I was fortunate though, long before my introduction to the culture of the Carolina’s, to have the influence of a deeply Southern lady in that of my first employer or I would have been completely lost in the the ways of a Belle. She was what you could completely and thoroughly label a Steel Magnolia. I was a waitress in a little cafe that she owned in my hometown throughout high school and into my first year of college. She took me under her magnolia scented wings and began teaching me what I had missed out from my homogenized, modern upbringing. She taught me about the differences in cut crystal and what real silver is, how to pick my china pattern, how to make a proper tea sandwich (and how to keep it fresh), she even helped me develop and directed my wedding. I also learned through observation how to be strong and direct in the ways that only a Southern Belle can be. She was a beautiful creature, inside and out. She was strong and competent in the areas of life that men generally ruled before the feminist movement happened, but she kept everything rolling in a decidedly feminine way. She was Julia Sugarbaker long before Julia came to life on the TV screen. Southern velvet on a steel frame; oh, she was my idle. She watered that little Belle seed I had inside just waiting to bloom.When I moved to South Carolina, the first time 20 plus years ago, I realized that I still had a lot of Southern learning to do and I had better do it fast! Honestly, I think I probably should have brought my parents up on child neglect charges in the things that they managed to not teach me that I had to know…yes, HAD to know. I am only kidding.....just a little bit.
I have come to realize that my upbringing missed much of what was considered standard for bringing up children in the true South. I never took Cotillion classes, I never wore smocking, my Mama didn’t pass down any china, silver or linens to me, nor did she teach me to make cheese straws. It was shameful. I was an almost an adult before I attended my first funeral and tasted my first (and last) tomato aspic. But, deep down, lurking below the surface was a Belle who was determined (as all true Belles should be…determined, that is) to come raring to the surface.