I have a fifteen-year old daughter. She is extremely talented musically and can sing every single lyric in Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton.” Every. Single. Word. She knows any useless trivia that no one else would. Most days, she’s pleasant to be around and she really cares about others. I should also mention that she has lived every day of her fifteen years and seven months in the Washington County community of Frankville. Every. Single. Year.
Since she’s been raised in the country, you’d think things like possums would not cause her to come completely undone, but you’d be so wrong. I was driving to work last week when my phone rang. Her voice was frantic. “There’s a possum in the cat food on the carport. He’s huge. He’s dead and the cats are gonna starve unless D (my dad) is home.” I assured her that the possum was not dead and told her to tilt the container over until the possum ran out. We ended our call.
Not too long after getting in the office, I received a text picture of an enormous possum “dead” in the cat food. The following text said, “It HISSED at me when I tilted the can and he wouldn’t budge.” I laughed and called her.
“It was playing possum.”
“It was playing possum.”
“What? Wait? I thought this WAS a possum. Is this an armadillo?”
Seriously? You can’t script conversations with this kid and if you did, she would not follow it. I honestly don’t know how she has missed the “playing possum” idiom. I do know that she has always been very literal. For example, when she was 3, my mom handed her some money and told her to “tip the table” at Cracker Barrel. She was very upset because she didn’t want to make a mess!
I really want to create a Southern expressions test for her, just to see what she’d do! She’d likely fly off the handle or be as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Who knows? Her English grades are good, but she is lacking in good Southern expressions, God love her.
I should have realized this before now. At Thanksgiving when someone said that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, she got the most disgusted look on her face. “Who wants to catch flies? They need to go away.” We got a dirty look from her for laughing, but her thought process was funny.
She’s out of school for two weeks and I plan on limiting her Broadway playlist listening and teaching her the meanings of Southern idioms. She needs to know that when it’s flooding outside, that’s a gully washer. She needs to know that in addition to “playing,” possums grin. Mules also grin when they are eating briars through a “bob wire” fence. Thankfully to my dad, she is aware that “This ain’t my first rodeo” does not refer to cowboys.
I don’t want people to think that my kid has just fallen off the turnip truck or anything, but her reaction to the possum is putting me real close to a hissy fit! I don’t suppose I should carry on about it. We have encouraged her to be herself and not give into pressure to conform to anyone else’s perceptions, but seriously, how can you grow up in rural Alabama and not know these expressions?
At any rate, it made me laugh (and cringe) and gave me another vignette to add to Tatum’s memory book.
Bless her heart!
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.