Monday, July 27, 2009
Last night I shared my bedroom with a lizard (actually it was a salamander, el esposo assured me, as if that made it any better). Yesterday afternoon in 100 degree weather, I hung my clean clothes out on the line, knowing the blazing hot sun would have them dry in minutes. And right around dusk yesterday evening, my brother-in-law brought over three ripe watermelons picked fresh from his wife's family garden. Without a doubt, I'm down south.
Funny that I'm in Spain and yet the cultural norms of being down South mimic my own summers spent with my grandparents in Maryland. (Some wouldn't call Baltimore south, but I do, especially when your grandparents are transplants from North Carolina.) Summers with my grandmother meant tagging along while she hung all of our clean laundry on the line in her backyard, then collecting the fresh vegetables she had growing in her garden. Every day my great-grandfather, Papa Carter, stopped by to drop off a huge watermelon and a pack of chewing gum for his favorite granddaughters. And heaven was baking lemon cakes with my grandmother and then decorating them with wild raspberries plucked straight from the vine. For the rest of the day my older sister and I mostly entertained ourselves, playing jacks on the porch and collecting lightning bugs in grape jelly jars at night.
My parents on the other hand, though originally from Mississippi and North Carolina, now live in a two-bedroom condo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There is no sending my kids south to visit. Or so I thought until now. Being here in the south of Spain this summer with my boys at an age where they notice differences and can participate fully in daily life, I am thrilled to see them taking part in a way of life that I associated only with my southern Black roots. But clearly the Black is inconsequential in a way.
My sons are learning here how good food tastes when it comes right from the farmers' stall at the market and they are learning to appreciate a nice rest after a good meal. (Unlike home where I'm met with only moans and groans if the words 'nap' or 'rest time' should escape from my lips.) They now know that clothes pins are actually for hanging up clothes and not just for art projects at school. My older son, who takes after his mother when it comes to creepy, crawly things (meaning he shrieks like a girl whenever a bug comes near him) was thrilled to tell me he found a dead lizard this morning in the back garden! And maybe most importantly, both of my sons are learning how to just slow down. I love it.
At the end of the day, this southern Spanish experience doesn't really surprise me. It serves only to remind me that when I picked el esposo to be my partner, even though on the outside we seemed to come from different worlds, I could tell he was a kindred spirit. I could tell our life views were shaped by similar forces, mainly a strong bond to family, where both families come from down south.
Coming up next, the connections between a southern Spanish lisp and an American southern drawl.