I can’t figure anything that perturbs me any more than having to repeat myself when I know good and well it’s not going to make any never mind anyhow. But I reckon some folks have to hear some things twice for them to take, and far be it from me to spoil what’s left of any Appalachian grace I might have been born with or had instilled upon me by dear ol’ Granny.
Cousin Snooty drove on down here from the city last week for Aunt Margene’s funeral and commenced her same ol’ predictable assumptions about me and Mama and every other rube that still has enough gumption to call these hills home, just like she did last year at the reunion.
There’s only one thing we hill dwellers enjoy more than a reunion or a back yard cookout, and that’s a funeral. No offense or ill will toward Aunt Margene; she was better than ninety and hadn’t had herself a good day since 2012 when she had the big one and lost all her faculties and fashion sense. Aunt Margene would have rather ran toward the light than be seen without her hair done and her face on, so for a grand ol’ broad like her, there are worse things than being dead.
After the funeral we all met up back at Aunt Margene’s house where all the casseroles and pies and dainty little pinwheels of cream cheese rolled up in Virginia ham were all spread out. We were all just sitting around looking through her picture albums and chatting and swatting at gnats when Snooty started her nonsense.
“I forget how much of an accent you all have until I come down here. If you ever go to the city, people will think you’re simple!” she warned us.
The gall. As if any of us had any notion at all to go to the city. As much as I detest having to repeat myself, I figured ol’ Snooty is one of those folks that have to hear a thing twice, so I obliged her.
When you come to the hills, we are not the ones with the accent. The accent belongs to you, dear Cousin. We tawk and point our fangers and plant flares in perdy pots on the porch and tell true tales about specters and peculiar things. Ain’t nothing simple about it. And while we may have had our mouths warshed out with soap a time or two, we don’t see the need to bleach our natural dialect. I speak and read and write English just fine. I’m fluent, Snooty. Why, I can even tell you think you’re better than your own mama. But you just remember that strawberries don’t fall off of crab apple trees. It’s a good thing Granny is gawn, or she’d get some soap after you to this day.
Now Granny had a mouth on her, too, but she’d have never admitted to cussing or repeating untruths. I recollected the time years ago when Aunt Margene hadn’t come home from church yet and Granny had said Margene went to shit and the hogs ate her. I’d heard her say that more times I can recollect. Ol’ Cousin Snooty got a scowl on her face when I mentioned that, and accused me of being vulgar. “What an awful thing to say!” she spat.
It ain’t cussing and it’s certainly not vulgar unless you point a fanger at somebody while you’re saying it. Years ago when Granny had an outhouse, the girls had to walk by the hogs and the rest of the critters to do their business. It’s good old fashioned history. That’s all. We’re all historians here. Granny was a book all by herself, indeed. And she’d tawk about anything and everything without so much as a blush or a twitch. She once told Mama that she made the ugliest bed she’d ever seen, and that meant she’d have an ugly husband for sure. And worse yet, he’d probably be one of them no hellers from the Primitive Baptist persuasion. So Lord no, Granny wouldn’t have cussed on purpose to save her life.
Snooty turned her nose up at all those scrumptious casseroles and little ham pinwheels and shook her head at all the meringue pies and warned us that our arteries would harden and our hearts would give out before we were old women. She had brought herself one of those salads from one of the fast food joints in town instead. She went on to accuse Mama of cooking with lard and rolled her eyes at the thoughts of it. “That’s what happened to Margene,” she said. “The lard got her.”
Well pardon me, salad shooter, but Aunt Margene and Granny ate those same casseroles and sweet confections for years on end and they both lasted nearly a century. They’d have never bought a box of wilted lettuce from a drive-thru window and suffered through eating it when they didn’t have nery an idea where those greens even came from. Lord no. Granny survived many a winter without anything but a fire and her flour and lard and the vegetables that she’d canned up from the garden that she raised and harvested herself. She made her own butter and milked her own cows and conjured meals fit for mountain royalty. Just ask your mama. She’ll tell you, too. And if you must know, nowadays we cook with Crisco. You can’t beat it with a stick.
And besides that, that’s what country folk do after somebody goes on to the hereafter. We eat and tawk and tell stories. It’s a religion that requires no rule book. You’re privy to it yourself, if you’d just throw that awful salad out to the bickering blue jays. They’ll eat it and complain almost as much as you do.
And don’t be thinking those tasteless greens from only God knows where will give you the same charm that Aunt Margene used to have before the stroke got her. Ain’t a soul in the city that could have rivaled her when she had her hair all permed and platinum and her face decked out in her Estée Lauder. And she’d have bitten her tongue off before she’d had the effrontery to insult folks in their own house on the day of their funeral. And that’s the truth if I ever told it.
I reckon I take after Granny. I tawk about anything and everything without a blush or a twitch. And I like casseroles and homemade pies and stories about how we came to be what and who we are. Ain’t enough money or city contention in the free world to connive me into thinking that folks beyond these hills are any better than Granny or Aunt Margene or Mama or me. Or you neither.
We took to the porch for coffee and to sort through all the cards and letters folks had sent to wish us well or tell us of their fondness and memories of Aunt Margene. Mama looked around after a spell and asked where Snooty had went. I said I didn’t know, but I was pretty sure she’d taken a casserole or two with her. Maybe she went to gobble them up where we wouldn’t see her and accuse her of hardening her arteries.
Either that or she went to shit and the hogs ate her.