Friday, May 16, 2008

Guest Blogger: Ann Hite

A Peanut Butter Sandwich With A Glass of Sweet Tea
(Embracing Our History)

There’s nothing like a good old peanut butter sandwich followed by a big glass of sweet tea. It’s pure heaven. I should say ice tea because here in Georgia the sweat part is assumed. Now, I drink mine with a slice of orange. Yes, my granny would just roll over in her grave if she knew I polluted my tea with such a thing. She’d also roll over if she knew I only use a cup of sugar per gallon. It’s not real tea if it ain’t syrup.

There was a time in my life when I only drank unsweetened tea, and I would have rather died than admit I ate peanut butter. These were what I now call my smart years; the years I spent trying to outrun my southern roots. I wanted no part of tall tales, superstitions, and folklore. I think some of my attitude came from my granny, who was the first in her family to move from a rural farm to the big city of Atlanta. I stripped all traces of an accent from my words. I spoke only proper English. When I wrote stores, I never allowed my characters to speak as true southerners, natural and all. Nope, these stories were the most intelligent stories you ever read. I even got quite a few published. But I never was too happy. I sure didn’t have a bit of fun while writing them.

And then one day I found an old photo of Granny and my great aunt. I thought of those Sundays once a month spent at my great aunt’s North Georgia farm. We’d sit in the living room with its high ceilings and homemade furniture and sip syrupy ice tea from jelly jar glasses leftover from the depression. I’d find a corner next to one of the large potted plants and sit quietly until I became part of the rose wallpaper. Soon the women—there was always a roomful of grown cousins—began to cast their spells. My great aunt would pull out her spittoon and offer Granny a dip of snuff, which she would take to my fascination. The talk would turn to the real stories. One of my favorites was how my great grandmother came home not feeling well from a trip she made to Atlanta with my great grandfather. She felt so bad she went straight to bed at two in the afternoon. This was unheard of in her days. Two days later her whole head turned black, and she died. Folks believed my great grandfather had a spell conjured on her so he could marry a new wife, which he promptly did three months after my great grandmother’s death.

It became plain that my southern background held enough characters to last me a lifetime if I’d only embraced their stories and allowed them to speak. I’ve never regretted coming to know these voices. Sometimes their tales are so vivid I’m driven to believe in ancestral memory.
So, that’s why you won’t catch me teaching my characters how to use proper English or grammar for that matter. I found there is a lot of ways to express what we as writers and storytellers have to say. Getting caught up in the perfection of it all has too high of a price. You see I’ve spent way too much time eating dry, stringy roast beef at a fancy set table. When I could have had a peanut butter sandwich and been happy as pie. My lesson was creativity and a long sought after voice. Now, when I get a hankering for fried corn, green beans seasoned with bacon grease, or hot buttery cornbread, I dive straight into the pleasure. It’s a lot more fun. And, I always drink my big glass of ice tea, sweet.

Ann Hite’s short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including The Dead Mule, where her selected Black Mountain Stories are featured for the May 2008 Issue, Fiction Warehouse, Cup of Comfort, Foliate Oak, and Moonwort Review. Her essay, Surviving Mom, appeared in Marlo Thomas’ bestselling collection, The Right Words At The Right Time, Vol., 2. Ann lives with her family in Atlanta where she has over 1,000 books, a flower garden, and her laptop. Feel free to visit her website:


Beth Fehlbaum, Author said...

Thanks for the walk down memory lane. It made me remember the days when I sat and listened to my grandmother and great-aunt as they chatted back and forth-- well, actually, they kinda mildly spat at each other back and forth. I don't think they were happy unless they were sorta bitchin', if you know what I mean.
I learned so much about who they were, just by, as you did, becoming part of the wallpaper and listening to them.
Thank you for this post.

Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
Chapter 1 is online!

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Brenda said...

I loved this post.

Anonymous said...

If your short stories are as good as your blog post, I can't wait to read them, Ann.

With Southern love,
Annabelle Robertson

Kerry Madden said...

I love this story of sweet tea and peanut butter and stories...I read it aloud to my husband, who thoroughly enjoyed it too. So nice to meet you, Ann, and thanks for the kind words on my piece. It's lovely to meet you.

All best