The south is full of stories and people who like to tell them. I’m not saying that in other areas of the United States there aren’t stories. What I’m saying is that the average southerner finds it perfectly normal to hear what people are doing or even to share their own lives in even the most random of circumstances.
I was in the post office in downtown Richmond, standing in front of two postal workers I’d never met. One was a woman with a big smile and short, curly hair. The other, a man who was thoughtful enough to look over the head of the person he was helping to greet me and acknowledge that I’d been waiting. When the person before me in line finished, I took my place in front of the man.
“I need to return these,” I said, handing the postal worker the keys to my post office box.
He looked over at the other employee. “We’re losin’ one,” he said, and shook his head as if me not checking my post box would give him less joy in his day.
“I’m moving to Tennessee,” I explained.
The man’s smile reached his eyes as his gaze moved in my direction again. He looked at me as if he’d just seen me for the first time. “I’m from Memphis,” he said, the name of his hometown rolling off his lips through his obvious delight.
The woman with the short hair leaned over toward us. “I’m from not too far outside Nashville,” she said, and we all shared that little moment together, the three Tennesseans, old and new.
A lady standing beside me with a wad of envelopes in her hand piped up—I hadn’t noticed her until then. “Dang!” she said with a loud chuckle. “I was gonna tell you to be sure to give these two a hard time whenever you come in! Oh well. Guess it’ll just be me to do it then.”
And we laughed together—all complete strangers.
This is the south.
It is the place that groomed me to be a writer. It’s the place that, in every manuscript, I cannot leave. Because in my mind, that’s where the stories are. That’s where the people who share them live. And there are so many.
I can sit in a café and just listen and hear them, like a storm of information for my author-brain. I sit, typing frantically, the ideas rushing in with every breath that those around me take as I overhear how people react to each other, giving me brand new ideas that may not even be related to what these people are saying. A random word or phrase in one of their conversations can spark a story.
Stories: we all have them. And southerners tend to share them often.
I’m glad I can share mine with you. My latest, We’ll Always Have Christmas, is available for preorder on Amazon right now. It will land on your Kindles September 29th.