By Moe Bay
“Yer not from around here are ya?” I heard the clerk say as he glanced over my shoulder to look at my vehicle parked outside. We had seen that look often enough before that we resolved to register our truck as quickly as we could in North Carolina. The tags were a dead give-away! It was bad enough when we opened our mouths. We just didn’t have that Southern way of speaking–we just couldn’t completely stifle the Jersey accent! We had many lessons to learn.
My husband and I finished building our house here in 2010. I was still working a “more than full time job” then and Bill was retired. How did that happen? Oh! That’s another story! Anyway, I would schedule myself for a trip down here whenever possible. Over the years, with numerous trips south, I became increasingly “Southern”. My staff began to tease me about the way I talked. My go-to endearment became “Darlin'”. They even accused me of an occasional “Y’all” but I deny that! Mostly I wasn’t in such a hurry. What was happening to me? It was starting to rub off on me…and I liked it!
I must admit that in the beginning, I had real difficulty understanding the local vernacular. You can only say “what?” so many times before it’s embarrassing and insulting. I remember one of our first visits to Hoot’s produce stand. Bill stayed in the truck and I went to buy up the veggies for dinner. Mr. Hoots was waving his arms and pointing and gesturing and wildly excited about…something! I tried desperately to understand. I kept saying “what?” There was no way I was getting it. I finally went back to the truck and enlisted my husband’s help. Bill managed to interpret. ‘Turned out there was just a “big-in Momma bar and a young-un bar a comin’ thru!” Oh! I got it!
Something I learned and have to keep learning is how to slow down and listen. I grew up with folks who did not listen and who spoke so fast and finished your sentences for you and couldn’t wait for you to finish so they could speak! You had to talk even faster just to get it all out. It was exhausting. When I would meet up with our contractor Todd, I would pummel him with my questions. Who needed to breathe? I could see his eyes slowly glaze over. He probably thought I just landed from another planet! (Not far from the truth). He would reply very slowly, “well Moe-reeen….” I would still be a relatively young woman by the time he finished and was able to mop up the blood from my bitten lip!
Whenever I traveled to a new place, I loved to explore the local super market. It was such fun to look at all the different labels and strange foods. My first exploration to Ingles was memorable for me. I was deep in my concentrated perusal of the shelves, (what the heck is liver mush and why are they boiling peanuts?), when I was surprised by a gentleman behind me saying “Hey, kin I hep ya find some-um?” My first thought was, do I know this man? Nobody talks to you in the supermarkets in New Jersey and they certainly don’t offer to “hep ya”! I was so startled that I practically jumped and blubbered all at once! Oh my! People were actually trying to help me here. It’s unheard of! I have gotten used to helpful folks now and I don’t jump or turn red. I can actually respond to the courtesy with a pleasant cohesive reply. In fact, I find myself doing it to others that I identify to be “lost”. I vigorously wave back now and encourage a look and a smile. Progress!
I do understand that there are some people who are actually from here. Our northern friends all warned us “you know, it’s not so easy to make new friends at your age.” I wasn’t aware that I had reached my expiration date for friend-making! I didn’t have to worry. Around here, there’s no such thing. The “friend quota” is obviously endless!
Moe Bay lives in Lake Lure.