A little teeny part of my heart opened a smidge this weekend thanks to a group of young people, the hospitality of the South and some damm fine biscuits and gravy.
Widows are skittish. The world is frightening. People are scary in ways they never were before. There is no bigger hit to confidence. The feeling the world is crushing your chest is ever present. We have no idea how much we rely on our other half until we face the world alone and suddenly small.
Choices are few. Curl up in a ball and let life’s steamroller do its job or hoist up your panties, paint a smile on your face and make the world believe all is well and you are surviving. The downside of survival no one talks about is that it is based on the strength of your fingernails gripped into the side of a cliff, threatening at any moment to snap, sending you down into the canyon and the abyss where the heart yearns to go. Surrender is seductive. It means give in, let go and fall. It also means giving way to grief so deep there is nothing but blackness. Some days blackness is not wholly unwelcome.
So who could predict it would be a bunch of young people at a fraternity house in the deep South and a simple observation that could change things? That it would take the simplest of moments to send a message to the soul that sometimes letting go isn’t surrender but conquer. Sometimes a leap of faith can be a breath of fresh air to those trapped underground.
As Sisterella and I travel to the land of Roll Tide, we learn some lessons. We are not twenty and cannot drink like we are, though we did give it the college try. News flash: our colleges weren’t in the South and so–fail. Men in the rest of the country should be forced to spend a semester learning from these masters of sweetness, manners and good hair. The older variety can make a doll weak in the knees. Our flirting skills are still in there; they just don’t get the constant workout demanded in Dixie. And, finally, biscuits and gravy can bring a body back to life.
There is a fraternity on the Bama campus right next door to the hallowed grounds of Bryant-Denny Stadium. The boys here greet two old ladies as if we rival every stunning, nubile sweet thing there. They fawn and pay attention and cocktail and promise to care for a little one who had too much to drink falling asleep on their couch. And, yes, no harm comes to little one.
It is not, however, how they treat us old bags that spirits away the heart. Any boy worth his salt can put on that show. What softens my heart and jolts thinking about life going forward is watching these sweethearts interact with Baby Chicken, Sweet Lex, Indiana Em, Miss Tay and Free Spirit Liv. And then we add into the mix Miss Kentucky, who taught my daughter to shoot a gun last year. Yes–a rifle, in the backwoods. No lie. Shocking, I know. Baby Chicken, the size of a baby chicken, with a rifle as big as her whole body. Whaaa? When the little one from The Woodlands in Texas, the life of any party, Miss K rounds the corner, we squee together and nobody finds that strange.
We also spend time with a new little one. The Divine Miss M is just finding her way in the land of Roll Tide. She can’t wear a bigger smile, prettier dresses or have piled up more friends in just a few weeks time. Evidently, the South will do that to a girl. She spent the previous night with her pledge sisters splattering paint, and love, all over themselves and their lucky dates.
And then there are the best boys in all the world. Mr. Cam Middle Initial and your houndstooth pants–you’re stylin’ my friend. Looking at photos this morning, I see you’ve also got your pose down. Sweet Mr. Z wants to be the president. With a smile that lights up the world and a kindness that radiates out from somewhere deep inside–all he has to do is change party and the world will be at his feet. The other party needs people filled with kindness, dignity and charity to steer it back on its right course. Then there is Mr. Bow Tie who is cute as a button and looks at Baby Chicken with more than friendship. (I’ll pay for that one–sorry Baby–call ’em as I see ’em!)
To Mr. T: Slice! Yep, pretty proud of myself. A private joke with a twenty-year-old. And De–sweet, sweet thing. There is a girl who will appreciate your flowers, sweet nature and love that you want to have a family. Search her out and find out what real love feels like.
Why is this little gang of young ones important? Something about sitting on a porch that looks like it’s out of a movie watching young people opens a heart shut down for over two years. Watching and learning I wonder why we allow ourselves to lose faith in the future. These little ones know loss, hurt, anguish, heartbreak and yet they do not lose site of the future. They do not doubt it is laid out in front of them. Buoyed by the strength of a cocktail or two–the decision is made to embrace this attitude regardless of age and circumstance. Pack it up in my suitcase.
The biggest lesson learned? The world includes young men who recognize the importance of a pressed shirt and manners enough to treat two old ladies like young hotties. It also encompasses young women who don’t doubt they will light the world afire, speak up and expect a boy to treat them well.
And they eat biscuits and gravy without a care as to the size of their asses. Roll Tide little ones. Roll Tide.