I first read Gone with the Wind while I was on vacation in college. I was really into reading classics ( I was an English major) and as there are so many references to the iconic book in other things I had picked it up almost feeling dutiful. Happily I discovered it was a very enjoyable book with humor, history, and romance all in one!
Then I moved to the south a couple of years later. It is funny how much of the southern lifestyle the character Ashley Wilkes reminisces about is still seen here in there in the South of today-- sprawling ranches and farms, long hot afternoons, porch swings and barbecues.
It felt like I was in a foreign country to me at first there was even a language barrier I called soda "pop" when I moved down here. Here everyone calls sodas "Cokes". All athletic shoes were called "Tennis shoes" versus "Sneakers" which is what I grew up calling them. I also didn't understand some words spoken to me by my Southern born and raised mother-in-law-- the first time she spoke to me about a hurricane it took several minutes for me to understand because she pronounced the word and made it sound much more like "pelican" than I was accustomed to.
I was somewhat of an enigma to my very Southern mother in law I think. I wore almost no make up (when I wore it at all) and she once asked me if Cary, my husband, minded that I didn't fix myself up? I was much more casual in my attire than she found appropriate too - I wore jeans and tee shirts most of the time and my hair was worn long and often pulled back in a pony tail where hers was curled, hair sprayed and teased up as high as she could get it. She would have never thought of leaving the house without foundation, eye shadow, mascara, blush and lip stick on! She never NEVER left the house without her lipstick-- I on the contrary owned no lipstick.
And then there were little things that were different too--they gave me saltine crackers when I ordered a salad which confused me and when I ordered tea they asked if I wanted it sweet or unsweet? You received gravy with your french fries at some eateries and they asked me if I wanted cream gravy or brown gravy-- I had never had anything but brown gravy so this was another mystery.
I distinctly remember walking into a gas station to pay for gas early one morning and feeling like a fish out of water....the 10 old pick up trucks lined up in front of the gas station should have given me a head's up. I walked in and was immediately surrounded by old farmers standing around drinking coffee together with their cowboy hats and overalls on. That first year in Texas was very educational needless to say.
Anyway back to Gone with the Wind....
My daughter and I just read The Help by Kathryn Strocket. I thought reading Gone with the Wind might give her the "before" picture so she might better understand the attitudes characterized in The Help regarding racism. I am realizing in my rereading, that Ms. Mitchell's portrayal of the South is very positive, even fairytale-ish and I will have to offer her some more historically accurate reading choices though I am still glad she is reading it.
I am also enjoying the story once again. It has given me the opportunity to rehash some of my favorite memories of my grandmother, Barbara, in all of this as well. My grandmother told me when I was reading the book that she remembered when it came out and how everyone was simultaneously scandalized and intrigued by the book. When her family got the book first her father read it, then her mother and then her older sister Polly and then FINALLY she was allowed her turn with the book which, being a rather large book, seemed to take forever to her.
Later when I got married we had a family get together to celebrate, and we played a game. Everyone had to anonymously write down two things they would take with them if they knew they were going to be trapped on a deserted island and then these choices would be read out loud and everyone would have to try to guess who had written those answers down. When someone read out "Rhett Butler and a bottle of wine" my grandfather got a knowing smile on his face and after several people guessed he said he knew without a doubt it was his lovely wife. I remember my grandmother smiling innocently at this and the rest of the family laughing hugely. For who could be sexier than Rhett Butler she said!