Tuesday, May 13, 2008


My friend Jude, who grew up in small-town Louisiana and small-city Texas, has often said that there are two kinds of towns in the South. One is the kind where everyone is as nice as your sweetest grandmother, offering genuine and pleasant banter at the counter, thinking nothing of helping the neighbor in need, always giving folks the benefit of the doubt. And the other is the kind of town where there is a meanness in everyone; the people wear hard faces, they brandish guns, they take pride in their bigotry, and they're always looking for a fight. Jude talks about how these two kinds of towns can be situated right next to each other, but still be night and day.

I wonder if whole towns can be infected with the same mysterious but undeniable poison that some families are. Do you remember? There were the friends' houses where everyone was always breaking into giggles, the meals were like banquets, and the family willingly spent time in the same room together, inventing games or doing nothing in particular. And there were the homes where each person was louder and meaner than the next, the father was a glassy-eyed terror and the mother's voice had no soft edges left; homes where each family member was ranked by the effectiveness of their insults; homes where sharp laughter always filled the air, and no one seemed to share it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, you have your kind of happy family -- and we'll have ours.

11:03 AM  

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