I’m from the South. There is no denying it. You may not always be able to tell from accent (though occasionally, I let the long iiiii slip out, much to my horror), but accent or not, I am Southern born and bred. A big chunk of my identity is wrapped in that region. I grew up on the beautiful Gulf Coast of Florida, spent my summers at camps at Blue Lake in Alabama, I toured the Coke-a-Cola factory in Atlanta every summer with my aunt and cousins, holidays were spent driving back and forth to my grandparents home in the tiny town on the border of Georgia where there was still a traditional soda fountain. I grew up eating fried chicken and macaroni and cheese, we counted summer days with watermelon seeds and sea-shells. There was always family around, whether you wanted them there or not. As I got older and went away to school, getting away from home was driving three hours north into Alabama. I took a summer job as a camp counselor in the mountains of North Carolina, and even ended up at a grad school in Kentucky. (Which tries to pretend its not “Southern” by not serving sweet tea at all the restaurants, but really, who are you trying to fool? If you have a field designated for the annual rodeo, and John Michael Montgomery gives concerts in the parking lot of the BBQ joint, you have the Southern brand.) As far as the South goes, I’ve lived there – all over there. I have significant experiences in every Southern state. I always said that one day I would live outside of the South, just to see what it is like; now, here I am, certainly out of the South, and realizing that there are things about that place that I miss. Things that are a part of me.
I miss the hospitality. Southerners may not get every thing right, but you can’t deny their hospitality. The way they meet all of the neighbors with warm brownies in hand, or smiling or waving to people you pass by on the street – even if you don’t know them, the way the cashier in Piggly-Wiggly will talk to you the entire time she is bagging your groceries. There is a certain charm to people in the South. A charm that they don’t always carry well, but a charm none-the-less.
I love the weather in the South. I know, I am only saying that because its not August and I’m not driving to work in my air-condition-less car (believe me, been there – done that, too! For six years I had a car with no air conditioning!!) But I do. Partly because the heat drives people to the beach, but also because I’m scared of the cold. Silly? I’m thinking of Denver as an option for my next move – the mountains, the culture, the West – it all sounds wonderful. Wonderful that is, until I hear my friend Katie talking about almost being snowed in on the mountain, or see Beth’s pictures where she is already bundled up IN NOVEMBER! Folks, you should just know, right now I am wearing capris and a tank top. Its 70 degrees outside. I love cool Falls, mild winters, brilliant springs and sweltering summers. Its what I know. And in the South, you never get snowed-in anywhere. Ever. (well, not true. In 1989 it snowed in my hometown in Florida. We got 2 inches. The whole town shut down for 3 days. But some how, I don’t think that’s the same.)
Sweet Tea. A staple. I feel like I don’t really have to elaborate much on this. If you are from the South, you know how Sweet Tea is necessary at all family and/or church functions. It is a comfort to have a cold, sweating glass in your hand filled with the delicious liquid that runs in the veins of all true Southerners. I have known many babies who took sweet tea in the bottle. No kidding. Which leads me to food. Southern food is so bad for you. Fried, deep fried, battered and fried, tons of sugar and an equal amount of cheese-covered items. BBQ, mashed and smashed potatoes, casseroles, cakes and cookies. All of it is so bad for you. But, it is SO GOOD. And nothing like it in the world.
Also, it is where my family is. Almost all of my family at that. My parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, remaining grandparents. Very few of us actually leave the South (its happened, but its rare). So going to the South means going home to where I am loved, unconditionally. It is where my history is. And I love being able to share that with people.