he turned to the ladies and gallantly said- ‘Would you ladies like for me to pick up anything for you?’  The puffer coat woman began fumbling in her bag for cash; with a large cough said ‘Why yes, I feel a head cold coming on. A hot toddy might do the trick since it’s clear the doctors offices’ll be closed.’ One of the two women said, ‘Well if you’re asking, here’s a ten- get me a smallish bottle of bourbon- I need to replace what I used making fruitcakes.‘ The church lady peered her way disapprovingly. The other woman sniffed loudly and with a look of abject dismay said ‘Why no! I don’t need a thing, thank you very much!‘.  The church woman looked kindly on her. Oh the indignity of it all. While the man was in that evil store, the church lady withdrew her Bible from her pocketbook and began to read, “For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty..” Raising her hands toward heaven the dismayed woman cried-‘Amen!’ Another weak ‘Amen’ from the fruitcake lady. The woman with a cough, just coughed louder and shifted down in her puffer coat. The driver said, ‘Ladies, no Walmart stop today- this weather is getting bad.’ The heavy veteran got back on- all smiles now and began handing out the plain brown paper bags. The fruitcake woman had withered under conviction, and said- ‘Just keep it.’ Her friend nodded with stern approval. The puffer coat woman narrowed her lying eyes and with a cough said- ‘Look, it’s just a precaution.’ The church lady began humming ‘We shall overcome’ as the van pulled away from the ABC store. Apparently the wind was taken out of the passengers, but the air in the tires held out to get them home where it is reported the cough has miraculous healed, the righteous are intact and the veteran is rewarded. Snowed in. jeremy-winter-23

Yes, Weezie was wise to stay in and not risk breaking a hip on the slippery sidewalk. Women of a certain age, like Weezie have kept civilized society intact in the South. Especially when they are snowed in. She got back in bed with her phone, lap desk, pen, notepad and stationary and here’s what she did:

  • Wrote a nice note to  Ray Vann for taking in her friends
  •  Wrote a letter to the local officials admonishing them to pay closer attention to the delicate sensibilities of female passengers when a male passenger felt the need to fortify himself.
  • She made a few calls to check on her neighbors
  • Received a call from a frantic mother of the bride who was wrestling with the wording for the newspaper announcement
  • She wrote a note of condolence to her distraught friend, offered to let her use her silver epergne any time she needed it- that men are basically children when it came to their hunting dogs and as soon as it thawed out the two of them would get out and take that tablecloth to a seamstress who still does fine lacework and tatting.
  • Weezie made a note to get that axe handle replaced and be sure to thank William and Billy for keeping her firewood warm and dry again this year.
  • She wrote out a check to the AME Church of the Jordan River to help with their shelter efforts again this year
  • Her annual check to the Aid and Comfort Committee of the Veteran’s of Foreign Affairs in honor of her late husband, Fitzsimmons and
  • A check to the local animal shelter if things deteriorated for the hunting dogs.
  • Word came through that the travelling cruisers made it to their ship with time to spare, and yes, she would be looking for a post card from every port.

Weezie got up, put on a pot of vegetable soup, made a couple of casseroles to put in the freezer for an unexpected event, squeezed a wedge of lemon and a swirl of honey into her hot tea, then got back under the covers with her latest copy of the Tallulah Tattler, which was her only vice. Weezie could hear mommas up and down the street calling out to their children- ‘In or Out!’ and thought how some things never change, especially when folks in the South are snowed in.

No, Weezie as long as you’re around, darlin’- we will live like civilized folks instead of like a bunch of heathens, especially when we get snowed in. Oh lord, like any Southern tale this one is part myth, part truth and part outright lies- but I dearly love to tell these tales.

Love y’all, Camellia

All names and places are fictional, figments of my imagination. Any resemblance to an actual event is  coincedental.

*Bible Verse from Proverbs 23:21 KJV

*Photographs Jeremy Miniard’s – find him at http://www.jeremy-miniard.fineartsamerica.com with two exception-the crystal and silver epergne is from AOL images and may be subject to copyright and the Pound Cake which is mine.

A Southern New Year’s Meal…


Southerners do love the Lord, but we also have a strong superstitious streak. The Southern New Year’s Meal is fairly steeped in traditional superstition, so whether you like it or not- you will be expected to take just a bite or two of Greens, Blackeyed Peas, Roast Pork, Sweet Potatoes and Cornbread! If you don’t? Well, your happy and prosperous New Year has been put in serious jeopardy. Southern mommas are so serious about this- they are willing to doll up their Blackeyed Peas and call it Southern Caviar, of all things. My grandmother wasn’t so accommodating…she said, ‘Learn to like ’em’, which really meant-don’t mess with tradition. Truth be told, up and down most Southern neighborhoods, on New Year’s Day you could smell what everybody was cooking, Southern Soul. We eat Pork- any kind really, Ham, Pork Chops, Hamhocks, Roast Fresh Pork, Salt Pork or Barbeque on New Year’s Day- why?

  • Because Pigs root Forward for food-
  • Cows Stand Still- and chew the cud over and over again- so don’t eat Beef, unless that’s how you want the new year to go..
  • Chickens, well they’re flighty and flap around the coop-but the main thing is they Scratch Backwards for food…
  • Moving Forward, I hate to put it this way-to move Forward like Hogs do- is the way to go in the New Year.

We won’t mention the high fat content of pork while you’re making your New Year’s Resolutions- though fat was considered a good sign, especially to farm and field hands, who preferred fat years as opposed to lean. In fact a Southern New Year’s Meal is actually a pore man’s meal. After the Wah B’tween the States, we were all pore. The New Year’s Meal was scraped together from what the Union Army left behind after Sherman tore through here, leaving basically feed for livestock; corn, dried out peas, potatoes and turnips left undug. When those Carpetbaggers, Scalawags and Yankees came down here to straighten us out – they had to eat pore man’s food too! I guess they learned to like it. Remember, the New Year’s Meal is the Food of the Southern Soul. Now, don’t go thinking we’re unhappy about it- we like itimage

We even spice things up a bit, we always have Hot Pepper Sauce for the Blackeyed Peas and Greens, the Mashed Sweet Potatoes are topped with Pecans, Cinnamon and Sugar swimming in Butter or maybe the Sweet Potatoes will be made into Sticky Candied Yams. This year, I’ve made up a Sweet, Spicy and Hot Pickle Relish for my Turnip Greens or to drizzle over buttered Cornbread. And, I’m having a Turnip Green Casserole made famous by our colorful and infamous Governor Big Jim Folsom. He made a campaign stop out in the middle of nowhere late one night and was served a mess of drained Turnip Greens topped with Fried Onion Rings, then kept warm in the oven. When Big Jim asked what the name of the dish was- they didn’t know…so he dubbed it ‘Ain’t Mad at Nobody Turnip Greens’. The Pot Likker drained from the Greens was saved for Medicinal Purposes, is said to be restorative to the sick. (You might need it!) The only change I’m going to make is to cook some diced turnips in with my Turnip Greens. I also plan to liven up my Roast Pork Backbone with cracked black pepper, a generous amount of salt; then surrounded with whole onions and garlic, while it roasts. Don’t you just love the idea of having a spicy Southern Pork Backbone for New Year’s? My Grandmother did. The superstitious prosperity traditions surrounding the New Year Meal are specific-

  • Dark Leafy Greens represent green folding money,
  • Ground Yellow Cornbread represents gold bullion,
  • Sweet Potatoes represent copper pennies.
  • It is traditional to eat 365 Blackeyed Peas for a prosperous New Year, however many you eat- that’s how many lucky days you’ll have. Blackeyed peas are a type of field pea when left on the vine after harvest will dry, then are hulled and stored up to re-hydrate and eat during winter or kept for starter seed in the Spring.You never know when you might need some ‘seed’ money..
  • Pork is Preserved or Saved, too. The New Year’s Pork and Blackeyed Peas represent the wisdom of Saving- you didn’t think Piggy Banks were a figment of the imagination did you?

So, there you have it, the Southern New Year’s Meal. If you have room for dessert, you’ve missed the whole point- this meal is so well rounded, so complete you really don’t need another rich thing. After all you indulged in during Thanksgiving and Christmas, uh ah-well let’s just say it wouldn’t hurt you pass up dessert. There’s always that fruitcake no one ate or a slice of sweet potato or pecan pie so good it will lull you over to the couch for a nap. Now, I know you’re pining away for that recipe for the Sweet, Hot and Spicy Relish- it’s easy as pie:

Camellia’s Spicy Winter Relish 

  • One 12 oz jar of Sweet Pickle Relish- drained.
  • One small can of sliced Mexican Jalapeno Peppers with liquid
  • 2- 2½ cups of pure cane sugar

Put all of the ingredients in a stainless steel pan, bring to a low boil, reduce the heat and cook until liquid is almost all absorbed- it will be sticky and glistening, candied might be a better word. Makes 2 cups of the best stuff you ever ate any time of the year!image

And for heaven’s sake, get those Christmas decorations down, it’s bad luck! I would love to hear what you’re eating New Year’s Day and whether you’re superstitious about it or not. Whatever you’re having, I hope you are blessed with a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Love y’all, Camellia

*Photographs are all mine, obviously. *It is worth noting that according to nutritionists, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes and dried legumes all have very high nutritional qualities- no excuses! Eat that good Southern Soul Food!

Thanksgiving in the South…


FABD3DC6-D245-4805-B4AE-374585D66D08It’s occurred to me that Thanksgiving in the South offers some interesting enlightenment of our people and our region.. All regions know how interesting, maddening, delightful and hilarious family holidays can be! Here we never want to be too critical of the family because, well it’s not exaggerating to say that Southern Food, Southern Beauty and Southern Accents are far superior. The South has eye popping beauty- refined, rustic or rough as a cob, like the people who’re from here.

Take the Grumpy Uncle who can get loud- you know the type- knows it all but never knows when to hush up.  His scope of the political landscape is daunting- he’s a ‘law and order, hang ’em high and often’ kind of guy- His wife watches NPR and graciously corrects him -saying ‘Thank you darling for sharing your perspective’. They stopped watching the nightly news together years ago and have agreed to disagree. She likes diversity- attends Combined Worship Services with all Communities- Grumpy Uncle stays home.

Then there’s the Nephew who lives for the Opening Day of Hunting Season- Bucky’s always dusty like the chert roads he drives on. Sometimes we think  Bucky loves his huntin’ dogs- Jackpot, Fang and  Cream Puff more than he loves his own Momma! Recently, Bucky offered to take his Momma up to the hunting lodge; told her he’d teach her how to shoot; she  politely declined. Secretly she keeps her great grandfather’s pearl handled pistol under the mattress, loaded. In fact, she won’t allow her mattress to be turned- evah.  The mattress weighs fifty ‘leven pounds and is reported to be worth a fortune.img_1579

Then there’s Aunt Eugenia, who always asks- ‘Who your people are?’. It’s been reported that a distant cousin was thinking of marrying a questionable young man- Aunt Eugenia wrote to the State Director of Archives and History  asking for the lineage of the young man. She’s had a working relationship with the Department for decades. The bane of Aunt Eugenia’s existence is her Niece, the political activist, the one who agreed to attend the full round of Catechism Classes at First Presbyterian and then announced to God and the Church Elders that she would not consider putting herself forward for Confirmation and Sprinkling even though the programs had already been printed. Her family was horrified.75396FD9-9E4D-465A-8974-D81AB94126B1

Who can forget Long Tall Double First Cousin Floyd? He led singings at Sacred Harp Conventions  for 50 years. Everyone feels obligated to ask Uncle Floyd to say the Blessing for Thanksgiving Dinner. With bowed heads, the women struggle to keep the food warm while Cousin Floyd starts in praying-  opening up with Original Sin in the Garden of Eden- ending fifteen minutes later with a flourish at the Great White Throne. All are very thankful by then.

Uncle Floyd’s  plump wife is the Pentacostal Princess of the Covered Dish- and I do mean prize winning. Princess wrestles with high blood pressure and swollen ankles. The high salt content in Cream of Mushroom Soup and Canned Onion Rings are contributing factors. E025EC53-CDFF-46F0-AA1C-F42608981D48

At the other end of the table is the Union Boss Aunt whose husband is Foreman on Third Shift. He had to learn how to make Biscuits and Cornbread and the best Blackberry Jam this side of heaven, just to survive his working wife’s inability and disinclination to ever come near an Iron Skillet; though she is proud to say– her Ironworkers have been making Iron Skillets for generations. She’s tough as pig iron- he’s a big teddy bear.

Then there’s the rowdy offspring of Grandmaw Bama, a full blooded Cherokee- Grown men whoopin’ it up as part owners of Mississippi Casinos. Still. These Indian Chiefs were smart enough to marry good Methodist girls- quiet, unassuming DAR members. Their folks are the Bankers, Lawyers, Doctors and  Accountants. Generally their mothers are Pillars of Society or Teachers who wear sensible shoes. They know the ropes of society’s high demands. We count on these ladies to bring Tea Sandwiches, tiny Dinner Rolls and Petit Fours, tiny being the operative word.2015-06-05 12.02.11 (2)

And isn’t there always a skinny freckled Nephew with buck teeth who is the official photographer? Freddie has an annoying habit of catching the Beauty Queens without a smidge of lipstick on, looking pale as ghosts! The Beauty Queens exhibit varying degrees of glamour- for instance, the Cotton Queen and the Peach Queen are a cut above the Peanut and Boll Weevil Queens. The long line of Southern Queens manage households wisely, run the vacuum cleaner wearing  Tiaras and no matter how old they get- will always be Queen of Everything. 3AB23828-CEAD-44C1-875A-59D7F4612246

And dare I mention the motorcycle riding Vietnam Veteran, Billy Jack who brought home a sweet foreign wife? Always wearing matching bandanas- Billy Jack bears a striking resemblance to Willie Nelson. His wife has lived in the South 40 years but still thinks dumplings are steamed! Their son was a child prodigy, he learned Classical Violin before he was three, while simultaneously perfecting Hogcallin’ .

Aunt DawDaw keeps chickens and can be counted on to bring the Devilled Eggs. DawDaw’s son inherited the Family Cotton Farm and shocked everyone by not majoring in Agriculture- Fitzgerald got a degree in  Horticulture with a concentration in Floral Design. Fitz makes Wreaths and Floral Arrangements with the Family Cotton, his designs grace the Front Doors and Thanksgiving Tables all over the place. Folks whisper he’s topping high cotton makin’ more on his floral designs than a bale of cotton brings!  Fitz is a bit peculiar but all of the unmarried girls want to marry him or at the very least have Wedding Bouquets made by Fitzgerald! He’s admired by his whole family; Fitzgerald saved the family farm…and made enough to buy a fancy cotton pickin’ machine…2016-02-12 15.52.26

Like cyclist Billy Jack, Great Uncle Chester also married a foreigner. Bless her heart she was a Yankee.  Uncle Chester moved her down to Texas. Out in the middle of nowhere, Chester promptly drilled an oil well or two- then had the nerve to invite the whole family to his Ranch for Thanksgiving. Of all things. Listen- we don’t have Stuffing made with bread balls or cubes whatever they are– We have Dressing, Cornbread Dressing!  Thanksgiving Food is Sacred in the South. Don’t mess with it. Unfortunately, Uncle Chester’s wife tried to make Cornbread Dressing- and failed miserably. She put a liberal amount of Oregano in the Dressing Mix. She mixed up Oregano for Sage! All of that Oregano caused a gag reflux in Aunt Flora, who actually had to excuse herself from the table! She never forgot nor forgave it.

Aunt Flora was a real southern lady with unfailing good manners and an impeccable cook.  Every year without fail- Aunt Flora made the Cornbread Dressing -hissing that she would nevah get over Chester’s wife- ‘Can you believe it! She put Oregano in the Dressin’!’  On her deathbed, Aunt Flora stretched out her frail hand and said – ‘If you evah put Oregano in the Dressin’ I will twirl three times and come up out of mah grave!’ No one wants to risk it. Clumps of Sage were planted by her gravestone and granted perpetual care.

This is the South, y’all. We’re alike but different. Some of us think the others should be more open minded- others cling to the old ways.  We may not yell for the same SEC football team but we all agree it’s the best football in the country. We never disagree on how pretty it is down here or how to make decent food, especially Decent Cornbread Dressing.

The South simply can’t be described in all of its civilized or uncivilized behavior of varying degrees. Let me put it this way, Norman Rockwell never painted a Southern Family having a Southern Thanksgiving- Mr. Rockwell would not have inflicted that sight on the General Public. However crazy, peculiar, eccentric we might be- we defend her, overlook her eccentricities and step carefully in our Graveyards for fear of all the Rolling Over, Rising Up and Twirling surely going on in the South

This is a tale of a Southern Thanksgiving, your own family will look positively sane by comparison!  Oh lord, y’all- like all good Southern tales, this one is part Truth, part Myth and part Outright Lies…

Love y’all, Camellia

*I do confess to havin’ a great grandmother- full blooded Cherokee and affectionately called Bama. *This is a work of fiction! Any similarities are pure coincidence and for that I pity you.

*All of the photographs are mine.