Southern Stirrings


Magnolia Blossom by jpeeden.

One of my students stayed after class the other day to talk to me.   No smile.  Just clear blue eyes staring straight into mine.  

“I’ve been meaning to ask you this,” he said, his fourth grade voice small and somber. 

My stomach sort of squished together, wondering what question could possibly cause such a serious tone.

“What?” I asked, bracing myself.  “What’s wrong?”   

He spoke clearly, without hesitation.  “Why do you say ‘y’all’ all the time?  What does it mean?”

 “Y’all?  Did you say…y’all?” 

He nodded.

“Oh.  Well.  It means, ‘You all, of course.  All of you.  Everyone’.”  I felt my southern roots twine deep around me, taking me back to magnolia blossoms on the kitchen counter and nests of honeysuckle vines, locusts calling through the sticky heat of the day and giant popping thunderstorms.  Reminding me of things I hadn’t thought about in a while.

My student’s response:  “Okay.  I get it.  Thanks.”

A small blip of an interaction.  But powerful enough to pull me back in an instant to the bigness of my small southern town.  Images that are part of who I am.  Definitely something to think about as I write.

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2 Responses to Southern Stirrings

  1. Martha Moore says:

    I love your answer to the y’all question. Isn’t it funny how someone else can remind us who we are, help us recall the riches that we carry with us? I see your Mississippi roots…your Magnolia blossoms, locusts, sticky heat, giant popping thunderstorms….all gifts! My “y’all” comes from dust storms, steamy laundromats with plastic chairs, fireflies, and horned toads, clothes lines, pickled watermelon, and storm shelters with broad tin doors.

    You wrote: “the bigness of my small southern town…Images that are part of who I am.” Thanks for taking me to a part of you and for helping me see the bigness of my own world.


    • skvanzandt says:

      Martha, I love your images. They are so vivid to me. You know, in his book On Writing, Stephen King mentions “the language,” that part of writing no one seems to ask about. He says people ask where writers get their ideas, when, where, and how they write, but they usually don’t ask about the language. Well, that’s the part I love, the words, how you can shape them into something powerful and meaningful, something that calls us back to our roots and then takes us beyond. Thanks for sharing!


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