May 22, 2005

Graduation Party

The party was at my sister's house. Family members arrived early, lugging in card tables, lawn chairs, ice chests, and food. One table was covered with all kinds of salads and trays of cold food, while a crockpot of meatballs and sauce simmered in the kitchen. People of all ages crammed into the small backyard, everyone talking at once. My sister and brother-in-law moved through the crowd, bringing out more food, clearing away empty soda or beer cans. The teenagers stood in a circle, playing hacky sack. I saw my Mom in a long discussion with Film Guy, who is Daughter's boyfriend. My Dad sat at the table of just-graduated college students and told them about his college days. Parents of toddlers followed their kids around, trying to prevent them from putting odd items in their mouths. With-a-Why found a curtain rod that could be used as a light sabre and spent the whole party bringing balance to the force.

My brother-in-law's family are all from Georgia or Maryland, and I just never get tired of hearing those voices - that calm, slow, easy-going way of talking. I feel myself relaxing just listening to the conversation, no matter what it is about. The women on my side of the family, in contrast, talk very fast and talk with their hands, lots of animated, high-pitched discussions and enthusiastic screams, bringing an element of excitement to the party. My sister's three daughters - School Teacher Niece, Red-haired Niece, and Blonde Niece -- are especially animated, all swishing their long silky hair as they talk.

The weather is always part of the conversation at backyard parties. Will the rain hold off? Do you think we've had the last hard frost? Did you get your garden in yet? It was a cool day so whenever the sun came out from behind the clouds, we would all jockey for positions in the sun. When inevitably, the rain did come, we huddled under the awning, pulling tables of food under with us. Except for With-a-Why, who happily entertained us by dancing in the downpour with a sneakered version of Singing in the Rain.

12 comments:

Vegan Momma said...

It sounds like everyone had a wonderful time.

I live in Maryland. I never thought about the way I talk but I guess that describes it. I have been told that I sound very laid back. Do you think that is why the midwife on call did not think I was in labor. I called and said, I am in labor. She told me, You do not sound like you are in labor, lol ;-)

Dr. H said...

mmmm... meatballs. what a nice, relaxing party.

Ianqui said...

I lived in MD for a while. The accent is so unique that when I hear it now, I immediately whip my head around to localize the person. Actually, this happened 2 weeks ago and it turned out that the person lived in PA on the MD border, but it does extend up like that. I kind of like it too, although I never did pick it up.

Yankee T said...

Sounds great!

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

Maryland has a bunch of accents, none of which sound much like a Georgia accent, or really any kind of Southern accent, save for the fact that they talk kinda slow.

Baltimore is the strangest accent. Early John Waters movies are worth renting just for the accents. Seriously, even if you aren't into obese transvestites eating poo, you should watch Pink Flamingoes just to hear people talk.

The key word to listed for when talking to any Bal'mer native is the name of their baseball team. Apparantly the team is called the "O's", but the "o" is this wierd dipthong, that sounds almost like a noise a California surfer would make, or maybe the the habitual criminal character on the Simpsons.

Rural MD accents sound like Bal'mer accents, but they have even more surfer in them. I bet that is what the south PA native ianqui met sounded like.

The problem is that as the Washington DC suburbs grow, that regional accents are all flattened to the US standard of government. The only interesting mix comes from the upper class African Americans who are moving into PG County. (Not middle class African Americans, upper class. PG county is the richest black county in the US.) In any case, the Blacks in PG County carry a lot of the deep south in their voices. At least to my ear.

Mona Buonanotte said...

jo(e), I always love to read your posts, your descriptions are very transportive. The graduation party reminds me of every family reunion on my dad's side, same food, same people. Ours included flat-bottomed cones of drippy vanilla ice cream for the kids, and bowls of sugar cubes meant for the grownups' coffee, but which we kids would sneak with chubby hands and see how long they'd take to melt in our mouths.

Rob, I think I've seen every John Waters film made. I have the scratch-n-sniff card from "Polyester". Cha-cha heels rule. And did anyone in the movie "Diner" have a Baltimore accent?

What Now? said...

Sounds like a fun party indeed. We used to have multigenerational parties like this when my grandparents were alive, but now the family is small enough and spread out enough that our gatherings are almost never more than 9 people, all immediate family.

RussianViolets said...

And everyone gets along??? So not my family experience -- ever. :-)

PPB said...

okay, this is going to show my lack of accent knowledge---I lived 13 miles from the Maryland border for 6 years--what's a Maryland accent??

cool post.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

ppb:
The creeping blandification of American English means that you can actually live in Maryland all your life and never hear the older accents of the place. It is mostly preserved in the less moblile economic classes. (which is a fancy way of saying the poor.)

Mona: I don't recall hearing any real Baltimore accents in *Diner*, but it has been a while since I have seen it. Regional accents are generally the last thing Hollywood bothers to get right. In the Blues Brothers, the only person who did a Chicago accent was Dan Akryod.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in MD my whole life...some of us definitely have an accent. I've actually worked to avoid it :) But the best examples are words like "home" which people around here pronounce like "hewm" and "you" like "yew" and "going"; "gewing"...etc.

MarylandSon said...

I've lived in Maryland for all my 20 years. I am from Baltimore city and have lived in Harford county for a few years; all of which are considered central Maryland. I go to school on the Eastern shore where we get an array of Marylanders. Allow me: Almost anywhere you go in Maryland OTHER THEN CENTRAL MARYLAND (due to Baltimore's heavy cultural integration) has a southern accent. I've noticed the southern accent in the D.C. suburbs and on the Eastern shore and in Western Maryland alike. Bottom line is that it shouldnt be too much of a suprise being that Maryland is the first state below the Mason-Dixon. THe farther south you travel, the deeper the accent . . make sense??