Thank God I'm a Southern girl

By JAMIE PATTERSON,
As soon as I stepped off the airplane back in my beloved Mississippi, I took in a deep breath of the humid sweet air. 
It felt like I was wearing a wool sweater in a sauna in the middle of Main Street on a hot August day.
But I loved every stifling minute of it. 
I was back in my South, the land of sweet tea, fried green tomatoes, mud trucks and heavy drawls. 
I felt like one of those explorers who after months on the sea fell to their knees to kiss the land. If it hadn’t been the Jackson airport parking lot, I might have done just that.
I had just returned from a four-day visit to my sister’s home in Massachusetts. It really was a nice visit up to New England to watch my niece graduate and to meet a new baby to our family as well.
It’s not that I wasn’t appreciative of everyone’s kindness and hospitality. But let’s be honest...you can’t beat the South. 
People on more than one occasion up North asked where I was from. I guess my accent gave me away. I told a few of them I was from Boston, but they weren’t buying it. 
“No, I know you are from down South,” the nice lady at the po’ boy shop  said. 
“Oh, it’s my accent I guess,” I said, looking for a Dr. Pepper.
“No, you say ‘yes ma’am,’” she replied, with a grin. “I like it. People need to say it around here more.”
It just doesn’t feel right to not say “yes ma’am, no ma’am, yes sir or no sir.” Momma would have corrected me with a look or a switch if I ever made the mistake of not saying it when I was coming up. 
The lesson has stuck with me. I might even say it to someone who is younger than me out of habit.
Yes, I was beginning to miss my South. 
After a few other kind words, I placed my order for a shrimp po’ boy.
“Po’ boy,” the lady asked. “You mean the shrimp sub?”
“Oh, yes ma’am,” I replied, with a grin. Apparently they don’t know what a “po’ boy” is. 
I went to take my seat as my sisters placed their orders. Out of the corner of my eye, there was an elderly gentleman scooting across the floor with his meatball sandwich.
There weren’t many  empty seats available so I offered him a seat.
“I’ll just wait on my bunch,” I said, motioning to the booth. “You can sit there.”
He thanked me out a dozen times with a grin from ear to ear. 
“See, how polite they are down South,” the lady at the counter said. 
That evening on the front porch of my sister’s house, there was a rare cold front that swept through the area. They even had a fire blazing inside. 
I exchanged my flip flops for socks, my shorts for pants and my T-shirt for a long-sleeve hooded sweater. My teeth were chattering, as I received a text from back home that it was in the 90s. 
Yes, I wanted to be back South. 
As the late night air set in, all was still and quiet. It was almost frightening how quiet it was that evening. 
There were no bullfrog chants or cricket symphonies. There was no rocking chair on the front porch. There was just stillness. 
And I began to miss my Southern summer nights with the sound of nature. We live in the country because we crave peace and quiet, but it’s never truly quiet. Crickets, bullfrogs and other creatures are like a soundtrack to our lives that I never really truly considered until I was without them. 
When it came time to return home, I was more than ready to reunite with my husband and three children. But I was also ready to arrive in Mississippi, Yazoo City, my South. 
Sure, there are problems here, but there are problems everywhere. It’s true that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.  
Home was where I wanted to be. Thoughts of being among her cypress trees, open pastures, front porches, soul food restaurants, crawfish boils and gravel roads...that was what kept enticing me as I traveled miles above in the sky. 
The first thing I did when I arrived south of the Mason Dixon line during my layover in Atlanta was sniff out the welcoming smell of fried food. I found a fried chicken joint quicker than a bloodhound on a hunt. 
And when I got home, her humid air felt like a sweet breeze. 
“Did you fly in a plane,” my kids asked. 
“Sure did,” I replied. “You want to fly in one?”
“Yes ma’am,” they replied. 
And with that, I grinned and gave God thanks.