by Beverly C. Lucey
One of the main reasons people move these days is for the promise of economic opportunity, as well as adventure. Moving becomes an adventure all by itself, though. Picture the American Pioneers loading up the Conestoga Wagon and heading West. A hundred years later picture the Joad Family in Grapes of Wrath, desperate in The Dust Bowl, heading for The Promised Land in California. They represented thousands of hungry people hoping for a piece of the American Dream during the 1930s.
Move ahead to the end of the 20th century. We Yankees, my husband and I, moved to the American South to join in a South Korean venture. The vision entailed a huge company's providing good jobs in a rural setting. Combining cultures to create a new blend has always been a part of the American mix.
One of our first goals was to invite our Korean counterpart couple for dinner and an evening out. Most of the expatriate Koreans lived a few counties over, closer to the state capital, where churches and grocery stores supported their needs. The plan involved having Mr. and Mrs. Lee for champagne and cheese cookies one evening in August. Then we would take them to a restored plantation/living museum for what was called “heavy hors d'oeuvres” and a live stage production of Swamp Gravy, a folk musical from rural Georgia.
The doorbell rang precisely on time. We have a big carved duck on our entry table which the Lees admired immediately, but I learned that we must get another . . . quickly . . . because they are always given in pairs to bless a couple’s unity. They seemed quite disturbed to see the one bird right in front of them. (I’ve since found a companion piece and domestic harmony is ours.)
After chit chat and a brief tour of our house, we drove miles out of town to the edges of Newton County, parking on a wavy (nay, tsunami-like) field. Mr. Lee’s diminutive wife has perhaps a waist circumference of twelve. Yet she managed amazingly well on high heeled sandals, even in a herky jerky farm field parking lot.
We wandered through the main plantation house, which is very modest and full of Empire and Victorian furniture. Despite our visions of Gone With the Wind, plantation is often just a southern word for "big farm." Southerners decorated in a European or Continental style. You will not see anything like Early American or Shaker or simple straightforward lines down here in anything “of the period.” Straight lines, simple design, and little ornamentation was Yankee stuff. Humph.
In the back yard burbled a big vat of boiled peanuts under a chestnut tree. Also, heavy hors d'oeuvres can now be explained, in case you were wondering. Forget finger food and toothpicks. Just pick up a Styrofoam plate and heap on the collards, creamed corn, summer squash casserole, drumsticks, pulled smoked pork, and — if you dare — cover it all with swamp gravy. The latter will never be defined, but I do think it has been kept alive with a starter kit packaged by Ma Joad, Inc.
Mr. Lee’s English is quite good. Mrs. Lee goes to ESL classes three times a week and is doing well, gaining lots of confidence in the language. Still, the accents of a folk musical and trying to explain a phrase like “My grammaw was hell-on-wheels” during the production presented quite the challenge.
Oh, how lovely America is, when it blends such disparate cultures without bloodshed. On the other hand, Americans are not so amenable to kim chee.
Beverly Carol Lucey has published short fiction in Portland Maine Magazine, Flint River Review Moxie, Quality Women’s Fiction, (UK) and Wild Strawberries. Four stories are anthologized in We Teach Them All.
Her extensive fiction presence online includes ezines: Zoetrope All Story Extra, Vestal Review, CollectedStories, flashquake, LitPot, Would That It Were, and Smokelong Quarterly.
Lucey is also a freelance non-fiction writer. She has essays or articles in Are We Teaching Yet?, Cup of Comfort for Teachers, Dog and Kennel, and The Rocking Chair Reader as well as USADEEPSOUTH. She writes for Henry Magazine (GA) and has contributed to the Atlanta Journal Constitution OpEd section. Articles on education are online at The Irascible Professor.
The author now lives in Maumelle, Ark. She is a life long educator and a member of The Writer’s Bridge.
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