Blackberry Winter


I know these are not blackberry flowers. They’re pea blossoms in the husband’s garden. But it’s freezing cold outside and I heard a local person call it “Blackberry Winter.”

Even though I’m a Southerner, I had to look it up. It refers to a cold snap right at the time that the blackberries are in bloom. Well, the blackberries are not in bloom, but I think it can mean an unusual cold snap when it’s supposed to be warm.

That much is true!

Husband is out in his vegetable garden in a hoodie. So, I know it’s cold!

I grew up in North Carolina and I never thought of myself as a Southerner. Southerners were from the Deep South, the Delta, out in the boondocks, never wearing shoes, wearing overalls that are cut off below the knee, eating weird animals like possums and speaking with such a drawl that you can barely understand them.

But anywhere below the Mason-Dixon line (which is a line that runs between Pennsylvania and Maryland at 39°43′19.92216″ N) is considered the South. It was a line dividing the states that supported slavery and those that did not.

Given where I grew up, where I have lived and my family heritage. I am a Southerner. It’s hard to be completely proud. I mean Southerners were slave holders, considered ignorant and are known to give you that Southern hospitality all the while stabbing you in the back. And we lost and were humbled by the War for goodness sake. Can we hold our heads up at all?

But there is beauty, humor, grace and a restrained politeness that belies a stubborn strength here in the South.

I live near Atlanta and there are very few born and bred Atlantans anymore so my ears perk up when I hear that native tongue. My Aunt Mary (pronounced “may-ree”) had the real accent. It’s a beautiful, lyrical sound. Vivian Leigh in “Gone With the Wind” almost had it, but not quite. It truly is a beautiful accent, not strained or clumsy at all. It’s like hearing nails on a chalkboard when I hear someone in a movie trying to do it and miss it.

I can hear a few true Atlanta (pronounced, “ayut-layn-tuh”) accents around but you have to get way out from the city to hear the really wonderful Southern sayings like:

“I’m wore slap out!”

“It don’t make a hill of beans to me.”

“I’m fixin’ to go over yonder.”

“That’s slap my mama good!”

“The pot liquor is the best part of the greens.”

“Bless your heart, honey, but you’re a dumb as a stump.”

“I declare he is funny as all get out.”

“Heavens to Betsy I’m as full as a tick!”

“She’s got gumption but she’s too big for her britches.”

“Well, I s’wanee he did eat the whole plate of biscuits.”

I grew up hearing these phrases and it just makes my heart warm up when I hear them being used.

Where they came from I’m not totally sure but I do know that some words and pronunciations and sounds in music came from the Scots-Irish that settled this part of the country. The slaves from Africa totally influenced Southern food and music.  There is also a sprinkling of Dutch and German. There is also an echo of the Native American presence especially in the names of places.

The South is a beautifully unique blend of cultures.

I cringe when I hear people insult the South and Southerners. I mean, it’s like anything or anyone, you can’t really judge it until you know it.

To me, it’s familiar, it’s home.

I know I have a lot of readers from other countries. What is unique to you? What phrases? What food? I’d love to know!





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