“Young lady, now don’t go gettin’ above your raisin’!” I heard this quite a few times as I was growing up and most of the time it was when I had my “sassy pants” on and my smart mouth was running. The phrase was usually met with rolling eyes, crossed arms and me walking off in a huff.
This was also said when someone left the area, started a new life and acted “uppity” when they came back to visit their family and friends. “Looks like they forgot where they came from,” people would say.
Now that I am 53 years old the phrase takes on a whole different meaning. To me it means take nothing for granted, be proud of who you are, where you grew up, and who you grew up with. You can call me a mountain hillbilly, country hick, or a redneck. I have a little of all of those in me and one or the other tends to surface, especially when I’m emotional.
I am glad that I grew up in a time that I thought nothing of my Nanny’s homemade polyester dresses and watching her make aprons out of feed sacks. I loved the fact that she sewed, knitted, crocheted, and had the coolest button jar ever! I thought my granddaddy’s gold spittoon was really neat and the fact that he poured his hot coffee into a saucer and sipped (or slurped) the cooling liquid out of it was just a normal part of breakfast. I used to imitate him and do my milk the same way!
My daddy kept a gun or two in the gun rack in the farm truck. Many summer afternoons were spent going “Over Yonder” and shooting groundhogs that had invaded the hay fields. When I was little Daddy smoked Pall Mall cigarettes, a pipe or King Edward cigars. He always smelled like pipe smoke mixed with dairy barn. It was familiar and comforting to me. When he stopped smoking, to my mother’s chagrin, he started chewing tobacco.
For most of the summer, unless we went to town, I played and went everywhere barefooted. I remember my feet becoming so tough I was able to walk on gravel just as easily as I could on grass. Ha, I didn’t realize that I was “grounding” before it was cool. I also sported bruises and scratches on my legs all summer long. This was the effects of crawling through fences, climbing trees, playing in the barn loft and just not being the most graceful tool in the shed.
And of course, because we farmed there were always animals. We had cattle dogs, barn cats (for the mouse population), horses (because Daddy loved them), goats (to eat the briars and weeds), dairy and beef cows and calves, donkeys, and chickens. Having a little manure on your clothes and smelling like poo was nothing unusual. At the time it was, well, just part of life. Now I realize how lucky I was to be able to learn how to care for all of them.
I grew up in a house that was very aware of current events and the affairs of the country. The Roanoke Times and Galax Gazette were read by everyone pretty much cover to cover. Daddy was a strong Republican and Granddaddy was a stronger Democrat. On presidential election years it made for interesting conversations at the dinner table. What I also grew up with was a strong respect for the right to vote. The older men wore suits and the women put on their best dresses just to go a mile down the road to the clubhouse to vote. They took it seriously and were proud to get to exercise their right.
So the fact that these proud people didn’t like one of their own acting like they were better than them or were ashamed of their heritage is understandable. Truth is, whether we like it or not, we are who we are. While waiting in the dentists office the other day I heard an older lady talking to her son. They were talking about the weather and making small talk. She was telling him about something she used to do when she was growing up then she laughed and said, “I was born a country hick, I was raised a country hick, I will always be a country hick, and I am proud of it!”
So don’t get above your raisin’ and never be ashamed of who you are. I have enjoyed doing these articles and they have definitely helped me appreciate “my raisin'” more than ever. Thank you Appalachian Memory Keepers and keep up the wonderful work!