Unlike all of the recent birth certificate scandals, mine is quite dull. I was born and raised in the small coal mining town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It was undoubtedly North of the Mason Dixon line.
It was not until after college that I got my first taste of Southern living (or what I thought was the South). I worked as a teacher in Fairfax, Virginia. I heard phrases that I thought were made up for the movies. The librarian habitually wanted to “Bless My Heart” and I realized there that peaches must be a considerable fruit because she compared me and the students to peach pie on a daily basis. Even on the worst day she would bring out a smile.
Yes, my husband is a Yankee as well. Who could imagine leaving the hometown we both adored? But, when industry shuts down the railroad company sent us packing to Roanoke, Virginia. My daughter now smelled like roses and she was “as purdy as a peach”. I knew otherwise, she smelled of formula or cheerios, but I would smile at every kind remark that came my way. “Yes, Mam” and “Yes, Sir” were now part of the daily vocabulary.The food was unfamiliar. A pig in the blanket was now a hot dog wrapped in a crescent roll. Really? I grew up with hamburger and rice wrapped in cabbage slow cooked in a tomato sauce. Where was the perogi isle? No pierogis. That is a sin in itself. In Pennsylvania we eat frozen perogi, homemade, church cooked and no one knows what a perogi is. I want my fish Friday, some halupki, halushki, perogi, and a cheese steak! That’s it. But now I am being fed white gravy for breakfast, beans with most meals, chicken stew, and lots of barbeque. Although the barbeque has grew on me after nine years, I still look at those buckets of chitlins and I have not bought one yet.
“What do you think about moving further South to Alabama?” “Hell, no!” I believe that was very close to my answer. “Are you crazy?” was in the same discussion. It was not an option. But I have been here for two years and I suppose one can say we compromised. I thought leaving what I knew would be devastating but prayed for faith, strength and huge doses of daily patience. After living in the South for nine years now, I realized that the Confederate States have so much to offer.
Faith is probably the biggest part of who you are in the South. The first two questions people ask you are “What church are you a member of?” and “Would you like to visit our church?”. At first I found this almost intrusive. “Why is someone asking me about my religion?” As I lived here longer I understood the value placed on church, family and community. The people are the church. It took a long time but my faith grew along with my love for the South. From the Bible Belt in Virginia to the Tennessee River in Alabama there is a church on every corner and sweet tea served every Wednesday night.
The meaning of family is especially important to families in the South and this gives me a greater appreciation for my own family. The people are loyal, humble and extremely faithful. I often giggle at the grocery store because everyone says hello, how are you or have a blessed day.
The problem with such gracious hospitality and religion is that it can sometimes seems false or overdone. I am not one to raise my hands in prayer or pray out loud in public but Southerners are comfortable with all of these acts. The people I have met and befriended authentically want to pray with you or for you. They are happy to bless your family and freely talk about God. As a person of faith I have grown to fall in love with this.
I am not sure of how long you need to live in the South to consider yourself a Southerner. I can’t tell you how many years my family will reside here. But what I can tell you is I will enjoy all of the moments the South has to offer while I am here.
I am happy to give hugs to people I don’t know when they ask for “some sugar”.
I will smile when the little kids call for my son “Bin”(Ben) with that sweet Southern drawl.
I will love on my babies even when they are “being ugly” or having “hissy fits”.
I will joke with my neighbor each and every time she is “Fixin’ to do it”.
I will even say Y’all because I can.
I have been blessed with a large and wonderful Yankee family that My husband and I miss each and every day. This year I will miss passing the stuffing around the table with my mom, dad, aunts, uncles and stepchildren. But this holiday my family will share the blessings we all enjoy. Well, maybe not the dressing. The South is not for everyone but I think we may stay and check out the view for a while.