I only know my perception of a "Southern Woman" from the Louisiana women that raised me. That would be my mother of course, my grandmother, my aunt, and last but not least, my older sister. I do know from this select few that Southern Women can be proud. They can also be jealous, but they love fiercely-with an animal like intensity. Southern Women can hold grudges for a while, but they are usually too busy in life so they inadvertently let it go...until they may need to recall the transgression in the future that is! The Southern Women (in my family) can cook. That's the core of her. And not just cook but from scratch. Today, the day after Mother's Day, I awoke to a sick child, a dog who's bangs were so overgrown he couldn't see, laundry (of course), and a tomato plant that needed some TLC. These things are the catapult that got me thinking about being a Southern Woman.
After medicating the sick child, then waking, feeding, and getting the other child to middle school, cutting the poor dog's bangs so he could see, and skimming the pool, I decided to tend to the tomato plant. Doing as my mama told me, I went to my dresser and dug around looking for panty hose....yes panty hose. I was dismayed to realize all I had were three pair of expensive control top black stockings from winters past because I mean who wears nylons anymore? So I picked the least of the three to cut into thin strips. I went out to my back deck where the tomato plants I bought in March were sitting with broken looking limbs from the weight of the fruit and started cutting dead leaves (probably with surgical scissors I had no business using, but I needed a sharp pair to make the pruning painless). I sat there tying the big weighty stems to the dowel rods stuck down the middle with my expensive control top stocking strips thinking surely this makes me a true Southern Woman?
There's another trait I learned from Southern Women-worry. When there's nothing that poignant to worry about the Southern Women in my family will worry about the weather. I've reached an age where with children and friends my own age dealing with unexpected things life throws their way there's always something to be fearful of. This was the mother I was 6 years ago:
This is the mother I am now:
My husband was going to take me back to the restaurant we always went to on Mother's Day this year from years past, but turns out it doesn't exist anymore! Just as well because metaphorically I don't either. I'm not the woman I was then. I am maybe more jaded. Definitely more mentally exhausted, and due to the amount of silvery white hair I have (thanks to my father) I will probably forever more be blonde now although I envy the brunette I was. My children have become practically young adults. We have done the inevitable-changed! No amount of worry can stop it. And what is the point of all the worry anyway? It never prevents or changes the circumstances. It only ties up every emotion and paralyzes with fear. I try to remind myself that even if the worst happens, the very worst, He is still in control; He is with me; and He will never forsake me.
In the midst of this change I have experienced friends who have lost their mother, battled cancer, and some who are fighting for their life. The older woman that I am is also able to put the little things in perspective in a way only real life and time can teach us. I think the older me prays a lot more and is thankful and knows- I am not in control, He is.
The last traits I have experienced as a Southern Woman is guilt and shame. There are days when I am tired, worn out, and lose my temper. Guilt. There is the mom guilt-does my child get enough _____________ doesn't matter what, fill in the blank with any plethora of things. There is the opposite guilt-have I made my children too entitled/spoiled? My son helped when his school hosted a field day for one of my dear friend's school for children with Autism. While he was so happy to be chosen to help, I was emotional all day. I couldn't imagine the challenges these children and parents have to face daily. At one point the kids in my son's group were having fun and scattered so he was throwing the football with expert aim through the tire since no one else wanted to. He was thoroughly enjoying himself, but I felt guilty as I stood there watching him. Seeing my son do something so effortlessly made me realize how easy everyday playing and living is for some children while others struggle to be able to do things that we as parents take for granted. It also put his hearing loss into perspective and made me thankful for technology that gives him what he needs. There is shame in our dysfunction or mistakes we make along the way of marriage and parenting. But here's what God (and Winston Churchill) says about these things:
So today in the midst of canceling and changing plans, I get to stay home with my sick son who has to miss field day today. I get to tie up tomatoes, prune the death from my roses, and think of how God prunes us and tends to us if we let Him. When you prune flowers you may only see the dead old blooms until they are cut away. Then you get a fresh full of life rose or flower bush. I guess that's why I wanted to grow my own tomatoes this summer. I enjoy the process-tending to plants in my older wiser age. You get from them what you put into them like life, marriage, motherhood. Plants teach patience and appreciation. There is something to seeing a plant's death and regrowth giving a sense of wonder and hope with every new bud.
Most of all, there is strength, endurance, and the ability to carry on no matter what in Southern Women. So I make the most of an unplanned Monday remaining thankful I get to be home with my children as a stay at home mom when they need me, praying for those who have yet to conceive and experience motherhood who desperately want to (don't give up), praying for a dear friend who just adopted but is now fighting cancer (please pray for Annette), remaining humble that we are not guaranteed tomorrow, and cooking as a true Southern Woman would-pecan pancakes! Remember Women, there is no FUN in perfection! We do the best we can, learn from our mistakes, and carry on trusting in Him. That's the essence of Southern Woman!