Think back to age 9 or 10. Most of your friends were probably your own age. You worried about who would be your friend and who wouldn't, how much homework you had, getting allowance money from your parents, and all sorts of other nonsense. You probably weren't exchanging life lessons with each other, you were living in the moment.
Growing up in Vicksburg, Miss., 9-year-old Alexander Devereux's friends weren't his age, in fact most of them were 40 years old and up. Looking at that in today's world that might seem strange, but in our grandparents' era it was probably pretty normal. Those friends and family members passed along a lot of sage advice to Devereux, which he used to frame his book Gar Fish & Long Gravy: Memoirs of Southern Sensibility.
Devereux came from a time when everyone stuck with their own kind. The rich with the rich, and the poor with the poor. After all, why would you want to be with people who aren't like you? But Devereux saw differently.
"It's funny how a child's eyes see only the good in folk. I was the good in the businessman and the good in the thug that fixed his car. I saw the good in the affluent and the good in their servants. I knew nothing of any of the titles and positions established by my family. ... I didn't know of anything but love."
A child can always see the good in everyone, regardless of race or class.
A lot of Devereux's time at age 9 was spent in the kitchens of his great-grandmamma and grandmamma Lia (as a Northerner, I'm resisting the urge to write great-grandmother), basking in the aromas of the food they cooked. Food that was cooked with love, something I can relate to. We all know there is a difference to food that isn't cooked with love -- it's terrible.
From Grandmamma, Devereux learned how to tough it out even in difficult circumstances. His Granddaddy was a creature of habit, he always wore dress attire and had to have the same breakfast everyday. And without fail he was verbally abusive to Lia. But grandmamma Lia came from a time when women didn't divorce, you found a way to deal with it. While Devereux didn't agree with how grandmamma Lia dealt with her life, he got the message.
Ms. Peaches, 60, was another sage adversary. She saw his potential, and made sure he knew it every time they spoke. It's hard to see or comprehend your future potential at age 9, but he knew it would come true.
"Ms. Peaches' words were the true wisdom of the ages. You did not doubt what she said, and somehow as a child I fully understood what she was saying to me. I knew that life for me was gonna be something wonderful preparing me for greater things, whether I recognized it as such or not."
Uncle Smiley, Ms. Annie Laurie, and Big Daddy also all played a part in shaping Devereux into the man he is today. The lessons they passed along to Devereux give you a deep understanding of Southern culture. I wish the book was longer and had a wider age range for Devereux. He certainly learned a lot at age nine, including how to overcome childhood trauma (you'll have to read the book to find out about that one), but I wanted to read more on how he grew up from his teen years and beyond. From what I gather, Devereux is working on continuing the story, so I'll just have to wait on the next chapter!
Rating: Give it a try
Note: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.