Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Rural Credentials

Apparently, the parental units are afraid I'm losing mine. My faux pas so far:

My mom fried fish Saturday night. Bone-in fish that my dad had caught. I hate picking out the small bones; I always get one stuck in my teeth--or for a pain like no other--in my throat. So I didn't eat it. My mom rolled her eyes and said, "Mmm." And I said, "Ma, you know I don't eat caught fish." And she said, "Girl, all fish is caught." But, in my mind there is a distinction. I explained I only eat "bought" fish (as in bought and fileted from the local grocery store!). Which brought the ultra-insulting comment, "You used to eat it."

My dad is also a hunter and has killed two deer this season so far. Their deep freezer is filled to the brim with processed venison. While I know that this may be a delicacy somewhere, in my mind, deer are the beings that dash across rural roadways and ruin your car if you don't swerve in time. So I just can't eat it. I tried, last winter, whe he made venison chili. To tell you the truth, it tasted okay, but just because I knew what it was, I could only take one bite. My cousin T and I were discussing the issue, and her mother intervened, with much attitude, to tell us, "I wish y'all would quit talking about what you don't eat. When y'all were little, you ate plenty of deer and rabbits and racoons and even squirrel! So shut up because [horrible insult] you used to eat it!"

Finally, my dad has a styrofoam bucket full of minnows in the utility room. Last night, my son's little brother spent the night with us. He loved the "little fish" as he called them and we had to keep calling him out of there. Then I heard the sounds of son and nephew (who are 8 and 6, and watched the 3 year old do this) screaming, "Oooh!" I go out there and the 3 year old has dumped some of the minnows on the floor. I start yelling because I am afraid of live fish and they are flipping and flopping everywhere. "Pick 'em up, because I don't want to touch 'em," I scream. And because I am screaming and acting a fool, my son and nephew are frozen, and the toddler is yelling, "No, I'm not touching them fish!" In the midst of all this, my mom comes in, shakes her head, and picks up the minnows. "How are you from the country?" she asks me, all disappointed.

Which kind of strikes a nerve for the same reason that someone saying, "You used to eat it!" does. See, despite all my sarcasm, I really am proud of where I come from. I have all sorts of friends and classmates, who are so ashamed, who move away and pride themselves on never coming back or ask me, "Why do you go there?" or who move to the city and develop British accents. My home town is problematic in all the ways that small southern towns with evangelical populations, strictly drawn color lines, and one dominant industry are, but it is still my home. Saying, "how are you from the country" or "you used to eat it" implies, in my mind, that someone believes that I believe that I have become "too good" ( a serious insult indeed) for country life. Different in a way that implies better.

But, I don't feel like overanalyzing anymore. And, for the doubters in my family, I think it may be more convincing to point out the ways rurality is in my blood.

Like the fact that my accent is still way intact.

And that a fine layer of red dust has already settled on the car, and I'm not even concerned.

And that a friend cooked collard greens and hot water cornbread yesterday and Sis and I made pigs of ourselves.

And that I thanked the guy at the store for "sacking" my groceries.

And that the kids are outside and I don't have to check on them that often, as long as I hear their voices, because I know the neighbors are watching them, too.

That is how I'm from the country.


Gwyneth Bolton said...

Girl, nothing keeps you grounded like family and a trip home. They will call you out in a heartbeat even when you haven't "changed" just to make sure you don't change too much. That probably doesn't make one bit of sense, but... I know I get the look and "you think you too good..." Or my aunt's "remember, huh, I knew you when..." I think I'll take your mom's "you used too..." anyday.

Enjoy the holiday and the family!


RageyOne said...

I totally know how you feel about "caught fish" versus "bought fish." Those bones are atrocious when the get stuck in your throat!

Family will keep you humble. Have a good holiday!

Zan said...

Gods, I cannot eat boned fish. Arg. No. No no no. It's just wrong. Besides, you think any of my family fishermen have ever gone out and caught a salmon? No. Ha.

I will eat deer though, so long as it's cut with something else. Like deer sausage. Most yummy.

My family doesn't try this too much with me, because I made it clear from about age 12 that I was NOT a country girl....not because I found anything wrong with living out there, but dammit, I need things to do!

elle said...

grounded and humble are certainly polite terms for all the emotional manipulation that can unwittingly (I hope) are occur.

zan, salmon? these people catch white perch and bass and other stuff. i am strictly a catfish filet girl, and yes i know they're scavengers and scaleless!

belledame222 said...

of course sometimes the "bought" fish have the tiny bones as well...hard to get 'em all...

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...