I’m Fixin’ To Do It

Growing up in the south, “fixing’ to” never sounded strange to me. But as a freshman at The University of Alabama in 1985, I learned that people in other parts of the country never say it. In fact, it sounds strange to them. They had no idea what it meant. There were several girls on my dorm hall from different states…Illinois, Alaska, Delaware…and they all found it amusing that folks in the Deep South say “fixin’ to” when speaking of something they are about to do.

Recently, I was at my daughter’s field hockey game, and the older sister of one of the players was there. She is now a student at an Ivy League school but was home for a few days, and while she was talking with someone else I heard her say she was “fixin’ to” do something. I couldn’t resist. I asked her, “Do people at your school think it’s odd that you say that?” She laughed. In fact, she said people at her school have a hard time figuring out where she’s from, because she switches up her dialect on them.

I’ve always had an interest in dialects. I’m no linguist, but I take great pride in deciphering the intricacies of different dialects within regions and around the country.

I grew up in Alabama, and even within that state, there are different dialects. I won’t even try to break it all down, but trust me when I say you can tell what part of the state someone is from by how they pronounce certain words. Times are changing, and I’m afraid the southern accent will soon be lost, but here are some things we said when I was growing up…things I think are straight out of the south:

  • Y’all. No surprise here. I don’t know anyone who grew up in the south who doesn’t say “y’all.” For those of you who don’t know, it’s short for “you all.” Someone might ask, “Where are y’all from?” But if a big group is involved, someone might ask, “Are all y’all going?”
  • Coke. If you grew up calling soft drinks “sodas” or “pops,” you’ll likely find this funny. I think it will likely phase out with the homogenization of America, but when I was growing up, we called all soft drinks “Coke.” If I were at a baseball game and decided to to the concession stand, I would ask my friends, “Can I get anybody a Coke?” One would likely respond, “Yes! I’ll have a Sprite!” And another might respond, “Yes! Dr. Pepper please!” It was a Deep South thing…not all over the south. Now I’m wondering if folks in Alabama, Mississippi, and the Florida Panhandle still do that. Anyone?
  • Buggy. What comes to mind when you see/hear that word? If you’re from anywhere but the Deep South, you likely think of a form of transportation that’s pulled by horses. But if you’re from the Deep South, you think of the thing you put groceries into at the store. Called a “shopping cart” or “cart” in other parts of the country, we always called it a “buggy” when I was growing up. We’d walk into the grocery store, and Mama would say, “Get a buggy, please.”
  • Tennis shoes. In other parts of the country, athletic shoes are referred to as sneakers. In the south, they’re “tennis shoes.” Even if they’re not really for tennis, lots of southerners tend to call them “tennis shoes.” It can be confusing.
  • Dressing. Years ago, when my daughter was four or five, I was talking with a friend who grew up in Boston about what a picky eater my daughter was. In conversation, I said, “She won’t even eat dressing!” My friend from Boston asked, “Does she eat salad?” And then I remembered…the stuff you eat with turkey on Thanksgiving is called “stuffing” everywhere except the south. In the south, we call it “dressing.” And cornbread dressing is my personal favorite!
  • Ink pen. This one is not so common anymore, but back in the day, in the Deep South, people would say, “May I borrow your ink pen?” Yes, it’s redundant, because pens, by definition, contain ink. However, I think it was said in the south, because with a southern accent, “pen” and “pin” sound very similar. Putting “ink” before the word “pen” helped differentiate. Whereas, up north (said “nawuth” by lots of southerners, like my mother, may she Rest In Peace), you can clearly hear the difference in the prononciation of the two words.

And since I mentioned my mother, when my now-15-yr-old daughter was youner, she thought it was so funny that my mother said “nawuth,” “enjaweh” (enjoy), “baweh” (boy), and more.

There are lots more words and phrases we use in the south, but those are just a few. Add in our accents, and you might not understand a word we say…bless your heart! Which reminds me…”bless your heart” can be an expression of sympathy, or it can be catty, depending on the tone. You can get more information about that here.

Before closing, I want to add one more thing. Everyone from the south is not from Alabama, but Alabama fans often use “Roll Tide” (the University of Alabama’s rally cry) as a greeting. No, everyone in Alabama doesn’t do it, because not everyone in the state is a fan of The University of Alabama, but fans who know one another greet each other with “Roll Tide”! Or when something great happens for someone, they might exclaim, “Roll Tide!” But one thing to know…if you are going to wear t-shirts, hoodies, or hats with The University of Alabama symbols on it, be prepared for folks to say “Roll Tide!” when they pass you. You must say it back. If I’m in a Target in Wisconsin, and I see someone wearing an Alabama hoodie, I exclaim, “Roll Tide!” But if I don’t get a “Roll Tide” in return, I think, “If you’re going to wear the shirt, you have to know the lingo…bless your heart.”

 

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True Friends Are Like Warm Blankets

True friends are like warm blankets.

This weekend, I spent three days in central Florida with a dear friend from college. We have kept in touch since we were 19 years old and students at the University of Alabama. We’re both 52 now…do the math.

We have shared a lot over the years…secrets, tears, laughs, good times, sadness, hard times…heck, we even have the same wedding anniversary, but she married five years before I did. We are true friends…through thick and thin. Oh, the stories we could tell! Stories of fun nights, bad dates, good parties, bad boyfriends, great experiences, terrible breakups, exciting jobs, sad losses, new babies, teenagers, and some stories of things that could only happen to us…or at least it feels that way. And we have shared some of those stories with our kids. They didn’t really seem to care at the time, though. In fact, they likely rolled their eyes, but one day, they will remember the stories we have told them…and they’ll laugh about some of them, and likely cry about others.

As for this weekend, we didn’t talk about old times a lot. We have covered that many times over the years. Of course, we laughed about some of the funnier things that happened when we were together, but we didn’t rehash it all. We talked about life as we see it now…33 years after becoming friends. We’re middle-aged moms now. We have a different vantage point now than we did at 19. We talked about things we have been through…things we have survived…and we talked about happiness. We talked about how, at 52, we know happiness doesn’t come from having material things. We are very aware that not worrying about how the bills will be paid can contribute to a peaceful, happy existence, but all the extra stuff...not so much. You can have lots of jewelry and fancy cars, but do those material things make you happy? We discussed that what makes us happy is experiencing life with people we love.

We know that for a lot of reasons, but mostly, we know it, because we didn’t sit around talking about material things at all. We didn’t talk about cars, jewelry, handbags, or clothes. We enjoyed talking about interactions with people. We shared stories about life experiences. It wasn’t about bragging rights. It was about sharing life events and how we handled them. We discussed painful experiences and what we learned from them. I’ve lost both parents, and she has lost her dad…we talked and cried about that a lot. And we talked about joyful experiences…things we did together; things our kids have enjoyed; stories of our children’s childhoods and our own childhoods…and more.

Did I mention we laughed a lot?

And while no one can “relive” their youth, we found ourselves absolutely slack-jawed while we watched Endless Love (rent it on Amazon here), a movie we were too young to see when it was a released with an R rating in 1981, but we both watched later on HBO. In fact, it had been so long since either of us had seen it that we forgot Tom Cruise and Jami Gertz had bit parts in the movie. And we had never realized before that a then-unknown Ian Ziering (of Beverly Hills 90210 fame) was in the movie. We also watched Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink (you can rent both on Amazon.com) and reminisced about seeing those movies as teenagers. And before you even think it…I know Sixteen Candles could never be made today with its sexism, underage/nonconsensual sex, underage drinking, and more…but it’s comedy, people! It’s supposed to be funny. I thought it was funny in 1984, and I still think it’s funny now.

During the day, we drove around the lovely town where she lives. We looked at historic homes, parks, flowers, and trees, and one day, we went tubing with her teenage son at Ichetucknee Springs State Park…quite the adventure! The water was refreshingly cold as we floated down the river…laughing and talking. She laughed at me when I would float off into the grasses on the edge of the river, and I laughed at her when she missed the entrance to the disembarkation ramp. We made new memories we will laugh about for years to come.

But what I enjoyed most was simply being with my friend. She knows who I really am and loves me anyway. Spending time with my friend was like being wrapped in a warm blanket. She’s comforting. She has been around for a long time. And she makes me feel secure. I came home feeling rejuvenated. I came home feeling content.

Sure, we are middle-aged moms now, and we have had a lot more life experience than when we became friends. We are, in fact, older than our parents were when we became friends. Wow…we really are middle aged.

She’s a keeper.

Wings & Things

When I was in college at The University of Alabama, way back in the 1980s, I fell in love. While I enjoyed dating, I was introduced to something I’d never had before…Buffalo wings, and it was love at first bite.

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I don’t remember hearing about Buffalo wings when I was growing up, but then I didn’t spend a lot of time in the Buffalo, New York, area. In fact, I never went to Buffalo till I was an adult.

So, when I started college, I’d never heard of the spicy chicken wing. I learned about it soon after I arrived, though, and I never looked back. How could I have been missing out on that wonderful flavor my whole life?

According to the website for the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, the original Buffalo wing was served at their restaurant in 1964. The website says, “On March 4th, 1964, Dominic Bellissimo was tending bar at the now-famous Anchor Bar Restaurant in Buffalo, NY. Late that evening, a group of Dominic’s friends arrived at the bar with ravenous appetites. Dominic asked his mother, Teressa, to prepare something for his friends to eat. They looked like chicken wings, a part of the chicken that usually went into the stock pot for soup. Teressa had deep fried the wings and flavored them with a secret sauce. The wings were an instant hit and it didn’t take long for people to flock to the bar to experience their new taste sensation. From that evening on, Buffalo Wings became a regular part of the menu at the Anchor Bar.” You can order online from Anchor Bar, and they will ship Buffalo Wings to you anywhere in the United States. Click here to order.

Too bad I didn’t hear about them till 1985! Or maybe it’s better I didn’t hear about them before. I had a full appreciation for them in 1985. At 18, I knew good flavor, but if I’d had them at 13, I might not have recognized the greatness of them.

So, the first place I had Buffalo wings was far from Buffalo, NY. The first wings I had came from a little place on The Strip (a few blocks along University Blvd) called Wings & Things.

By my junior year, ordering delivery from Wing & Things had become a Sunday night ritual for me and my friend, Angela. Every Sunday night of our junior and senior years of college, Angela and I ordered the same things. I had the mild wings, extra wet, with hot sauce on the side, extra bleu cheese, and curly fries. Angela had the hot wings, extra wet, with hot sauce on the side, extra bleu cheese, and curly fries. We didn’t even have to discuss our orders.

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We would decide what time to order, and one of us would pick up the phone, a landline since it was pre-cellphone days, and call Wings & Things…a number we didn’t even have to look up. We even knew what our total would be. When it arrived, we would run downstairs, pay the delivery guy, grab the boxes, and hurry back upstairs to Angela’s room to enjoy our wings. Why the rush? Well, if anyone else on the hall saw us with wings, they would want one or two, and as far as we were concerned, wings were “no-share items.”

We always locked the door and sat in the floor to enjoy our wings.

Even with all the rush, the wings were aromatic, so after a few minutes, we would hear someone in the hall, saying, “Who has wings?!” We would look at each other, wide-eyed, and giggle silently, but we never answered. People would even knock on the door, and we would pretend we weren’t there…sitting silently, enjoying our wings. Because we ordered them “extra wet,” we always wore old clothes we didn’t care about, because we knew that orange-colored “wing juice” would drip and run all down our arms while we ate.

After we’d had our fill of wings, there were usually a few left. We had a ritual for that, too. One of us would pick up the landline phone again and call our friends, Lisa and Angie, down the hall, saying, “We have leftover wings. Want them?” In about two seconds flat, we’d hear footsteps coming down the hall. We would unlock the door and hand them the styrofoam boxes containing a few wings, and they would run back to their room and lock the door to enjoy the leftover wings.

Ahhh…the memories. In 1992, Wings & Things became Buffalo Phil’s in Tuscaloosa, so you can still get them if you visit. Since then, I’ve actually had wings in Buffalo, New York. I don’t know if they were from Anchor Bar or not. I was working as a flight attendant right after college graduation, and on a quick turnaround flight to Buffalo, the captain called ahead and ordered Buffalo wings to be brought to us on the plane between flights. I’m not gonna lie. They were good. They were darn good. I see there is an Anchor Bar in the Buffalo Airport, so maybe they were from Anchor Bar. I need to place an online order and try them again!

Now, whenever Angela and I get together, we almost always have wings. Since the 1980s, places that serve wings have popped up all over the country. I almost always order them the same way I ordered them in the 1980s, but Angela varies her order a little. Sometimes she’ll get different flavors, depending on where we are, but we still love our wings.

I guess when we’re old and living in the same senior living facility (my husband will be there too), we’ll have the same Sunday night wing tradition. For now, though, Angela lives in Montgomery, Alabama, and I live in Charlotte. We have favorite wing places in and around both places, so we’ll be OK. I don’t think any of the places deliver, so I’m hoping UberEats or Postmates will still be delivering food.

Eat more wings.

Here are some of our other favorite places for wings:

CharBar 7 in North Carolina (see website here)

Coaches Corner in Wetumpka, Alabama (Their “chicken chunks” in Buffalo sauce are good too. See facebook page here.)

Hickory Tavern with various locations in NC and Alabama (see website here)

Hubee Ds with a location in Charlotte and one in SC (see website here)