Monday, March 28, 2011

Everything's Rosy!

The past is a funny thing. We can put whatever kind of spin we want to on it, with the selection of certain details and the ignoring of others. This is why we often have the best days of our life in the past – because we carefully filter the negatives out until we have a rosy view of something idyllic. If we were honest, at the time, it was probably anything but! Years from now I might look back and consider my time in America amongst the best days of my life. I shall replace my wonky old glasses with some rosy ones and have fond thoughts…actually laser treatment might work!
I have said frequently that what I experience in the county where we live might not be typical of North Carolina, and North Carolina may not be typical of the rest of the states. I went to Charleston, South Carolina for the weekend and had the most beautiful weekend – not typical of my experience of the states at all then. However, if I was thinking of rosy reminiscences there were a few reality checks along the way.
Charleston was a charming place. As America goes, it was full of history. Most of it seemed to be glossed over, as any place of historical note in America involves the displacement of Native American Indians and/or slavery. Charleston’s history is rich in both. A monument gave me a sharp reality check and left me perplexed. It was a statue of William Moultrie with a dedication ‘This monument represents the high esteem in which all those who love freedom hold Charleston’s native son William Moultrie’. It praised his ‘1759 offensive… to suppress pillaging by the Cherokee Nation’. I wondered if I was alone in seeing the contradiction in the dedication and the acts of the man honoured. I think what shocked me most was that it was dedicated in 2007. Recent enough to expect some sort of reflection, if not apology, of the cost of such action on the indigenous population - the language used demonstrated neither.
The second thing that caused a double take was a stall in a charming street market. It was selling reproductions of posters advertising Charleston slave auctions of yesteryear. As an historian I have seen them before and was drawn to look at them. Had I still been teaching the history of slavery to 14 year old kids I would have purchased a couple. Who buys them otherwise? Would you want them framed on your wall? Next to them were reproduction slave rag dolls. Turn it one way and the doll was white, the other was black. Apparently slaves were not allowed to play with white dolls so they were able to hide the white half under the black dolls skirts. I can’t remember what the correct name for them was. Don’t Google ‘slave dolls’ it is XXX rated! Whatever you do don’t add ‘black’ to the search!
I passed on the opportunity to see the ‘most authentic slave cabins in South Carolina’ at a plantation and chose to walk around an alligator swamp instead. I suspected the cabins may be authentic for a given time but not typical of the experience of slaves on plantations. The view presented for tourism might have been somewhat rosier! I didn’t expect the swamps to have real alligators unleashed. I had to quickly teach my children to run in zig zags!
Charleston may gloss over its past but the real beauty of Charleston was in the present - although I would not have been surprised to see 19th Century southern belles sat on the porches of the numerous pastel coloured and wisteria draped southern houses! The sun shone and the azaleas were in full bloom. The gardens were a surprise – formal walled Italian garden meets English country garden with stunning results. There was a concentration of the most wonderful houses in the downtown historic area.
On Saturday evening I shunned a traditional southern fayre of shrimp and grits (I wasn’t fully under its southern spell!) and opted for an Italian restaurant. Sat out on a cobbled terrace eating the best food I have had in America, I mused that if we had been sent to Charleston instead of Cary I would have loved it and may have wanted to stay. Hubby gave me a number of reality checks. He said ‘You would still be lonely.’
Cheers! I said that I would feel different because it is more familiar – the gardens, the city living, cafes, bars, restaurants. I wouldn’t feel like a foreigner.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘you would still feel like a foreigner because you are one!’ Cheers again! I tried once more to create my rosy moment. I said that it was so beautiful here none of that would matter.
‘Have you forgotten driving into Charleston last night, about two miles out we locked the doors and hoped the lights didn’t turn red it looked so rough?’ Cheers yet again Darling! I had forgotten. So good of you to remind me! I had filtered out the bad bits already. I’m obviously quite good at doing that! I couldn’t remember what I had done to warrant Mr Grumpy for the evening!
Will I look back on my weekend in Charleston with Rose tinted spectacles? If I can filter out hubby’s reality checks, neck ache from bad hotel pillows and finding out that the world will end on 21st May I think I will be able to chalk it up as one of the best places I have ever been!

1 comment:

  1. Its a good job sometimes that we can filter out the bad bits and make times and places more memorable. Charleston sounds really lovely and i am sure it will always remain so in your memory