Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Sounds You Crave

Have you ever noticed that your ears are a bit like your mouth? Just like your mouth waters for grandma’s special cookies, pie or stew, there are times you just get a craving to hear something that brings you pleasure. Just like the delight on your tongue, your ears tingle and feel satisfied just at a sound.
I feel that way when I go back to Nashville. When we first moved to Tennessee, we would hear:
I’m fixin to go to the store
I carried my mother to the store
ya’all want a buggy?

It sounded so strange and we would laugh. And that accent!? So tinny and high pitched. Children and even adults always called me Miss Joyce. I feared that my children would be viewed as rude since they had never been taught to use the polite Miss in front of a name. As a family, we purposed to NEVER pick up the Southern accent nor ever use fixin in a sentence. We haven’t.

Yesterday I went to the bank in Nashville. A simple activity. I pushed the button for the pneumatic tube to go inside the bank. I waited. A few minutes later, I heard the tinny high-pitched sound of a southern woman. She said: “What else can I hep you with today?”
Huh? What? I just put the deposit in the tube. I didn’t ring the bell for more service. I looked around thinking that maybe someone else’s speaker was loud. No, it was mine. I said No, thank you. Again, that sweet tinny high-pitched sound came through the speaker saying: “Thannnk you, have a wonderful day.” I thanked her and said “you too.”
I chuckled but it was a chuckle of satisfaction and joy. Hearing that southern accent and its politeness was soothing and comforting as much as grandma’s special dish.
I remember the first time I returned to the New York area after living in Missouri for many years. We were crossing the Outer Bridge Crossing from New Jersey into Staten Island. My husband pulled up to the tollbooth and asked for directions. He didn’t understand a word she said. I did. I understood every word and like yesterday, it soothed and delighted my ears. It reminded me of home just like the smell of cookies baking or bread in the oven. My own language changes when I return to Brooklyn. I ask for cawfee rather than coffee. I talk faster. I am energized. I’ve lost my Brooklyn tongue but I find it when I return. My ears are so happy to hear it. If my ears could dance, they would dance to the sound of the city and coarser sounds of the Brooklyn tongue.
However, right now, the most soothing sound is the sound of southern. What I laughed at now satisfies. I like it when I am called Miss Joyce now. I rather miss it. We met a young cowboy in Rapid City. He was full of confidence and macho-ness of the west. At nine, he behaved as if all the adults were his equals. Nothing wrong with it I suppose, but I miss the smile and the thank you ma’am or no sir.
Now I live in the upper-mid-west. They have an accent. Watch New in Town or Fargo and you’ll hear it. When we first moved there, we would chuckle at the “you bet” or the “ya’sure ya’betcha.” We purposed again to not make it part of our own language choices. However, I no longer startle when I hear it. I doubt I’ll ever crave the long “o” or have my ears tingle when I hear “you bet.” Nevertheless, I suppose this means I have adjusted, at least a little, to hearing a new sound.


  1. Joyce...this is are a great writer...a treasured gift God has given to you

  2. Joyce:

    Funny how different parts of our country have different slangs. When we first moved to Cincinnati, People would say "please?" if they miss understood you. Considering we were used to hearing "eh" or "huh" when one miss understood you, it was a culture shock.I would have to ask them what did they want? Having picked up much of the Midwest slang after 20 years,it is always a thrill to get back home on the Ala./Fla. border for some good old southern drawl talking and home cooking. Nothing like grits for breakfast with sausage links and warmed over corn bread with real butter.

    Ya all come back now ya heah?


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