yellow sticky-note stays on the dashboard of my car. "Hi,
Pretty Lady!" is printed on it, put there by my older son
on his last visit home from up north. It makes me smile each time
I get into the car.
expression "Hi, Pretty Lady" is a family joke. My four
kids, mimicking my Southern accent, refer to it as Mama's Southern
thang. Since the saying came to me from a longtime Southern friend,
perhaps it is a Southern thang.
was one of those days when your kidneys are right behind your
eyelids and you find yourself bawling like a newborn calf at the
slightest thing. A black cloud hovers over you, and all you want
to do is wrap up in a quilt, head and all, and disappear. I finally
answered the persistent ringing of the phone to hear my friend's
cheery voice asking me to go shopping. "No way," was
my immediate reply, "I don't like people today and they sure
wouldn't like me."
was a long pause, and I thought she had blessedly hung up on my
surly self. "I want you to go to a mirror right now, any
mirror will do, look at yourself dead in the face, and repeat
these words: Hi, Pretty Lady." I thought surely she had been
into the sherry cabinet. "That is the most ridiculous thing
I've ever heard," I replied. "I mean it," she said.
"Go to the mirror, look at yourself, and say Hi, Pretty Lady.
Call me back when you feel better, and I can assure you it will
make you feel better."
the quilt more tightly over my head, I kept my pity-party going
until a will stronger than my own pushed me into the bathroom.
Glancing into the mirror, an unkempt, down-in-the-mouth face stared
back at me. Tentatively, I whispered the words, Hi, Pretty Lady.
One side of the mouth in the mirror curled up. In a somewhat louder
whisper, I repeated the phrase and both sides of the mouth curled
up. Dropping the quilt, I brazenly stared at the face and with
more conviction said, "Hi, Pretty Lady!" I began laughing,
and the more I repeated the inane phrase, the more I laughed and
the better I felt. While the simple words didn't turn me into
a vision of beauty, the spirit-lift they gave me quickly replaced
the black cloud I was carrying around with me.
son says it evokes an even bigger laugh when he says it to his
reflection in the mirror. "It's a Southern thang," I
say to him, "but it could work for men and Yankees as well."
RIDINGS BENNETT confirms in her writing style she is a dyed-in-the-wool
Southerner. Born in a small town in Tennessee, she moved
to Oak Ridge, growing up in a strange and secret town and era,
she proclaims. Aileen has four children, two daughters and two
sons, and an engineer husband, who was transferred often, the
family having the opportunity to travel and live in many parts
of the country. "Life, Love and Laughter," a column
she carried with her, was published in newspapers wherever she
lived, being quickly picked up by surrounding cities. My
kids provided much fodder for my column, she
says. Aileen studied creative writing under Arizola Magnenat,
a published author and journalist. When her husband retired from
his company in Atlanta, Georgia, the couple decided to return
to Oak Ridge. Our placemats dwindled to two, she says,
which finally gave her time to write her first novel, The Annie
Chase Story, to be released in October 2005 by Behler Publishing
Company. She is currently working on the sequel and continues
to write free-lance and essays.
Aileen Ridings Bennett