GRITS running loose in New York City

You’ve all heard of GRITS, haven’t you?  I’m not talking about the kind you eat.  I’m making reference to those “Girls Raised in the South” or as they are sometimes called those “Steel Magnolias.”  They are called steel magnolias because they have grit. Personally and professionally, they have known success and failure. They know all about  love and the joy it brings.  They know all about loss and its resulting heartache. With the determination of Scarlett O’Hara and prayer, the kind of prayer they learned at their mother’s knees,  they always persevere.

Linda Pirtle
Linda Pirtle

I know a few of those girls.  In fact, they are my closest friends, sixteen of them to be exact.  There were more.  We’ve lost a few and that makes our time together so much more meaningful.  We’ve learned to appreciate each other more and more as the years go by. And go by, they have.   We are still young at heart, but our  bodies . . . oh well, let’s don’t go there.  Some of these ladies went to nursery school together.  Others joined our class at various grade levels.  We all graduated from Kilgore High School.  We were born and bred in the Lone Star State,  East Texans to the core.  We understand each other.  We have all had successes  in our respective careers:  secretaries, accountants, teachers, nurses, counselors, entrepreneurs, community organizers, volunteers.  But there is one success about which we all claim to have bragging rights. We all agree that by far the most important thing we have ever accomplished in our lives is the rearing of our children.  Our sons and daughters are all good, solid, God-fearing American citizens even though some of them moved outside of Texas.  Benevolently, we have forgiven them for having this one minor flaw.

Annually, no matter the weather, the economy, or any  national or international crisis that may be looming in the horizon, we get together.  Our husbands, our children, and our employers (before we all retired) know not to plan anything on the first weekend in February.  It is reserved for the KHS GRITS. We bring each other up to date on the current events in our lives.  There was a time when we discussed our careers.  There was a time we discussed our children and proudly passed around pictures.  There was a time that we discussed our grandchildren and shared their pictures.  Now, we just have a good time.  And…we love to travel.  We love adventure.

We’ve met in cosmopolitan areas such as Waco, Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, Tyler, Lake Fork, Wichita Falls, and Kilgore.  Some of us have traveled to New Hampshire to spend a week on an island smack dab in the middle of Lake Winnipesaukee.  One trip, however, stands out in my memory – our trip to New York City.  Our trip was in 2012 only a few months after the tragedy of 9/11.

Once in far North Dallas, the concierge of the Hampton Inn called us rowdy.  He assured us that it was okay. We had  practically the whole lower level to ourselves.  You have to understand the significance of his description of us. In high school, we were all on the honor roll and had received the “good citizenship” award at one time or another.  Having always strived to the the “perfect daughters” about whom our parents and teachers bragged,  we enjoyed being identified just once in our lives as  the rowdy bunch.  Actually, I think we don’t hear as well anymore, so we just talk louder.  But we also laugh, sometimes even at ourselves.  We’re proud of the fact that we are humble that way.

Back to the Big Apple.  Each morning we would meet in the lobby of our hotel and plan our day.  One day, it occurred to the leader of our group that we were rather noisy and apologized to the concierge.

“Oh, no,” he said, “we New Yorkers love Texans.  You see, Texans are the bravest of all.  They were the first tourists we had at our hotel after the attack on 9/11. You girls make all the noise you want.”

Well, needless to say, we all enjoyed being called “girls.” We didn’t need any compliments to encourage our continuous cacophony of conversation – we all talk simultaneously non-stop.  The kindness of the hotel employee did, however, make us think which resulted in the following pontification.  While sitting on the ferry that goes out to Staten Island, we began a discussion about the fact that, despite the tragedy of September 11, there are more good people in the world than bad.

One of our classmates mentioned, “You know, I’m surprised.”

“About what?” asked one.

“We’ve had such a pleasant trip, and  we’ve  not met any of those rude Yankees.  You know, the ones about whom we’ve heard so much.”

“Well, sometimes, you have to consider the source.  Some of those other good Southerners who’ve traveled to the Big Apple expect rudeness,” opined another classmate who had been a school teacher.  “They got what they expected.”

The consensus of our group was that because our attitudes were positive, people responded to us positively.  Besides, we’re obviously good natured Texas ladies.  At the time, we didn’t consider the fact that our accent could have given us away.  People in restaurants and even on the street would stop and carry on a conversation with us.  They seemed to enjoy the ladies from the Great State.

One day, I and my group of friends were lost.  We could not find the subway entrance that would take us back to our hotel. The valedictorian of our group wisely commented, “This map is so confusing that I can’t tell which way is north, south, east, or west.”

Another classmate who had traveled to Europe, and thus was an expert, suggested, “Let’s just walk to the corner and turn left.  Left is always good for me.”

“Oh good grief,  we followed you yesterday and ended up at the United Nations.  Yaw’ll ignore her,” said another who obviously did not have Myra Adams or Era Duke Hart for English at our alma mater.

There on one of the busiest streets in New York, we stood—a cluster of genteel Texas ladies, each wearing a crown quite similar to that on the Statue of Liberty and obviously unaware of the fact that she was one of the few people on the sidewalk with a green foam crown on her head.   As we stood on the busy sidewalk dividing pedestrians desperately trying to get home from a busy day of work, we turned our walking map of the city every which way we could to get our bearings.  Suggestions bounced from one to the other about how to read the map to find our subway entrance.  Finally, we were approached by a gray haired gentleman who had been standing close by and listening intently to our conversation. He walked up to us and made a proposition.

“If you lovely (that should have been our first clue, considering the foam on our heads) ladies will walk with me across the street, I will show you the subway entrance you are trying to find.” He didn’t have to wait long for an answer to his offer.  He took the arm of the tallest and strongest of our group. The two of them proceeded across the street followed by the rest of us.

About five steps into the pedestrian crosswalk, the tallest and strongest made the comment, “Oh I didn’t notice your white walking stick.”

He laughed and said, “You’ve heard the story about the blind leading the blind, haven’t you? Well, now you’ve lived it.”  One adventure down, and many more to come.

Please click the book cover to read more about Linda Pirtle’s novel on Amazon.

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