I recently read something Atlanta author Celestine Sibley wrote that made me shake my head and smile. Well, actually it made me laugh. For years, Sibley was a beloved author and columnist for the Atlanta newspapers (The Journal and The Constitution). I almost never missed her articles because they were usually about the south and the way we lived years ago and the outrageous things we did.
Over the years, she interviewed many famous people and lots of “characters,” too. She was a little bit of one herself. I remember reading articles where she wrote about being “in trouble” with local libraries because of overdue books. Once, she was even threatened with jail time because she didn’t pay up. I doubt anyone would have actually followed through and arrested her.
She kept stacks of books beside her bed in her home that she named “Sweet Apple.” She said it was so she could easily pick one up and begin reading at any point during the night. To this end, I share her passion. I love to read before turning the light off in the evening. In fact, it is the best way to end any day.
In her book Turned Funny: A Memoir, Sibley explained a definition of a phrase also I grew up hearing. And since it is Friday, I thought you would enjoy it, too. She wrote, “Some time ago a reviewer, who gave a book of mine perhaps more attention than it merited, described a couple of my relatives as ‘eccentric.’ I was stunned. I wanted to look her up and shout childishly, ‘no such thing! My kinfolks aren’t what-you-said, ‘eccentric.’
“There’s a gentler, kinder, maybe more southern term I think more applicable. I first encountered it when I was bout four or five years old.” She goes on to tell how one day she met Miss Derby—a local woman who was evidently a real “character” herself and who often drew a great deal of attention in the small town were Sibley grew up.
After a particularly tense run-in with a group of local bullies, Sibley, who was only about five-years old at the time, ran home and asked her mother, “Is Miss Derby crazy?” She had heard the bullies shouting to Miss Derby that she was.
“No, honey,” replied her mother. “She’s not crazy, she’s just turned funny.”
I also remember when I was young my grandmother, who never uttered a bad word about anyone, would see a particular lady and say, “She’s a funny little woman.” I knew the lady she was talking about, and I remember thinking: “I can’t remember a ‘funny’ thing that lady has said.” It never hit me that the person had “turned funny.” I never asked my grandmother to explain or elaborate, but now I know what she meant. Some people, beloved people, can just “turn funny.” And really that’s all we need to know when it comes to some things in life—they just “turn funny.” That’s it!