Almost twelve Augusts ago, I said goodbye to the little farm where I grew up on the North Carolina-Virginia line, and arrived in Athens, Georgia, for Sorority Rush.  With me, I brought my stringy hair, an assortment of ill fitting jeans, and all the confidence that growing up as a big fish in a small pond can give a gal.  I tackled Rush with enthusiasm, marking my bid cards after each round of parties decisively.  It was only after prefs, trying to decide between Kappa (my grandmother’s sisterhood at Duke), Phi Mu (where my mom had been a BWOC behind those very same wrought iron railings), and Tri Delt (where a profusion of other out-of-state gals assured me I’d be making my own mark in the Greek world), that my decision making skills faltered.  I sat in the Tate Center, holding my bid card, ice cubes of sweat beading between my eighteen year old fingers, despite the oppressive Georgia heat.  I believe I sat there until time was up, I had to choose.  And I chose Tri Delt.  They chose me, too.  Arriving on the perfectly manicured lawn for bid day, unmanicured but so fresh in my white dress, I looked around at the beautiful girls surrounding me, and I knew I had made a mistake.

Until a brunette creature caught my eye, and though I don’t recall who started the conversation, I knew she would talk with me.  And our little repartee was perhaps the easiest chit-chat I’ve ever made.  That dark headed lady turned out to be one of my very dearest friends.  I call her LA.

In college, we lived together each year after leaving the dorms, always in a new place.

A native of Athens, LA brought me home on Sundays to eat dinner with her family, and I blame at least three of the many pounds I gained in college on her mama’s mouth watering green bean casserole, which I did not know I liked until I met LA.  Each summer, after we had chosen yet another overpriced, bug infested dump to live in, LA’s dad and little brother moved our stuff.  I believe we only lost three lawn chairs on the bypass in the process.

LA taught me to how to apply eye makeup, though I rarely do it correctly and I can count on her fixing it whenever I see her.  This annoyed me in college, though these days I treasure seeing her left eyebrow cocked in the direction of my crooked eyeliner, knowing she is about to smudge her fingertip over my eyelid, and not always gently.

On porches, we wept over a boy I loved who died when we were sophomores, an event that deeply impacted me and perhaps helped prepare me for the eerily similar loss of my own brother, Howard, just six years later.  You were gorgeous, Ben Grantham, inside and out, and I think of you with each mountain summit I attain.

Also on porches, in kitchens, in bars, in cars, at mixers, by the pool, on planes, trains, and buses, we laughed as only college girls can, falling over at our own wit and the absurdity of our days, filling the pages of an old notebook we called “The Quote Book,” which can never be shared on the internets.

After college, LA became the only person I truly love to chat with about something and nothing, on the phone.  That easy conversation from Bid Day has never left us.  We talked, and talk, about the good times, the static times, and especially, the bad times.  All I can say is that whatever comes to pass, she was a constant after Howard died, and I’ll never forget all the love she poured through the phone lines.

More recently, LA caught the bouquet at my wedding.

This is my favorite shot from my whole wedding.  Sorry, Honeydew.

She was engaged just weeks after I got hitched to the absolutely darling, charming, and good lookin’, Bo.  I took the call in the garage at Hillhouse, alternately jumping up and down and crying, especially after she asked me to be her bridesmaid.  I knew what she asked as a question was actually a statement: I love you.

And I love that girl right back.  When you’re a heterosexual woman, how do you physically express your love for your girlfriend?  You can charge pretty gifts to your credit card, you can write her lovely notes on your equally lovely stationary.  But really, if you want to show your love, you should boil and peel at least three dozen eggs in her honor.  And by that I mean, you should throw her a party!  That’s how we do it, in the South.  Nothing says I love you more than deviled eggs for thirty.

Those diamonds hadn’t been giving LA’s left hand a new sparkle for long when her girlfriends got together, on the phone and through email, Facebook, etc, and we started planning parties to give for her, to show her just how much we love and appreciate her, and her husband-to-be, Bo.  We love a good man who loves our gal, even when he may be very sorry that he is smothered with love by us.  Along with five other fabulous ladies, I helped to host the first little soiree in LA’s honor, her bridal shower, which was held in Atlanta over the weekend.  I thought every detail of the shower pulsed with love, as we did it all ourselves.  And by we I mean the six of us, our moms, aunts, and grandmas, and Sarah’s husband Ridley!  Here are a few of those details for all y’all out there on the internets – and don’t blame me if you pack on a couple pounds looking at these photos.  You don’t even want to know what the Wii said to me upon my return from Atlanta.

Step One: Acquire delicious food.  If it’s truly delicious, it’s likely to have been prepared by hand.

Hostess Campbell and myself, prepping away!

We were lucky enough to also have beautiful serving ware, kindly lent by Home Hostess Sarah Clowerpower Hailey, my darlin’ aunt Sissy, and my Grandma Betty, but that’s not a requirement.  Ham biscuits, on the other hand, are.

Sweet-potato-and-plain-biscuits-stuffed-with-chopped-Virginia-ham.  Fabulously moist grilled chicken with ranch and Glacier-County-Honey-Mustard.

Deviled eggs.

Pimiento cheese sammies.  Tomato-basil-bacon-bites.

Key lime tarts.  Chocolate truffles with sea salt.  Chocolate truffles with chopped pecans.  Chocolate truffles with cocoa powder.  Pecan tassies.

It is helpful to keep your loved ones away from the food, once it has been set out.  That’s Ridley, our Griller Extraordinaire, doing some quality control testing on the key lime tarts.

Step Two: Ask your friends and family if you may cut flowers from their yards.  Arrange flowers all over the house.  Put them on any unmoving surface.  Consider putting them on moving surfaces, such as the Bride to Be, the Mother of the Bride, the Grandmother of the Bride, and the Mother-in-Law-to-Be-of-the-Bride.

From left to right, LA’s MIL2B, Mother, and Grandmother, who is a cream puff.  By the way, LA won the In Law Jackpot – that MIL2B of hers is mighty, mighty lovely.  As is my own.

Palmettos from Sissy’s yard, with quince, forsythia, and a white flower whose name momentarily escapes me, from Grandma Betty’s.

Daffodils.  There can never be too many of those.

Everyone will visit the ladies’ room.  Don’t forget to gussy it up, too.

Step Three: Offer liquid refreshment.  People are not happy when they’re thirsty, and sometimes they are more sociable with a little liquid courage.  It is helpful if you have an artist friend to beautify the bar.  Have y’all ever seen a more gorgeous bar?  Just look at those blood oranges!

Our offerings: sweet tea, fizzy pink lemonade, water, champagne, chardonnay, Grey Goose.  Pomegranate and cherry juice, too.

And this concoction, which I cursed mightily the next day.

Be sure to open the wine, to let it breathe, before your guests arrive.  That’s Hostess Sarah-with-the-Eyes, as Brother Dear calls her, above.

Step Four: Open gifts!  At this shower, the gifts were opened in a fashion that I will repeat at every shower I give for the rest of my days.  Each guest was given a gift to open – after opening, the guests introduced themselves, and presented the beautiful gift, while explaining who it was from, to The Bride.  Gift opening was interactive, festive, pressure-free for The Bride, and took about fifteen minutes.  I recommend!

In the South, we always choose a good friend, who generally knows most everyone invited, to write down each gift received, and from whom.  This makes thank you notes, which are de rigueur in the South (and in my opinion, should be de rigueur everywhere), much easier!

Another Southern tradition: we save all bows received from shower gifts and make a beautiful bow bouquet out of them, for the Bride to carry during the rehearsal.  Again, it is helpful to have an artist friend!  Here, Hostess Campbell crafts the bow bouquet.  With love.

This is The Bride, with four of her six hostesses:

Myself, The Bride, Hostess Campbell, Hostess Sarah-with-the-Eyes, Home Hostess Sarah Clowerpower Hailey.  Sarah-with-the-Eyes and I are wearing Sarah Clowerpower Hailey’s fantastic aprons.  Not pictured, but loved, are Hostess Jordan and Hostess Wesley.

So, now y’all know a little bit about how to throw a Southern bridal shower.  Such love is certainly not restricted to non-Southern women.  But we take pride in it.  After all, as they say, we’re just like you!  Only prettier.

Photo credits also go to Thomas Whisenand, Sarah Hailey, Jennifer Campbell, and Laura Avery.  2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

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