We don’t put our crazy aunts in the attic. We sit ‘em on the front porch and serve ‘em iced tea. That’s on t-shirts and plaques in gift shops all over the place.
I was born in the Midwest, and I moved to the South when I was sixteen. At first, it was like living in a foreign country, but time, that old doctor, and my own ability to adapt, gave me an appreciation of my new home. Even though, twelve years later, I left the South, parts of me always remained…mainly my mom, and younger brother and sister.
I remember once ordering from the Hanes Catalogue by phone and weeping after hearing the operator’s Southern accent. Parts of me adopted that drawl that never went away. “M’arm” would hurt. I’d “cut on” the lights. I’d eat “skrawberries.” Sometimes “you guys” would slip into “y’all.”
My Lake Waccamaw friend of over thirty-five years, whom I met on my wedding day in Indiana, used to say, “I wasn’t born in North Carolina, but I got here as soon as I could.” Now, I have to say, “I got back here as soon as I could.” In the decades that took me from North Carolina, back to Indiana and then to Arizona, my philosophy was “Make wherever you are home.” I never intended to return to North Carolina to live, but I thank God every single day for bringing me back.
The South has changed a lot in my absence. Everything is fully integrated for one thing, wonderfully and thankfully. Other changes are more subtle and certainly less important. The accents aren’t so pronounced, because many of us transplants have diluted the lilt. Grits aren’t on the plates in restaurants at every single meal.
Still, we eat “bald” peanuts, drink “swee’tea,” and go crazy for Carolina, State, or Duke at basketball madness time in March. Doors are opened for women. Men of a certain age still dress as if coming on or going off the golf course. The Preppy Look is still The Look. Kids still say, “Yes, m’am.” People in public places still call you “Honey, Sweetie, Baby, or Darlin’.” Most of all, though, God is very, very present, and my heart is continually being blessed.