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Monday, April 6, 2009

If you’ve known me for more than five minutes, you will know that my mother grew up in Michigan, my father in Texas and New Mexico. They met in middle Georgia, married, and moved when I was three years old to the west Georgia town where I still live.

I had to learn to say all this very quickly and always in the same way, so that it would be understood right away. I had to because I didn’t speak like my friends. My parents had different accents and they were both different from that of everyone else we spoke to. In my own way, it feels like different languages. I grew up learning to speak “red-neck,” “Atlanta,” what I called “little-old-lady,” and English with a capital E.

“Red-neck” was so that we understood our cousins in middle Georgia, where I was born. “Atlanta” was for our eight cousins who grew up in a lot of the poor neighborhoods in and around Atlanta. I heard “little old lady” when we visited my dad’s boss’s house, my great-grandmother’s siblings, and at the ladies houses who my mother would speak with occasionally. English (E) was for use at home and school.

I remember Mom saying, “I don’t care if your teacher used ain’t, I don’t want to hear it coming out of your mouth in my hearing.” I’m not sure if she ever used y’all unless we were around her sisters and brothers.

Atlanta is the home of Coca-Cola. That's all they drink there, so don't ask for any other soft drink unless it's made by Coca-Cola.
From: Miss Cellania

My family and I would just call all of them “Co-Cola,” even Pepsi. In my circle out here in West GA, it would go:
“Want a Co-Cola?”
“Sure, whatcha got?”
“Pepsi, Diet Coke, Tea, Water. Watcha want?”
“Oh, tea, of course! I just love your tea!”

Now, when the above conversation happens, I always find myself thinking we’re like those old ladies bringing out the coffee and the cream and the sugar. The richer she was, the more stuff she brought out, then the more you have to bring out to impress her, yada, yada, yada! These were usually my great-grandmothers siblings. That’s where I first saw this behavior, but I understand it a lot better now.

In my childhood, with my mom and her sisters and friends, it was offering the soft drinks, the “Co-Cola,” that was the most polite. But they had a sort of code about whether they could afford the store-bought drinks. The top thing they would offer was a glass of milk for all the kids. Sometimes, that would end up being a gallon of milk. So the code was to offer tea. That meant that the sister offering didn’t have the Co-Cola for everybody, but had the back up. Tea or store brand Kool-Aid. If it was the Kool-Aid, though, you could guarantee it was half-sugar strength. That stuff really dried your mouth out, and I usually picked water over that!

It became sort of a rite of passage for me and my cousins when we got to drink the Co-Cola.

In a strange way, this makes the term I’ve learned since resonates through my memories like having your head in the bell when it’s struck at noon. “He/She drank the Kool-Aid.”

I watched a program on PBS last week about Jonestown. I don’t think I’d ever known the full story behind that before in my life. My parents only ever gave me the bare bones of the story. What I knew was something along the lines of: Jim Jones was a preacher that convinced a lot of people to move down to Guyana and then told them to drink poison. They did and they all died.

We were only told there were children, too, if we asked. At least with me and my brother. We were forbidden to tell the younger ones. I was warned not to tell Ray, at least. Beyond that, I didn’t ask my parents anything else about it, because I could tell my mom was especially bothered by it.

This reminds me of so many things my children are asking me. Such as 9-11. Or sometimes when they’re watching the news with us.

I understand my mother’s look now. Watching that program made a big impact on me. If you want to see it, go to and click on Broadcast Schedule to find out when it will be on in your area.


My husband has some old Playboys from the 60's and 70's. Would you be interested in seeing some scans? I won't go to the trouble unless I get a comment!

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