Saturday, February 20, 2010

I'm in a Southern State of Mind

"Growing up Southern is a privilege. It's more than where you're born, it's an idea, a state of mind that seems imparted at birth. It's more than loving fried chicken, sweet tea, baseball, bibles, and country music. It's being devoted to screen porches, magnolias, coca-cola, and each other. We don't become Southern, we're born that way."

A lot of you give me a hard time about where exactly I am from. I always feel a lot of pressure to claim a territory, explain my upbringing, etc. The problem is that often nobody really understands and so, today, I want to set the record straight. I read this quote today, no idea who wrote it, but it inspired me. I think it really represents how I truly feel in my heart. My gratitude to have the privilege of living in the South again is palpable. I get down on my knees and thank the Lord for it.

I was born in the heart of the midwest, St. Louis at Barnes Jewish Hospital. Not a very Southern start to say the least. My first three years were surrounded by Midwesterners, aside from my parents. After that I was moved to the South, deep South, just outside of Mobile, Alabama for another 3 year stay.

Truth be told I moved north at the young age of six and primarily lived there until 22. IL became my home but I never really felt happy there. Being a part of a very Southern family made living in the midwest, and the north in general, feel very unnatural to me and I always harbored a feeling of displacement. I have southern in my blood as the majority of my family is from Lafayette, Louisiana, Mississippi, and throughout Alabama.

I spent every summer, from 8 years old to 14, soaking up the culture of the Gulf Coast. My Daddy, being a born and raised Louisiana man, brought me up on crawfish, chicory, beignets, and as many types of fried seafood fare we could get our hands on. Needless to say oyster po-boys and boudin are staples of our diets. I ran around barefoot many a summer with my toes in the Gulf Coast sand, sneaux ball in hand, and peach juice running down my chin from the local farmers market. Skinny dipping was not out of the ordinary, as most people would understand if they felt the sweltering heat of the Gulf summers.

My summers were split between all the towns along the coast. Daddy lived in Jackson for 6 years and we would drive south and head across between Mobile and New Orleans. Road tripping, stopping at little dives along the way. I'm sure people would look at Dad funny when he would bring us into a local bar to meet one of his old buddies (I being only 10 years of age as the time or so) but all I remember was learning about the kindness of good down home people and how fabulous Shirley Temples tasted when the maraschino cherries were stacked from the bottom of the glass to the brim.

When I hear a song about the Delta my heart yearns for Spanish moss and the hazy heat of a late Gulf Coast Summer. I get home sick for a lot of places, Chicago, Vienna, Mississippi, etc. But I have a Louisiana soul, and I know this because only other Louisianians understand, and no one else can understand why that makes me proud.

1 comment:

  1. Just came across this doing research for my book; wish I had seen it sooner! I'm from Monroe, LA, Now in Alpharetta, GA. Great blog and brought me back in time with the Shirley Temples! Thanks