The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Saturday, April 12, 2014


In the world there are many ‘Souths’; there is the south of France, South Africa, the South Pole.  In this country, there are also many ‘Souths’.  There is the mythologized antebellum South, of plantations and so-called ‘genteel’ society and slavery. 

There is the South we grew up in, of home gardens lush with tomatoes and melons and other wonderful vegetables and fruits, of home-made jams and jellies, of peach pies, and fried chicken with gravy.  The South with warm summer nights filled with chasing fireflies (we called them lightening bugs).  The South with hot summer nights filled with lying on old quilts on the grass, seeing the millions of stars now invisible because of street lights and all the other ambient lights of modern life.  The South of clean sheets drying to sweet-scented freshness on clotheslines.  The South of crape myrtle trees of amazing fragrance and vivid colors that bloomed all summer long.  The South where the mothers made up a magic potion of sugar and fresh eggs and milk and cream and vanilla and sometimes peaches or strawberries, and the fathers chopped ice from big blocks from the ice company and layered that ice with rock salt in ice cream churns and then turned the handles to make frozen magic.  The South of porches and rockers and great aunts and uncles and grandparents, everybody keeping an eye on the children while they played hide and seek to the last possible glimmer of day falling into night.

But there was also that other South back then, the one where restrooms and water fountains separated black from white, where some folks had to ride in the back of the bus and some did not, where some folks had to live in a different part of town.

After years of hope, now again we have a South that is hard for some of us to see, where old wrong ways seem to be coming back.  Where guns are brandished and voters are tricked and women are diminished and education is no longer valued as it once was and bigotry runs rampant.  We have a South where industries such as coal and oil companies are damaging the land and the air, where heat and drought have replaced rain and warmth.  There is a sense of meanness now where once there was friendliness and neighborliness.   Oh how we miss the kindness of the South we knew as children.  Oh how we wished we knew how to get it back.

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