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Embraced by the South | Pamdemonium
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Embraced by the South

June 11, 2010

After we moved to Louisiana in 1992, all I had to do was open my mouth and speak four or five words before the question came. “Where ya from?”

“Minnesota,” I’d respond.

“A Yankee,” came the knowing reply.

At first this puzzled me, for from my Midwestern schooling, I associated “Yankee” with New England, the original 13 colonies, Yankee Doodle Dandy and countless other reference points. At times I’d attempt to make the case that growing up in a state that is basically Canada did not make me a Yankee.

My powers of argument failed. I stopped trying.

Louisiana is the South and New Orleans is another planet with southern tendencies but it took moving north 550 miles for me to embrace the true South.

Embrace I have. I garden in my pajamas, sometimes in the front yard, sometimes in rubber boots (and pajamas). I believe it is my right to park in the front yard, though a picket fence keeps me from doing so. I still don’t like grits but won’t turn down an invitation to a Meat-and-Three. I occasionally call folks “sweetie,” which seems to be the regional equivalent of “darlin’” or “honey.”

At last, the South has embraced me. I am covered in chigger bites. So much discomfort from something that cannot be seen. I Googled “bug bite identification” to self-diagnose. It doesn’t help that I am hypersensitive to much that grows and bites. At least the fire ants that have found me in Tennessee, so far, don’t have the same level of toxic venom of their kin in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Chiggers, also known as redbugs, are the larval form of a mite and about 1/50th of an inch in diameter, too tiny for us to see. They hang out atop tall grass, attach themselves to a speck of skin or hair and feed on the fluid in our skin cells by injecting an enzyme that ruptures the cells.

Chiggers do not burrow under the skin but fall off when sated. We don’t feel the actual “bite” but the enzyme and the feasting irritate the skin, causing, in my case, multiple red bumps with holes in the middle that itch madly for days and days. The adult mites are vegetarians.

Cortisone cream this week is my new BFF but I’m okay with that. It means I’ve arrived.

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{ 4 comments }

Hollie June 11, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Love this! When I moved here from Chicago seven years ago, I was a little put off by being called a Yankee. And confused. But after having just called someone sweetie today, I think I am coming around. Still not gardening yet …

Drew June 11, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Welcome, finally, to the South, Pam. From one whose father went to high school where the mascot was the Redbug.

admin June 12, 2010 at 6:37 am

Thank ye. Once a Midwesterner, always a Midwesterner, but now with Southern tendencies.

LeeAnn June 13, 2010 at 6:46 pm

THe being called a yankee thing threw me too and in response to being asked “what kinda yankee are you I said a nice one” apparently that worked. :-) I don’t say sweetie but I do say “waitin on and fixin to” more than I care to admit.
Chigger less but I carry an epipen for the fireants. :-(

Ya sure ya betcha…

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