Sunday, July 19, 2009

Across The Pond

As I mentioned, I'm in a bit of blog funk. I thought it might be fun and interesting to have a guest mom post since I'm having trouble writing anything entertaining. The following post is from my online friend Susan who resides in Ireland and can be found at her home blog, Stony River Farm.

When I told my husband last winter that I desperately needed a break from caring for three children, two of whom have autism, he understood. When I told him I was going three thousand miles across the Atlantic to West Virginia, he didn't understand that so well. But he drove me to Dublin airport anyhow and waved goodbye.

"You did what?" he said, when I phoned him two weeks later to tell him that I loved West Virginia so much I'd bought a house. When I returned home without the house keys and told him I'd given them to the neighbours because their house had burned down the day I'd settled, his reaction was the same: "You did... what?"

"Just Southern hospitality," I said. They'd do the same for us—I swore it. He looked doubtful and then resigned, when I told him that when our neighbour told his wife they'd have a house to live in while they rebuilt she hadn't said anything. She'd just cried.

Five months later, we packed our bags and brought the kids to see West Virginia for the first time. I warned them not to expect much from our second home: there were no appliances in the house after all, and no furniture, no anything but an empty shell that needed some paint and love and several minor repairs. I was hoping the neighbours' dogs hadn't done too much harm to it.

Somehow (shame on me) I'd forgotten all about that Southern hospitality. Our neighbours had not only installed every appliance the house could use, they'd furnished it and even left us boxes of cutlery, dishes, towels, clothes hangers, potato chips... well, you name it and now we've got it.

I was overwhelmed by such kindness and generosity, then completely floored to learn that much of it had been donated by friends and the community. While our neighbours had worked inside their house, demolishing and tiling and hanging new drywall, people had come by to leave things for them on the front porch: a microwave, a bag of clothes, new bedding, a few days' groceries. There was so much that we've now furnished two whole houses, and my basement is filling up with 'extras' we don't even need.

Wow. But that's the South I remembered from my childhood, along with the barefoot summers chasing fireflies, and watching red sunsets from a slow-drifting canoe. The smell of sun-warm home-grown tomatoe vines came back to me suddenly, and the taste of my grandmother's famous apple turnovers. I remembered it all, and I just cried.

At 'home' on my blog, I usually end my posts with a list of fiction or poetry markets. For you I've made a top-10 list of things I've been remembering while teaching my kids to live "Southern" in summer:

  • Everything is bigger in America: the highways, the cars, the refrigerators, the watermelons, the McDonald's coffees, the helpings of fried chicken, the jars of mayonnaise, the chocolate bars, everything. It must be something in the air, because now I'm becoming big too... hmm. That's weird.

  • Never reach up to turn on the ceiling light in the dark; it might be a ceiling fan. Ooowww.

  • Snakes are real. Snakes can find your yard even in a town. Snakes bite. Who knew?

  • The pretty shiny vine growing in the hedge does look beautiful when made into a wreath for the front door. It also makes your arms itch for a freakin' week. Is that why the neighbours are taking photos of our house...?

  • In Ireland, roadkill goes *bump* and is hedgehog or endangered red squirrel. In Appalachia roadkill goes baBOOOOMbangBAAANG through the windshield at you and is a deer or bear. Yes, bear... and I didn't even know there was a zoo near here for them to escape from.

  • When I was little my mother chastised me for complaining there was nothing on television, by pointing out I had a choice of four channels: in her day they didn't even have TV. Today in West Virginia cable television has 800 channels and there's still nothing on.

  • On TV, people ride in the back of pickup trucks. It turns out that in real life this is illegal. It turns out that folks do it anyway.

  • Tea can in fact be ingested cold, without milk, and sweet. Now there's something to tell the folks back home.

  • Three things about driving in America: 1. The steering wheel is on the left side of the car. 2. The car should go down the right side of the street. 3. Other drivers become very irritated very quickly when either of the first two things are forgotten.

  • And finally kids, if you lie to me about putting on your sunblock... I will know.


  1. Thanks Ashley! This was fun. But your posts ARE always entertaining to me: I think we all have some self-doubts about what makes us interesting to others or not. If I can't think what to write, I just post lots of photos LOL.
    Like lately...

  2. I came over for a visit from Susan's blog. It's a wonderful post. I hope to see some of your writing this summer too.

  3. Aloha from the warm, sunny and friendly state of Hawai'i. That crazy woman...I think her name is Susan...who believe it or not, has pandaitis and is still trying to get into a string bikini with it, sent me here and I tell ya...even though she's crazier than zulu, yoda, spock, kirk and R2D2 combined...I love that that don't be getting me a friend ya know. Excellent post and great sight...
    PS don't believe a word she says about's all LIES

  4. Susan,

    I was once treated to small town southern hospitality and I have never forgotten the overwhelming kindness and generosity. I was stranded beside the road with little money and now no wheels, and someone brought me a key to a motel room. Others brought money that bought a bus ticket. a guy who owned the local restaurant feed me dinner and packed me a picnic lunch that lasted 3 days on the Grayhound bus. Those folks are just amazing.

    Of course, in your case, you started by doing something amazing! You gave your house to strangers. That could have been so ugly!

  5. Dropped by from Susan's home blog. She's just made me so proud of your wonderful Southern hospitality. Will be stopping by again.

  6. I too followed Susan over here...which is only fair since she came into my territory [the South] for her summer respite.

    I'm glad she recalled all the good things about the South and left out all the redneck jokes.

    Susan also brought with her the essence of what the South is truly all about: if we can help y'all out, we will.

    Have a good week!

  7. Hi! I stopped by from Susan's blog too. I'm a West Virginian and am loving her impressions of our state. It is refreshing to see it through someone else's eyes. The story of the fire and what happened after--doesn't surprise me at all. It's just the way it is here, and it's why I love living in this poor rich state.

    Now to read more of your blog, Sugar Britches. I'm glad to have found you.

  8. I would follow Susan anywhere and I'm so glad I did!
    I remeber her post when she bought th house and how she left the keys behind to help people that she had never met before. She is the true definition of Southern hospitality in a little quiet package.
    Susan you add so many good thing to the south. Perfect fit, I'd say!
    Did you say snakes?

  9. Coming by way of Susan, great post and great blog. Now that I've found your blog I'll be back for more visits.

    If you get a chance stop by my blog.


  10. Oh, I really enjoyed that post. It had everything. One of the most refreshing blogs I've come across in a long time.

  11. I hardly click onto links...I'm so glad I did.

    BTW...What are you doing on Friday?

  12. Yup, I'd follow you anywhere as well. Truly enjoyed this post, like I always do.

  13. I want to thank everyone who made the trip from Susan's blog over here to visit.

    I appreciate all your comments as does she! And welcome to my new followers! Hopefully the blog block will lift and I will have something witty and life altering to share with you. Don't hold out on hope readers!

  14. I want Susan to post for me, too!! ♥ This was great! Wonderful to read this! And yay for Southerners!!!


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