My dad was from Alabama. He loved the South. He longed to return there to live. My mom would not consider leaving her hometown in NJ to move south of the mason dixon line. She didn’t like dads poor relations living in tin-roofed houses that leaked in rain storms. Dad endured his exile, sometimes less gracefully than others.
He often bribed me with the promise to buy a horse if I persuaded mom to move. Frankly I think he would have moved without her, if I would have gone with him, but that is another story.
The bribe was enticing since I couldn’t own a horse in NJ because we lived on the wrong side of the street. At least that was what mom and dad told me. My girlfriend, who lived across the street, also couldn’t have a horse. I worried if I moved south with my dad, both sides of the street would be the wrong side.
We appeased dads homesickness by naming our family dog, an Irish Setter, Rebel. It seemed to do the trick. It also gave me unintended permission to develop my internal rebel self. I knew better than to present her to the family, but I have called on my rebel blood often in my adult life.
I was raised on grits, corn bread crumbled in butter milk and my dad’s stories of the magic of the south. The beauty of the land. The kindness of the people. When dad drank his vodka and tonic’s the South rose agin (Southern for again) to fight the Recent Unpleasantness (the Civil War). In his alcohol impaired rendition, the South won and confederate money became the nation’s currency.
When I met Tom, with his southern accent tamed by Yankee living for the past 30 years, I heard my dad. One day, early in our relationship, Tom said to me, “We’re in high cotton now!” I had not heard that expression for years. It made me feel strangely at home with him. The first time he fixed me grits with bacon grease I melted, and gained 2 pounds.
Tom’s Southern heritage makes him move slower-which sometimes makes me want to light a fire under his butt, speak slower, and hold his ground regardless of the current popular view. He calls this awhner (Southern for honor). I naturally resonate to this cadence.
So as we loaded the car to head south to visit his relations (Southern for family) my Southern blood began to bubble. I began to feel base. Sturdy. Thoughtfully certain. As we drove into Savannah, the moss skimming the top of the car, I am enchanted. As we crossed the bridge to the island I smelled the mud of the South and my body felt at home.
I wish he was still alive to tell him, “I get it!”
Love to Y’all