It has honestly not been that long since I have been out of the South. I guess it really depends on if you count Kentucky as the South. They don’t serve sweet tea in about half the restaurants, but have you heard their accents? So, not counting Kentucky (which, despite the lack of sweet tea, I do count as the South), I’ve been out of the South for exactly two years. And yet, even with such a short time away, it never ceases to take me off guard when I go back. The accents are what get me the most. They kind of make me giggle, sometimes they make me roll my eyes, but they always make me feel at home.
I pride myself on getting out of the Deep South without much of an accent. It comes out on occasion, but it is certainly not the first thing people notice about me. I do say very Southern quips like “y’all,” and “darlin'” A LOT, and I get teased for that. And more often than I’d like, my “I”s come out a little longer than I meant. (which always makes me think of Valerie making Alabama boys counting to niiiine. 🙂 But back in the Deep South, places like Alabama and North Florida, it isn’t so much the accent, as the long drawl that is so defined, so unavoidable.
I first heard it on my layover in Memphis. To an outsider, I’m sure that all Southern drawls sound the same, but I can still classify Memphis from Montgomery; Louisville from Laurel; Decatur from Destin. There are subtle differences that remind me of the many areas around the South that I’ve lived in, or have family.
And the heat! Whew! Actually, not so much the heat as the humidity. It is amazing how quickly I have become acclimated to Seattle summer. I could use all the tired-old expressions about the Southern heat and humidity. How it “literally sucks your breath away,” or how walking outside is like “walking into a brick wall of humidity.” All true. It doesn’t matter how you try to prepare yourself for that kind of heat, it always takes you off guard.
Yet, these things, odd as it may seem, feel like home. Hard to decipher accents and overwhelming heat are what feel most like home. I love Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. I can see myself living here for a long time. But I guess it is true what they say, “You can take the girl out of the South, but you can’t take the South outta the girl.”
Whether I end up back there or not, the South will always be home. I may joke or even complain about it, but it is who I am. It is not the whole of who I am, but it is a part of me. Stephanie asked while I was there, “After all of your moving, where do you feel most at home?” It is a hard question to answer. I definitely feel at home in the South, but I think that has to do more with the feeling of familiarity, friends and family than anything else. Because I also feel at home in Seattle, a city that I am growing to love more and more every day. Parts of me also really miss Hong Kong. I felt at home in the work that I was doing there, in the church community that I found. I think that, for me, there will never be just one place that I feel most at home. It just isn’t possible. But how lucky am I to have such a variety of places in which I feel comfortable?
I use the same joke everytime that I stay with Brian and Stephanie, that no matter where I live, I feel most at home on their old worn out couch (which is no longer with them). I have spent more nights on their couch, in 3 different cities and twice as many houses. And it is true, the feeling of home for me can indeed come from familiar surroundings and thick accents, but more often than not, comes from the people I am around.
And so that is what my time in Alabama was. A weekend where I really nearly melted from the heat, yet was energized by the people I was around. It was a time of playing with my sweet godson, and walking with old friends. It was 4 days in which I felt at home. That is a hard feeling to leave.