Thursday, December 16, 2010

FAILING GRACE (or Death By Hoop Skirt)

Ahhh, the South.  Just hearing the word brings to mind great big porches with swings and rocking chairs holding ladies while they sip on their iced tea (or a stiff Bourbon if you're talking about my family).  Yes, trite though it may be, even us Southerners like to think of ourselves that way.  We are a society steeped in tradition and we love to be associated with the notions of gentility and grace.

Grace.  That's the kicker.  I may be stepping on toes here, but it is my opinion that the art of being graceful in thought, word and deed is more the Southern Lady's burden to bear.  I'm sure you can agree that ambulating in a hoop skirt without causing great harm to people and property takes a powerful amount of grace as does the ability to stay smiling and social at a garden party in ninety degree heat and one hundred percent humidity with mosquitoes reenacting the Blitzkrieg around you. 

Many a Southern female likes to be rewarded for her grace as evidenced by the number of pageant contestants voluntarily competing annually for honest-to-God real titles of "Little Miss Shrimp" and "Pickle Queen."  I can only presume that those particular pageants have fantastic "scholarships" or at least super duper sparkly crowns.

Steel Magnolias and all that.

Unfortunately, "Grace" means something entirely different in my family.  Grace is my very, very, very ironic nickname.  I first heard the name when I was five years old and tripped on the sidewalk, breaking my arm in three places.  Yep...had to start kindergarten with a cast from my hand to my shoulder.

Just a few short years later, the nickname really stuck during a summer trip that my family took to New England.  We had been driving for the majority of the day and, let me assure you, riding in a car is a tiring business with my father slamming on breaks and swerving to avoid as he called it "those damned crazy driving Yankees."  We stopped in New Hampshire or Vermont or some quaint place for lunch where we actually succeeded in ordering iced tea without people looking at us as though we were bat shit crazy.  I was really pooped and I honestly don't know exactly how it happened, but I simply forgot that I was holding my nice tall glass of iced tea and it went crashing to the floor.

Over the years, there were tennis injuries, basketball injuries, boating injuries, some seriously impressive skiing accidents and then some just plain 'ol walking around and tripping/running into something injuires.  I know that my poor orthopaedic surgeon rued the day he moved into the house behind ours.

Then came The Day.  The day that every sixteen year-old girl in Wilmington, North Carolina dreams about.  I got to be an Azalea Belle.  I'd grown up watching the beautiful girls decorating the lawn parties and show gardens with their big hoop skirt dresses and their hair done up in ringlets.  I was finally going to get to be a graceful Southern lady!

I showed up all primped and fluffed for the opening ceremony that kicked off the Garden Tour.  We were at a beautiful house on Forest Hills Drive that could have easily been Scarlett's Tara.  The Belles were supposed to line the perimeter of the of the garden during the ceremony.  I took my place in my peach taffeta Belle dress, pulled on my white gloves and got ready to stand there and be pretty.  I would have done a fantastic job of it, too, if some damned cat hadn't climbed up under my hoop skirt.

I am seriously allergic to cats and cats must know that because they go out of their way to come into contact with me.  There were one hundred other Belles that Hello Kitty could have chosen to take shade under, but the little bastard had to pick me.  My legs were starting to itch as the cat wove in and out around my ankles and then it decided to bat at the skirt so that it looked like I had a Gremlin under my dress.  Video of the fateful day tends to give the impression that I was having some sort of seizure.

So, that did it.  That was the day that I gave up any illusion that I could possibly be a graceful Southern lady.  I don't even try anymore.  So, yes, Criminal Defendant Person, your lawyer did just fall out of her chair while you were in the waiting room and she may have stumbled a couple of times on the way to the Courthouse, but--believe it or not--she's sober and she doesn't need coordination to run her mouth.  

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