Tuesday, June 17, 2008

song of the south

I am a city girl - born and bred. Born in Chicago and raised in and around Washington DC...and I love all things city. The culture, the food, the nightlife, the architecture, the attitude - I even love the subway! I NEVER thought I would leave DC and I could never imagine wanting to live my life anywhere else. That being said - living in a city isn't for the faint of heart. Never make eye contact with people on the street, don't talk to strangers, and ALWAYS act like you belong...even when you are lost or confused or scared. Show no weakness.

A few years after I graduated from college - in DC of course - I got an invite to move down to Fort Walton Beach, Florida. I figured I would spend a summer or so down there and goof around - then head right back up to DC where I belonged. So - being the world-wise modern woman that I was...I packed up my stuff and headed on down 95 to my new - but don't forget - temporary home.

Now, when you are in your 20s you don't exactly get up at the crack of dawn. And - if you are driving 14 hours by yourself - that means you don't exactly get to your destination before dinner. So that night, VERY late that night - I needed gas and found a little hole in the wall station that looked abandoned but had a neon OPEN sign winking at me through the window. So I got out of my car - surveyed my surroundings, and started pumping gas. As I was standing there holding the nozzle I suddenly heard the door to the station open and saw a man approach me. I immediately stuck my car keys between my fingers, got my footing, and as he came closer to me I whirled around and in my best 'don't mess with me voice' said "What is it YOU want?"

Smiling up at me with a relatively toothless grin from underneath a grungy old baseball hat, this 200-ish year old man said in the gentlest southern voice I'd ever heard - "Well darlin'...I just want to make sure that you are alright - it is a late night for a little lady to be out all by her lonesome!"

Thus began my love affair with the South. And 15 years later I have never looked back.

So why do I bring this up now? Because two months ago my husband and I moved back to Georgia after three and a half years in Alaska, and yesterday I had to drive to Macon for a site inspection. One of the things I love MOST about the South is that to get from one place to another you don't HAVE to take the highway. Oh sure you CAN...if you are one of those city folk who is always in a hurry and too busy talking on your cel phone to enjoy the beauty of the day - but I like to take the backroads. The tiny towns with the tinier town squares, the proud displays of patriotism and faith, the fields of cotton and the groves of pecan trees, the old pickup trucks, the mom and pop diners...coming back to the South has given me a sense of quiet that I haven't felt in a very long time. And, having left the South behind before - I am grateful to be one of those lucky few who knows how good they have it.

Now don't get me wrong. The South, like anywhere else, isn't perfect. Coming from a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic family and community - I grew up believing that people didn't think "that way" or say "those things" anymore. I have been shocked into silence and angered into action many times during my life as a Southerner. But I have also been given an incredible gift. Living in the South has taught me that I have the courage of my convictions and that I will not stand idly by when someone is mistreated or misjudged. That I won't just SAY things should change, but will actually work to make that change possible. How many people have been given the opportunity to look that deeply in to their own soul and be proud of what they see?

So...to keep with the scrapping theme (which I never really seem to get around to ;)) I am challenging myself (and you) to do a page or a mini album or a wall-hanging or whatever moves you - about the place your heart calls home. Because tonight - with the crickets singing to me outside my office window and my husband waiting on our front porch with a glass of sweet tea, I leave you with some of the million reasons why the South will always be home to me - no matter where our lives take us.

  • 100 year old trees draped in spanish moss dancing in the summer breeze
  • when I was checking out at the grocery store and showed the cashier my Alaska driver's license, we ended up having a five minute conversation with the clerk at the next register and the three people behind me in line...and no one got impatient

  • hot boiled peanuts and sweet tea (both of which have some sort of Beth-enticing drug in them...ask anyone at IRW)
  • our friends' kids call us "Miss Beth" and "Mister Don"

  • wonderful, incredible, fanciful, quirky old Southern traditions (like wearing gianormous hats and drinking mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby)
  • the first weekend we were here we stopped at a farmer's market and a woman saw our military tag, got out of her car, came over to our window and thanked Don for his service

  • the rich storytelling of, determined preservation and protection of, and deep respect for this country's history
  • we have friends with names like Bubba and Dot and Kibby

  • FRIED TURKEY...seriously...the greatest food product EVER created
  • when I left on a business trip four days after we moved in, our 75-year old next door neighbor brought Don a homemade pecan pie because she knew "he would need some good home cookin' while his wife was gone"
    • green fields full of God's bounty as far as the eye can see
    • going to the Cotton Pickin' Fair or the Watermelon Festival and eating a fried twinkie or a funnel cake while you ride the tilt'o'whirl and check out the prize winning chickens and quilts
    • because it has made me...me.

    'Night y'all...


    PS...Oooh! I almost forgot! The new IRW catalog is FINISHED!!!! Come check it out at http://www.irememberwhen.com/catalog.asp and see why I worship the ground Amie walks on!! Great work my friend!!


    Kristie Lippert said...

    Wow, wow, wow.....Beth - you are an awesome writer! I totally agree with you about the south - I love it and you totally brought me back to it with your story. Thank you for brightening my day!

    Shirley said...

    You have quite a talent for words, my friend! The south is just a different world! Love it!

    Bethany said...

    Wow girlfriend! You are making me want to move to the south! Thanks for the inspirational prose!

    Paige said...

    I love it! Yep it is home to me for sure and always will be. I love this place and can't wait for the Cottin' Pickin' Fair in the fall.


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