Monday, November 7, 2011

Chivalry Lives in Texas

(This post by Jennifer Blake first appeared Sept 9, 2010 on the Mira Books site)
During a recent drive from our summer home in Colorado back to Louisiana, my husband and I stopped at a convenience store in Clarendon, Texas. While he was putting diesel in the RV we use for travel, I went inside the store. As I came out again, a woman with a young child was almost at the door, so I held it for the two of them. When she had passed by me and gone inside, I started out again but saw a boy of nine or ten coming who was obviously with the woman. I paused again, waiting for him to enter. He stopped, however, and took the handle of the heavy glass door, holding it open for me. “Go ahead, ma’am,” he said in his polite Texas drawl.
Now I’ve lived all my life in the South where a man holding a door open for a woman is an everyday occurrence. This was different because, first, the boy was so young and, second, he commandeered this small act of kindness instead of accepting it from me. And in those brief seconds that it took for me to smile, say thank you and walk away, I knew several things about this young man: 1) Somewhere in his background was a man who had taught him how to behave toward women, 2) he was a boy who could think on his feet, 3) he was not afraid to take the initiative when he felt he was doing the right thing.
Thinking about this now, as a writer, I’m reminded of the importance of the telling gesture in fiction, that one small action which shows more about a character than reams of narrative. I’m also reminded of how much courtesy, honor and chivalry mean to me as a story-teller, how often these things turns up in my books. It’s a couple of lessons re-learned. Well, okay, the incident is also a story-starter as I begin to picture the kind of man who might bring up a boy like this, and think, hmm, what if the guy was divorced or a widower, and what if….

Since publishing her first book at age 27, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Blake has gone on to write over 65 historical and contemporary novels in multiple genres. She brings the story-telling power and seductive passion of the South to her stories, reflecting her 8th-generation Louisiana heritage. Jennifer lives with her husband in northern Louisiana.

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