Lebanon Reporter

June 19, 2013

Shades of gray and blue

By Ginger Truitt
Reporter columnist

— I spent last week gallivanting around Tennessee and North Carolina with my young’uns. I am a full-blooded Hoosier, but I spent a good portion of my growing up years down South. I had a great deal of fun taking the kids to the touristy places, where I had been on many childhood field trips. We saw Rock City, rode The Incline, toured Biltmore Estate, and spent a day be-bopping around Gatlinburg.

On road trips, I typically don’t like to use precious driving time by lingering at sit-down restaurants. The kids get a bathroom break when I am forced to stop for gas; and they get hot food if, and only if, the drive-thru lines are short. Other than that, it is full steam ahead until we reach our destination.

So they were surprised when, after dragging them out of bed at the crack of dawn to begin the journey home, I suggested we stop for breakfast: real breakfast like you only get south of the Mason-Dixon.

I relished every bite of the gravy-smothered pork chops sitting atop buttery biscuits, served with a side of grits, and washed down with sweet iced tea. Referring to the wonderful food I had been eating all week, I posted on Facebook, “Why oh why must I return to Yankee territory today?”

Some observed the fact that I do have a kitchen, and could possibly learn to cook southern cuisine.

Another mentioned that coming home would improve my health.

Someone else commented, “Indiana is not Yankee territory!”

I responded, “Granted, you won’t find Hoosiers noshing on pasties, but to southerners, we are definitely considered Yankees!”

My friends who never lived in the South can’t begin to understand. They didn’t spend a year in Tennessee History, studying diagrams of every battle, learning vocabulary words like “secede,” and singing songs about goober peas. They didn’t have a childhood whose family picnics included taking a metal detector to search for buttons that had fallen from the uniforms of dead soldiers. And it is unlikely that they ever stood on the street corner, peddling a weekly newspaper by calling out, “Would you like to buy a GRIT?”

The year we moved to Tennessee, I was nearly nine years old. I quickly learned that I was considered a Yankee. Our church was holding a summer long contest between North and South. My Sunday School teacher gave me a dark blue cap with two plastic guns crossed on the front. I was to wear it each week in order to signify my alliance with the north. I didn’t fully grasp the relevance of her words until we left the classroom. My new friend Blaine Joel, who was wearing a similar cap in gray, raised a fist in the air and shouted, “The South will rise again!”   

“Yeah!” I shouted enthusiastically, “The south will rise again!”

He stopped in his tracks. “You can’t say that. You’re a Yankee!”

The other kids, all in gray, began to snicker. I went back and asked the teacher if it would be possible to exchange my blue cap for gray. In her most charming, syrupy, drawl she consoled, “Oh, I’m so sorry, sweet pea, but you are a Yankee, so you’ll have to wear the blue.”

I guess the contest served its purpose. I went all through my neighborhood, knocking on doors, asking if there were any Yankees who might like to attend church with me. Every time I brought one, I got points. Points added up to Confederate dollars, which I was able to spend in a little shop at the end of the summer. An unintended side effect of this church event was that, by August, I would only be friends with kids who wore blue. Well, except for Blaine Joel. His mama was an amazing cook, and I loved going to his house for gravy-smothered pork chops sitting atop buttery biscuits, served with a side of grits, and washed down with a big ol’ glass of sweet iced tea. You might consider me a traitor, but this Yankee knows a good meal when she sees it.

Ginger is an author, speaker and mother of five. Find her on Facebook (Ginger Truitt-Author) and Twitter (@GingerTruitt), or contact her at ginger@gingertruitt.com.