Friday, February 19, 2010

Don't Slam that Door!

Puttin’ On the Gritz

Don’t Slam That Door!

By Cappy Hall Rearick

The screen door slams shut behind me. BAM! Just like that, I am pulled back to the year 1950. Not a plastic surgeon in the world can promise that.

All my life, I’ve loved the sound of a slamming screen porch door — it has a tone all its own, one that cannot easily be duplicated. In our part of the world, it is called a screen porch, NOT a screened-in porch. I believe it is one of life’s true necessities. While keeping blood-thirsty mosquitoes at bay, it also allows us to keep alive some of the romance attached to the Old South, while reminding us of a time not so long ago when people were more loving and less harried.

I’m a Southern woman who needs my screen porch and candles more than I need corporation ulcers. I want to drink my morning coffee out on the porch while watching the cardinals eat breakfast. I want to end the day there with a nice glass of wine and Babe sitting beside me.

The Sea Island Company, in a fit of infinite wisdom, has put an end to morning joggers and late afternoon walkers on the golf paths outside our house. I miss waving to my neighbors, calling out to them to come sit for a spell on my screen porch. Our once friendly neighborhood has become sterile, just a little too perfect, a landscape painting, a still life.

So when has life ever been static? It was less than perfect while I was growing up in the Old South in the fifties. My parents worked hard and took pride in what they could accomplish on Daddy’s meager salary as the town’s police chief. Goals? Their big one was to provide an education for their children and to do whatever it took to make our lives easier than theirs had been.

Times have sure changed.

In the distant past, the Old South woman was too often characterized as barefoot and pregnant, spending her summer days putting up butter beans in Mason jars. Thank the Lord that’s over.

The New South women of today are top executives at Coca-Cola. They manage to do this between having kids, face-lifts and tummy tucks. While I dress each morning in Fruit of the Loom sweats, they put on designer suits and then put in a full day putting out FAXES.

Unlike the old order, the New South woman does not cook. I’m not even sure she eats. She phones for dinner to be delivered by the time she gets home from the office. She hires a nanny to tend the children and she takes her iphone to their soccer games.

This new breed of Southern woman doesn’t screen in her back porch, she encloses it in tinted, tempered glass and builds a wet bar into the corner. Like her children, her hanging ferns are professionally tended, although her upscale interior gardener may well refuse to “do” common spider plants and philodendrons.

When the holidays roll around, another hired person comes in early one morning, decorates the family Christmas tree and charges big bucks for this service. When the nanny picks up the kids from school, they come back home to the perfect house with the perfect tree and are not allowed to go near it. Little Timmy’s hand-made paper garlands he gently pasted together with white glue will not find a bare limb from which to hang.

I am not criticizing this new version of the Steel Magnolia, I am merely making an observation. To me, a well-ordered, well-decorated home is the result of much planning and is a work of art. I appreciate all things beautiful.

I am reminded, however, of a woman who was rich, beautiful and blessed with all the bells and whistles. My other friends and I were so envious of her. But it wasn’t until the year she left her Christmas wreath hanging on the door until after Valentine’s Day that we began to like her. That’s when she became human enough, imperfect enough, to be one of us.

Even though many things in the Old South were in need of improvement, most of the time the job got done without too many complaints.

The tire swing, for instance. I know you remember the one that used to hang in back yards in every town and throughout the countrysides . These days it is replaced by a pricey carved tire horse, beautifully created out of what once was a plain old tire. Modern ingenuity at its best?

Teflon costs a little more, but it makes our lives much easier than the heavy iron skillets and grits pots of yesteryear. I love Teflon. Teflon is my friend. And only a fool would complain about dishwashers.

But some things don’t need improving. Apple bobbing doesn’t. Ferris Wheels that go around in circles don’t. Cane pole fishing on a riverbank with Grandpa, a rite of passage no costly video game can ever top, doesn’t need improvement.

Holding hands with the one you love while watching a sunset from your screen porch?



Cappy Hall Rearick

"A story is a way to say something that can't be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is." ~ Flannery O'Connor