Autumn Down South

The leaves are turning and falling, the air has a nip to it, and the days are bright and windy… it can only mean one thing: It’s finally fall in the South y’all! Fall has been my favorite season for as long as I can remember, and here are just a few things I’m looking forward to this year:

Chilly Football Games:

I know we’re all sick of being hot and sweaty messes at the tailgate and up in the stands cheering on our teams. With the way the Rebs have been playing this season I know I’m riled up enough without the sun beating down on me making it worse! I am so looking forward to bundling up for games that have just the perfect touch of chill…not too hot, not too cold.

Dark Nights In:

I know we all love going out and having wild nights with our friends, but cozy pitch-black evenings in with a bowl of homemade soup and a Halloween movie (Hocus Pocus, anyone?) are the real treat this season. I love the cozy feelings.

Going Home!  

       Fall means Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving means going home for the first time since August! I love having a week to hang out with my family and friends and soak up the mountains and gorgeous weather. Fall in Gramling means four wheeling and mountain days and lots of yummy food.

These are the things I’m living for this season! What are you looking forward to?

I Have Officially Gained Southern Belle Status:

I know what’s running through your head right now. “Okay AL, what does that mean? You were born in the South, you wear pearls like they’re going out of style, you’re in a quintessentially southern school, everything you own is monogrammed, you have a closet full of Lilly, you adore SEC football, and you’re subscribed to Garden & Gun: have you not always been a southern belle?” And the answer is…. sort of.

For as long as I can remember, I have been completely enchanted by everything to do with Southern culture. In the sixth grade, when I first read Gone With the Wind, I would have done ANYTHING to go back in time to the South before the War. I was obsessed with hoop skirts and plantations and all the history surrounding the time when cotton was king. (Later, as I continued to study history, grow more mature, and realize the inhumanities that would have come with being the stereotypical Scarlett O’Hara belle, I decided getting to wear hoop skirts everyday would just not be worth living in a world where humans commonly owned other humans- but even with my now realistic views of the hardships and evils of the period, I still enjoy learning about the Old South greatly.)

As I’ve grown up, I’ve started trying to learn and decide for myself what denotes New South culture, what makes our men “gents” and our women “belles” and our region stand out from the rest of the United States? In my quest to define this, I’ve discovered it is nearly impossible to pin down. Every single person has a different view of what Southern is and how we are different from the rest of the world…even our geographical boundaries are debated. Sure, I have a thick accent, and I expect doors to be opened for me, I like to shoot clays in the Fall, and I debuted my senior year; but is there any substance to my characterization deeper than the superficial things about me?

I learned that there was through tragedy…. One of the main pillars of my tight-knit community was taken to heaven late this summer. It was the day before I was supposed to leave for school, but instead of packing I found myself in a house full of mourning friends. The day it happened, as I drove up to the family’s house, the sight of an entire community coming together greeted me. The local fire department was cutting the grass. An extra refrigerator from someone’s house was being set up in the garage for the mass of food soon to come. Cars lined the road and neighboring driveways, and people entered and exited the house so frequently it looked like a beehive. Inside, the house was being scrubbed clean and lunch was being set up. Merely hours after the death had occurred there was an entire feast of sandwiches and fruit and chicken salad and cookies brought to the house and people willing to help serve it. No one was giving directions, it was just happening. Amid the sadness and the tears there was also comfort and laughter and a sense of peace.

For the next three days leading up to the funeral I, along with a handful of other both younger and older women were at the family’s home everyday for the majority of the day serving meals, cleaning, running errands, reminiscing about our favorite stories, and just being there for our friends who we viewed as an extension of our own families. We put our own lives on hold to be there for people we loved. The amount of people who dropped in and brought food and blessings overwhelmed me as an onlooker. The whole week was a study in southern culture and a reminder of why I love it so much. I found myself wondering just how anybody got through such pain without these funeral traditions that are so uniquely southern?

The night before the funeral, the wife of the man who passed, and one of my favorite women said, “You talk about your monograms and your pearls, but this right here girls, is the real deal.” And she was so right.

Southern girls are picked out from the crowd by their accents and their style of dress and from where they say they’re from…but being a “southern belle” has little to do with the outside appearance. The way we are there for our own when they’re hurting, or willing to push aside our own needs to take care of issues bigger than our own, going out of our way to help our people even when we have no idea what we’re doing- the ability to cope, that’s what the real South is all about.

I had never been in such a heartbreaking position before, and being able to be there for the family during that time was one of the greatest privileges I have ever had. Now whenever I’m zipping up a Lilly sundress, or clasping on my pearls, or pulling on a monogrammed sweater I can do it with pride…. because I have had a baptism by fire and come out on the other side knowing that I am more than just a girl with an accent who claims to adore all things stereotypically Southern, I am a girl who has proven to myself and others that “southern belle” is far and away deeper than the outside, and I have been initiated into the ranks of the women who carry on the tradition.

Red, White, and Better than you!

In the south, we do a lot of things differently. We’re more hospitable, we have an ungodly amount of sugar in our tea, we can find a way to deep fry any food, but maybe one of the most dramatically different things we do is Independence Day. Here, we go all out, and while the day is a party everywhere in the USA, I think south of the Mason Dixon is the biggest party of all. It’s like comparing a sweet sixteen (thats the rest of America) to a fraternity rager (here, of course). See, the women and girls down here are all about pizazz in the kitchen, and the men are all about innovative ways to amaze with the fireworks. They just love fireworks. Not carefully choreographed, professional grade fireworks, but lit from a bucket, on the street, thrown dangerously close to going off fireworks. I really hate to use the word redneck but…that might be the only word to help you get the picture. Roman candle wars ensue, trees are accidentally hit, and it’s just not the fourth unless someone goes home with a burn! A close friend of mine has a grandpa who LIVES for fireworks. They go on an annual haul each year, and he walks around the warehouse and giggles. We all go to their house every Fourth and while the boys are lighting the fireworks and running for dear life while the girls sit in the truck bed a few feet away giggling and the parents and children watch from the porch and pool patio atop a hill, the grandpa sits nearby and revels in the sparkles, giving instructions on how to properly do fireworks and giggling every time they burst in the air.
Now, I can’t really use this year as an example, because it was a rainy, stormy mess, but normally there is grilling out and swimming and eating a whole spread of way too much food( I said the women go big in the kitchen. I literally went to the grocery store for my mom three times within the last two days. Baked beans and Charleston dip and ice cream toppings, oh my!) basically milling around until it gets dark enough for the main show of patriotism- the fireworks- enjoyed with some homemade ice cream of course!
In the south, fireworks are a competition. You have to have a bigger display than your neighbor. You have to show your love for good ol’ Merica! It gets intense. Mistakes are made and before you know it there’s a shower of sparks coming your way from a knocked over firework. That my friend is fear! Fireworks also go looooong into the night. No one wants to be the first to stop. It is the one night of the year you are lulled to sleep by consistent booms reminding you of your freedom. I honestly believe there is not a quiet neighborhood in Dixie on the Fourth of July. Even as I type this at nearly midnight I am watching fireworks that just started up outside my window. Even though it’s obnoxious, it’s truly a beautiful show of love for this country.
Now lets talk about apparel. Here, the dress code is “whatever” , but it better have red, white, or blue in it. I tend to vary from sundress to jeans and tank. But I always wear my bright red cowboy boots that were handed down to me from my late fabulous great aunt! Some go all out (I’m talking Old Glory in the most unexpected ways, that might actually be treasonous), some keep it simple. I plan my outfit for months in advance!

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Lasts year’s outfits from a local boutique. With my sister.                                                                                        This year’s outfit. The tank came from Future First Lady on Twitter!

In the south we are passionate about whatever we do. Everything is done big, or not done at all. Independence Day is no exception to this solid rule. Truly, though I admit I have not spent the Fourth anywhere outside of the South, I must believe that nowhere else can compare to the party and celebration that is the Fourth of July here! God bless America y’all!

Well, hello.

I’m not sure exactly where I want to go with this post, but I feel as if I really need to put something up to at least make my meek little blog a not-so-empty place. For the benefit of the readers I hope to soon acquire, I’ll tell you a little bit about myself. I’m from a tiny little town in South Carolina, where life is, for the most part predictable, but I absolutely adore it!  I have a fabulous little dog of questionable breed ( his mother is definitely a golden retriever/ cocker spaniel mix and we’re pretty sure his daddy is some sort of poodle/bichon) who thinks he runs the house, but is really a sweetheart. He even has my large, 6’7 daddy wrapped around his little paw. I am enamored by just about anything to do with fashion, and love clothes more than almost anything else! My favorite part of every day is deciding what to wear and getting dressed. From the time I could pick out clothes, I had a very strong opinion on what I wanted to wear, and when I first learned how to change by myself to the time I started Kindergarten, I would change multiple times a day. Along with the clothes affair, I love to write, and to read, and to dance. It is my dream to become a fashion journalist, and to work at a women’s/fashion magazine. That’s all you need to hear about me for now, I can’t wait to try this blogging thing out! -AL