Thursday, July 16, 2009

Love Letter to Oklahoma

Oklahoma has been very hard to love lately, what with it being one-hundred-and-freakin’-eleventy-‘leven degrees and all. But I love Oklahoma, I do. I didn’t always, but I do now.

In fact, a while back I was working on a little love letter to Oklahoma, and gosh darn if I can find it now. But Holly’s blog post reminded me of it and so I thought I would recreate it now.

Dear Oklahoma,

I love you, you know I do. You don’t always make it easy with the ice storms in the Winter and the tornadoes in the Spring and Fall and the unrelenting heat of the worst of your Summers. But oh Lordy, do you make up for all that with your skies! A girl can breathe in Oklahoma. I lived in Georgia for two years and I’m sorry, but Georgia skies are a pale imitation to Oklahoma’s, I don’t know if it’s all the humidity in the air or what. Oklahoma’s skies are the same vivid blue as her flag. And they go on forever. From anywhere in Oklahoma City, if you want to go downtown just spin in a circle until you see skyscrapers, then head toward ‘em. It’s that easy.

“Oh give me land, lots of land, with starry skies above,
Don’t fence me in,
Let me ride through the wide, open country that I love,
Don’t fence me in...”

And the sunsets! I’ve been to Hawaii twice, and Hawaiian sunsets don’t have a thing on Oklahoma’s, except for maybe the beautiful beach in the foreground. (Oh, that little thing!) If you tried to paint an Oklahoma sunset, there is just no way for it to look like anything but the worst black velvet painting, what with the blues and purples and pinks and golds and peaches and reds. Even the real thing just doesn’t look real, except that it is. You know you are an Okie when you get a phone call from someone you love saying, “Quick, run outside and look at that sunset! God is showing off today!”

Even the thunderstorms are awesome, when they are not spinning off tornadoes or pelting your roof and your car with hail. The sky turns that fearsome green and black color, looking all the world like the Wicked Witch. If the way your insides feel when you get diarrhea were a color, it would be just the same shade as an Oklahoma thunderstorm. The wind stops sweepin’ down the plain and it gets still and quiet and even the birds stop singing. Then BOOM!!! All God’s power unleashed. And the Earth puts off that thankful smell for the rain.

But the very best thing about Oklahoma is her people. Even though it ain’t easy being a flaming liberal in the buckle of the Bible belt, Okies are the very best people I know. Have you ever heard that saying, “As long as I got a biscuit, you’ve got half?” I don’t know who first said it but I’m just positive he or she was an Okie. Okies will give you the shirt right off their back, or the biscuit right off their plate, if you need it.

When the bombing happened in ’95, you couldn’t get within a block of the Red Cross for all the Okies standing in line for hours to give blood. I personally know several people who worked all day long at their regular jobs, then went down to the convention center where the out-of-state rescue workers were being housed to make sure they were being fed, rested, massaged, shaved, manicured, and basically had anything and everything they needed or desired. A former beau of mine had a concession in the convention center and stayed down there for a solid week, sleeping on a little cot when he wasn’t serving up slushies for free. He said the rescue workers had a terrible job to do and if it helped them one iota to have a free slushie, it was his honor to give it to them. My cousin and her kids baked the medical examiners tons of cookies and brownies for the same reason.

And it’s not just big disasters that bring out that kind of behavior in Okies. It’s just the way they are. I guarantee you that plenty of people in my neighborhood do not approve of the couple who fly their gay pride rainbow flag right there under the American flag in their front yard. But I also guarantee you that if my gay neighbors needed help, the entire neighborhood would set aside their tsk-tsking long enough to give them whatever help they needed plus a little extra just in case.

Okies speak to you when you pass them on the street. When a bunch of Okies get in an elevator, they don’t all face the front, they face the middle so they can have a little conversation, no matter whether or not they know each other. Okies still pull over as a sign of respect when they see a funeral procession. Not only do Okies still salute the flag, but they know every word of The Star-Spangled Banner (well, the first verse anyway) and stand up and sing along loudly and badly at the ball game, and will give you the evil eye if you don’t, too. Okies say “Yes, Ma’am” and “No, Sir”, in addition to “fixin’ to,” “y’all,” “yeehaw” and “yesireeebob”.

I have a theory about why Okies are the way they are. Native American culture is a big influence here, and just about everybody claims some Indian heritage whether they are on the rolls or not. And the pioneer spirit is also alive and kicking. Both of those cultures relied on connections and interdependence—the neighbors, the tribe. If you were homesteading and a tornado took your house, your neighbors came and helped you build a new one ‘cause if they didn’t, you were gonna die. So I think it’s in our history and our culture and our nature and our blood to look out for one another.

I saw a storyteller here in Oklahoma City probably ten years ago. I can’t remember her name or where she was from, but I remember she was headlining both the storytelling festival and the boat and tackle show. From here, she was heading off to some Scandinavian country. She told the crowd that she was going to wear her Oklahoma City hat and when people asked her about good ol’ OKC, she was gonna tell ‘em:

“The city is spacious,
The people are gracious,
And they throw one hell of a boat and tackle show.”

And that right there just about sums it up, y’all.

4 comments:

Robin Thomas: A Nest With a View said...

I love No. 46 too. And you. And now I feel differently about the boat and tackle show.

HollyDoodleDesigns said...

I love your love letter! I'm so grateful to be here, with people like you.

Milly said...

I love it here. Except the summer heat.

Zen Mama said...

Homesick here.