Without prior notice, part 2: Life synopsis
(Part 1 may be found here.) It's taken for granted that nobody living in Huntsville is actually from Huntsville (Kat being our resident exception). There is no single 'Huntsville accent,' just a variously-lilting amalgamation of the various Southern accents of the engineers who have found their way to this town. But the lack of a specific accent does not imply a lack of commonality in the way the locals speak; go far enough away from standard 'Southern' and the questions begin to pop up:
As some random Southerner has undoubtedly said in some overblown novel, "Ah don' thank they's from 'roun heah."
I like to think that it's the little things, like the crispness of your consonants, that get you through the winter up North. It only seems right that the kind of people who have the patience to put up with multiple feet of snow each winter would be the kind of people who would find refuge in making their consonants ice-brittle. This kind of stoic precision might not keep you warm, but it would certainly keep your spine straight.
Move south, and you're best off leaving both your snow boots and your consonants at the Mason-Dixon; you won't need either of them down here.
Move south, and you'll find that even something as simple as the weather will prompt someone to tell you their life story. Learn to tell it like the telling doesn't matter, and you'll be one step closer to sounding like a local, even if you don't actually sound local.
They were from Illinois, see, and their surname had a cluster of consonants somewhere in the middle, boding ill for pronunciation in this town, where the only things longer than the summer days are the lengths of the diphthongs. Despite the wrong accent, he had it right; his son standing to his right, watching quietly, while he put his hands back in his pockets and leaned backward against the door.
In the space of ten minutes he'd handed us the synopsis of a life: he'd done contracting and construction up in northern Illinois, and had moved down here and been thoroughly amazed at how inexpensive housing was down here. He was taking a year or so off from doing contracting and construction so that he could become familiar with Alabama construction codes, and was working as a cable installer in the meantime.
He made it clear that it was his wife's second marriage, and possibly his as well. If I'm remembering the progression correctly, she had two of her own, he had one of his own, but they tried for a long time to have a child together—"and finally, the good Lord decided it was time for us to have a child together," referring to his youngest daughter.
"I've been in that house, visiting some people who lived there when we first bought our house. How in the world do you fit everyone in there?"
He laughed, eyes crinkling behind small glasses. "It gets a bit interesting sometimes. We moved from a thirty-two-hundred-square-foot house in Illinois to this house, and it was a bit of a change."
"So, about the lawn…"
Soon: part 3.