Monday, July 11, 2005

Why Parents Age Prematurely: Chapter One

Miss Priss, a true "Southern Belle" Posted by Picasa
A 6-year-old was overheard reciting the Lord's Prayer at a church service: "And forgive us our trash passes, as we forgive those who passed trash against us."
A Southern Belle will never curse in public beyond Dad-gum-it, Oh my gosh, Shoot or Darn.
I know you wonder what the two statements above have in common and what they could possibly have to do with the sweet, shy, demure, beautiful little Miss Priss. I promise to connect-the-dots.

Miss M. is "Momma" to Miss Priss and sent me this beautiful picture. She is also "2nd Momma" to my Nyssa and Miss M. considers Nyssa her "first-born". When we moved to Mississippi, Miss M. was in high school and worked after classes at the preschool/daycare where Nyssa attended. The 3 year olds adored her. Little Patrick S. loved Nyssa and "Miss M. with 'lellow' hair". He wanted to marry both of them and give them pink Corvettes. She became our baby sitter, house sitter, animal sitter and occasionally overnight care giver if I had to be out of town. Miss M. and Nyssa both have long curly blonde hair and more than a few people actually believed Nyssa was her child. After high school, she met our medical transcriptionist and when an opening came up Miss M. began her career at the lab. Miss M. worked there almost as long as I did. After a difficult marriage to "frog-boy" (Oh! Bless it! He sort of ties into this story in a very, very pathetic way. Ha! Ha!), Miss M. finally found the gem, the diamond-in-the-not-so-rough guy, Mr. M. They eventually produced Miss Priss who is the actual star of the story.

Now, there is something you must know about Miss M. She is one of the truest examples of a "Southern Belle" that I know. Bred, born, and raised in Mississippi, you could put her in a hoop skirt, lace petticoats and flowered garden dress with a wide brimmed straw hat and white gloves and she would slip effortlessly back into the 1850's; as long as there were air conditioning, that is. And Miss Priss, as her little twig, does not fall very far from the tree.

Things to remember about the Southern accent, especially the "Southern Belle" accent, include the persistence and prolongation of short words to a point that they seem to go on forever. Example: "Momma, IIIIIIIIII'm hoooooooot!" Most often the elongated word is at the end of the sentence as this produces a more pronounced effect. If the word contains the "long i" sound such as in "IIIIIIIII'd liiiiiiiike some iiiiiiiiice cream", or "myyyyyyyy eyyyyyyyyes are tiiiiiiiiiired", then the "long i" sound may be held as long as your breath holds, in any part of the sentence. Speech must be slow of pace and always accompanied by the appropriate but subtle gestures; a turn of the head, lowering of the eyes and batting of the eyelashes. Occasionally,a hand raised to the mouth and a light touch to the lips by the fingertips helps dramatize the mood of the sentence. The wide-eyed doe look with rounding of the mouth into a look of complete and total surprise is also quite effective.

As a "Southern Belle", Miss Priss inherently knows all these things without being taught. She learned from the example of her mother and other "Southern babies". The M's answering machine message is a classic example. Miss Priss's innocent voice tells callers, "Weee can't coooome to the phone riiiiiiiiiiiight now, but if you leeeeeeave your naaaaaame and number at the end of the little beeeeeeeeeeeeeep, weeeee'lll be sure to get riiiiiiiiiiiiiight back with youuuuuuuuuu."

Miss Priss is also very bright. She learned her colors, numbers and the names of most of her animals at an early age. She did however have a particularly difficult time pronouncing the name of one animal; the frog. Her "raw" sound for the "ro" came out of her mouth as an "uh" and the "g" sound at the end always seemed to sound like a "k". In fact, the only letter she had down was the "f" or "fuh" sound. Now Miss M. upon hearing the resulting combination of sounds worked tirelessly with Miss Priss to correct this problem. She knew that this word was not acceptable to any "Southern Belle" and that the problem left uncorrected would certainly lead Miss Priss into a faux pas of immense proportion. This could taint her reputation for life, particularly if it was said at a friend's house or at preschool. Try as she might, Miss M. made very little headway in correcting this pronunciation, finally determining that the word "frog" would simply not be said nor the animal talked about in polite company, or at any time for that matter.

All was going splendidly with this plan until a fateful visit to the local Hallmark Shop. Miss Priss and Miss M. both loved to look at the stuffed animals, the angel figurines, the ornaments, and the wrapping paper as well as the cards. Miss Priss, though only two, didn't run around the store, kept her hands to herself and comported herself admirably on these outings. The Hallmark Shop, unusually busy for the time of day, (it may have been near Father's Day) was filled with many other "Southern Belles". On this day Miss M. had a specific purchase in mind and headed straight for her item. She did not realize that Miss Priss had stopped dead in her tracks at the front of the store to look at the first display table. She also did not know that this display was a collection of FROGS in all shapes, sizes, and colors. There were plush stuffed blue and yellow polka dotted frogs, large ceramic figurines of frogs lying on lily pads, small yellow and red frog stickers, kissing frogs with little red hearts on tea cups and a miniature garden flag picturing a frog with a red ladybug on its nose. Frogs were on the table top, on display tiers above the table and on the floor around the table.

Miss Priss stood there in complete silence for a few seconds, her eyes as big and round as a doe and her mouth open and rounded in surprise and awe. She had never seen so many frogs. She loved frogs! She knew she should talk softly like the other "belles" in the store but her momma was walking away from her and she just had to tell her what she had found so..............

Miss Priss yelled out in her most "I want everybody's attention here!!!" voice......"MOMMA!" Miss M. whirled around, and in one microsecond assessed what Miss Priss was pointing at and knew what the next words out of her mouth would be; but, alas, she was not fast enough. "MOMMA! LOOK! F...................KS!"------- In the stunned silence following this outburst, heads looked up all over the store, mouths formed the rounded "O" shape of surprise and not a few hands reached up to touch shocked lips.

Miss M. wanted the floor to open up and swallow both herself and Miss Priss, although Miss Priss just stood there with her innocent doe eyes, and had no idea of what cardinal "Southern Belle" rule she had broken. Therefore, in what can only be called true "Southern Belle" style, Miss M. glided across the floor, swept Miss Priss up into her arms and said in her own "I WANT EVERYBODY'S ATTENTION HERE!!!" voice, "YES, BABY!!! THOSE ARE LOVELY FROOOOOOGGGGGGSSSSS!!!!

This said, she turned with Miss Priss still in her arms and successfully negotiated another "Southern Belle Necessary": the swift and graceful exit.

Needless to say, the Hallmark Shop was off limits until the display was replaced by one for the Fourth of July.

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