The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

Southern Childhood

Southern children

Southern LivingJul 1997   by Boiter, Cynthia

There is something about a Southern summer childhood that brings us back or never really lets us stray.

As a young married couple almost two decades ago, my husband and I were fortunate to spend time in some of the finest cities in the world-Paris, London, New York. Places lauded for their arts, their architectural wonders, their social and educational opportunities. But when the time came to settle into the business of being adults and starting a family, there was only one place we would consider raising offspring.

For us, having spent our own childhoods picking blackberries along the sides of South Carolina’s country roads, bringing our babies home to the South was the completion of one of nature’s mysterious cycles. Like loggerhead turtles returning to their seminal shores, we made sure our daughters’ roots would grow in close proximity to those of their grandmothers. How better to battle today’s disenfranchisement of youth than with a legacy of cane-pole fishing and church hymns that even my husband and I, with all our hard-earned sophistication and wanderlust, couldn’t dismiss? Summer in the South-how could a kid grow up without it?

So it is that our girls reside in a land where old people sit in straight-back chairs under shade trees older than they are and wait on lightning bugs to show. Though times have changed in the quartercentury since we caught june bugs and made mud pies that dried and cracked in the inferno of blistering afternoons, some scenarios remain the same. Like Southern children from years gone by, our girls will watch in wonder as Mama’s butcher knife splits open a well-thumped, bloodred watermelon, and they’ll stand by the front porch railing, faces sticky, juice running down their arms, and spit seeds to the edge of the yard.

They’ll feast on sweet corn, baking powder biscuits, and iced tea. They’ll slide their toes along the squishy bottoms of Southern lakes and rivers and watch minnows scurry by. They’ll taste the brine of the Atlantic and forever recognize the smell of the sea as a mixture of salt, sweat, and suntan lotion. They’ll gauge nighttime temperatures by counting the cricket chirps outside their windows. And, when they grow into the homesick-for-childhood adults that their parents are now, their summer memories will be peppered with images of monstrous mosquito bites, nightfalls that always come too soon, and grandparents’ stories that may seem meaningless at the time but later reveal an undeniable understanding of life at its fullest.

Granted, there are some reasons for not bringing up children in the South.

There are flimsy winters with sprinkles of snow no thicker than powdered sugar. And there’s the stigma of talking funny.

There’s a regional history that should be used to illustrate the importance of thinking for one’s self, standing up for good, and learning from mistakes.

But, despite all that, there is something about a Southern summer childhood that brings us back or never really lets us stray. Something about warm dew on our ankles, tree frogs, Spanish moss, and tadpoles.

Something about the smell of honeysuckle floating on hot air so moist it sticks to your face and hands. Something that makes generation after generation of Southern parents set their barefoot children on cool back-porch steps and say, “Take a deep breath. Now that’s what it smells like to be alive.” Cynthia Boiter

An award-winning freelance writer, Cynthia and her husband are raising their two daughters in Chapin, South Carolina.

Copyright Southern Progress Corporation Jul 1997
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved


  1. […] Southern Childhood […]

    Pingback by Website Directory - Loggerhead Turtles — February 6, 2009 @ 03:14

  2. You are a wonderful writer, which I am sure you already know. But my goodness, you surely captured a “southern” summer, the way I remember them. Again thanks for a great read. Lisa

    Comment by Lisa Sanders — April 15, 2009 @ 11:33

  3. Lisa, thanks for your kind words. I do what I can. And thanks so much for reading — it’s nice to know that someone from home is keeping up. Take care.

    Comment by cynthiaboiter — April 16, 2009 @ 11:33

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