Southern By Association

My Southern Family

My Southern Family

 

 

A Yankee transplant finds a sense of belonging in the bosom of the Deep South

My family hails from quaint towns carved out of Ohio’s rolling countryside. My grandparents and parents grew up and fell in love in these small towns, and I was born to the first snowfall there one year. As little more than a babe, I have vague memories of snowdrifts taller than I was and cold, dark mornings. When I was just three years old, my parents picked up and moved our tiny family to a big city in the South – Atlanta. Not long after our arrival, my baby sister was born. She was a glorious Georgia Peach, but I would forever be an Ohio Buckeye.

 As a small child, it was easy to assimilate to the Southern culture. In fact, I embraced all things Southern – fried chicken, sweet tea, boiled peanuts, bluegrass music and dogwood trees. I loved the sight of kudzu and while my friends sought animal shapes in the clouds, I tried to make sense of the hulking masses under the rapidly growing green foliage (“I see a dinosaur!” I always saw a dinosaur.) I baked many a mud pie fashioned from red clay in the hot summer sun, and my mom would often curse the bright orange stains on the back of my shorts. Many of my friends spoke with lilting Southern drawls – the sound of which I cherished and would often try to imitate. The hitch was – I always knew deep down inside that I was a Yankee.

 When I was seven, the local drive-in theatre held a special screening of “Gone With The Wind”. I recall being dazzled by the majesty and grace of the Old South displayed on that big screen. I also remember feeling a sense of shame when a dirty Northern bushwhacker attempted to force Miss Scarlett to a “fate worse than death”. I have recollections of my mother taking my sister and me to the Cyclorama in downtown Atlanta. As I gazed upon the dead and the dying soldiers painted in blue and grey, I became aware that no matter how badly I wanted to be from the South – I would always be merely a resident here. There were differences that divided me from her dating back more than a century.

In addition, it took me an eternity to shed the word “pop” for the preferred Southern vernacular of “Coke” and, try as I might, I have never acquired a taste for catfish. It wasn’t that anyone ever made me feel like an outsider, there is no phrase more bona fide than Southern Hospitality. It was merely my own stubborn sensibility that kept me separated, until…

I met a sweet, handsome Carolina boy in high school who took great delight in making me laugh. He introduced me to pralines and SEC football. We attended the University of Georgia together, and married shortly after graduation. Several years later, I gave birth to our first Georgia Peach – and a few years after that, our second Peach arrived. Suddenly my home was filled with Southerners, and I felt – for the first time in my life – a complete sense of belonging. I now understand that although I wasn’t born in the South, I was raised here. As my husband and I regale our little girls with our own stories of growing up in the South, we are giving them a true sense of Southern heritage. I finally achieved my childhood dream of becoming Southern – if only by association.

With my Georgia Driver’s License in hand, I now consider myself a proud card-carrying member of the Deep South. Yee-haw!  Pass the grits!

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Published in: on October 2, 2009 at 12:21 pm  Comments (1)  
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