Our Simple Southern Home

April 9, 2015

31  comments

“May be a simple life but thats okay, yeah

If you ask me baby I think I got it made”

Darius Rucker, from his song, “Alright”

 

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Like most Southerners, South Carolina native, Darius Rucker understands happiness often springs from the simple things in life.

Now, a study from the University of Chicago confirms this notion and has “discovered” what we could have told them a long time ago. The earth-shaking research concluded that true, bonafide happiness doesn’t come from the big thrilling events in our lives, but instead stems from the simple, ordinary moments in our regular, hum-drum days.

And everyone in Mayberry said, “No duh.”

The academic study revealed that although people like to experience short-lived excitement like jumping out of an airplane, or seeing an opening night Broadway show (I’ll take the show), true happiness and the best memories in life are found by leaping from a rope swing into the cold creek with a group of friends on a hot summer afternoon, or seeing a “show” performed by the children in the church fellowship hall. Boring to some city-slickers, but those of us raised on grits fully comprehend the joys of simplicity. 

DSC_1022Although there are those in the South who have begun to assimilate with the rest of the country when it comes to living in the fast lane with a constant need to be entertained, most of us still know how to take it easy and are happiest when using old fashioned face to face conversation. We’ve found something gets lost if we try to text a Jerry Clower joke, and anyway, no one is completely sure just how to spell “OOooo-weeee!”

The simple style of our lives may also be related in part to economics. Since our region ranks lower on the national income level, we may not have as many opportunities for big adventure, but at the same time, Southerners also rank highest in charitable giving – because helping our neighbors is another simple thing that makes us incredibly happy.

charitable-giving

Our penchant for the easy life may also be related to Dixie’s milder climate. Being able to get out of the house and swing beneath the giant live oak for the better part of the year gives us time to decompress and value the simplistic beauty of nature instead of being trapped indoors with contraptions that beep and flash.

If I close my eyes and think of all the exciting places I’ve been and the excellent, fancy meals I’ve eaten, the happiest dinner I remember was the simplest of all.

Fairhope AlabamaWeary of a long hot summer packed with a series of stressful events, I decided to shake things up and bypassed the regular kitchen and dining room tables and instead, opened the gate-legged table in the living room, set it with mismatched dinnerware and created a centerpiece of pretty weeds and a half-burned halloween candle. I pulled out all the leftovers from the refrigerator, and created a mishmash of food that would have earned me a failing grade in any home economics class. I called my family into the room and told them we were having a “crazy supper,” and they had 60 seconds to run around the house, find a costume and return to their seats.

We sat around the table that night, with two little boys laughing hysterically, wearing hats, inside-out shirts and flowing capes, eating a scrumptious supper of cold spaghetti, meatloaf, pickled okra and pimento cheese. As Louis Armstrong music played in the background, my husband looked at me through his Batman mask, and we knew we had found deep and memorable happiness through an easy dinner of simple leftovers.

Dog-on-PorchSo, go ahead and search for happiness by running with the bulls, swimming with the sharks or climbing a mountain. Southerners don’t need a university study to tell us these kinds of things only bring temporary joy, because we’ve always known the greatest happiness is found upon returning home from our adventures to find our dog wagging his tail on the front porch of our very happy, yet simple, Southern home.

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This story first appeared in my newspaper column, “Southern with a Gulf Coast accent.” 

 

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  1. Love it…while not a true southerner…I currently live in Maryland and was born and grew up in Boston…there is simple joy in time spent with family doing things like everyday living. We still have a Batman mask in the Halloween box…maybe I’ll pull it out for dinner tonight.

    1. Oh, how sweet! Since I write for Southern newspapers, I need to put a Southern twist on my stories, but you are so right about good small town living being a joy anywhere!

  2. While I am not a Southerner I am from the Mid-west and this is something that has been ingrained in my upbringing. Life is all about the little moments, especially the ones that seem inconsequential, but later are remembered and talked about for years to come.

    1. Elizabeth, how nice of you to write. I hadn’t replied to anyone yet, but you’ll see I use my Southern newspaper audience as my excuse to put a Southern spin on claiming happiness for ourselves. Of course the mid-west has oodles of charming small towns and you, of course, know exactly what I mean! Thanks so much for reading!

    1. Of course, when I asked the boys if they remembered it, they looked at me like I was crazy! But I think the oldest one secretly remembers. He’s just yankin’ my chain!

  3. You are such a great writer, and I really enjoyed this article. I agree wholeheartedly, especially as I get older. When I was younger, I wanted to be entertained all the time. Now, I like being home most of all.

    1. Thanks so much Ellen. We’ve been in Atlanta this week, and my son said he wants to live there someday, but I told him just wait until he has children of his own. He may reconsider. After sitting in all of the traffic, he started to get my point.

  4. LOVE it! What a great and fun idea for a family meal. Good grief there is no telling what costumes we would end up with here if we did that…and I can only imagine the food combinations that would come out of the leftovers in our refrigerator!
    Yes, in the south, we do know how to do happiness right. (Although I know we are not the only ones who know it.)

    1. You have such a creative touch, I’m sure your dinner would be fabulous! I only wish I had thought to take a photo!

  5. This coming from a Canadian West Coast gal new to the South….”you could not be any more right!” Simple joy trumps ‘paid adventure’ any day of the week. Thank you for the simple reminder

  6. I love this story in so many ways! Those beautiful houses with the big oak in the background…! Porches are the best embellishment on a house (at least after yellow pollen season). And I’d be grumpy as a Yankee if our winters were like theirs. When we last visited my (um…New York) inlaws, I picked a huge bouquet of wildflowers for our supper table. It was gorgeous with lots of Queen Anne’s lace and white daisies and I was tickled to find flowers we don’t see here. Mother-in-law sniffed, “they’re just weeds.” Bless her heart! We’re so much more self-confident (treasuring our hand-me-down clothes from cousins or dishes from grandma) and creative, too, and I agree, Southerners seem more appreciative of tiny, everyday joys, especially grits fixed any and every way!

    1. Yes, I’ve had someone from another location tell me grits were “poor people’s” food. I don’t think they had ever even tasted real grits or else they would know they were fit for a king! Simple grits + a simple cotton dress + a simple afternoon with friends on the swing = perfection.

  7. Leslie Anne, what a sweet story! But, I know it is not a story at all but sweet southern life at its best. My fondest memories are always the time spent with family, simple dinners gathered around the dinner table after school and work discussing the events of the day. Love all of your photos representing southern life. It is just the best!

  8. Fortunately we lived far enough South and far enough away from street lights that catching Lightning Bugs was a wonderful entertainment for the children. We too had a porch with a swing and memories of long Summer evenings of visiting with family and friends on the porch. Watching the children play in the yard are some of the sweetest memories I have.

  9. That “crazy dinner” is a memory that your children will have forever. I’m with you – the very best times, the ones I cherish and remember the most fondly are the simple times with family and friends doing anything or nothing!

  10. Charming and true. I use to want to travel but am entirely happy right here in this yellow house in our beloved South.

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