Friday, February 16, 2007

I am From

(Well, I was inadvertently tagged for this one by Courtney. Go read hers. It’s really inspiring, makes you want to hop on a train bound for Michigan. And then go read Charlotte’s , which was the first one I read, so you can long to visit South Africa.)

I am from summers so hot and humid, the sheets stick to your body, and the fan just blows around hot air, but you can hear the cicadas and frogs and crickets loud and clear in their nighttime operas, and a swimming pool or the ocean in mid-July is never, ever too cold to just plunge right in without a second thought. The honeysuckle grows lush and thick along fences and over bushes; my nose forever will be so attuned to its scent I can smell it long before I ever see it, and when I take my first whiff of some bubble bath meant to smell like honeysuckle it turns my stomach in its falsehood. I am from winters that never have enough snow, but when the snow comes, everyone stays home, and it’s like a holiday in which the traditional meal is hot chocolate and gingerbread, and snowmen guests arrive in tatty old scarves and hats, long noses turned orange rather than pink from the cold.

I am from traveling in a westerly direction to discover some of the most beautiful, soft rolling old mountains in the world. These mountains play dulcimers and banjos and go clogging well into the wee hours of the morning when the rising sun joins them to dance light off their blue ridges. Breakfast is fried eggs, sausage patties, grits with a puddle of yellow butter sitting in their center, and homemade biscuits dripping with butter and honey.

I am from traveling in an easterly direction to land upon miles of sandy white beaches, rough ocean waves rolling and smirking over the “graveyard of the Atlantic,” where ships’ skeletons provide homes for coral, colorful fish, and giant turtles, as well as plenty of fodder for folktales. The sand dunes stand up safe and tall, laughing at the ocean that tries but can’t reach them, colorful hang gliders running and jumping from their peaks to join the birds majestically soaring through the deep Carolina blue skies around them. Lunch is the best fried chicken ever, fresh-baked rolls, mashed potatoes smothered in butter, and tangy coleslaw speckled with black pepper.

I am from a place where long afternoons are spent down by the creek, barefoot and in shorts, wading around and catching tiny-clawed crawdads with nets made from wire hangers and old stockings, who are released immediately due to feelings of sorrow for taking them from their homes. I am from flying kites that stubbornly refuse to stay aloft, even though the wind seemed to be howling all night, in freshly-mown fields, blades of grass clinging to dewy legs. I am from dancing lessons in a studio below a general store where frozen cokes and candy bars await once the heinous lessons are done. Supper (never "dinner") is pork chops and black-eyed peas and green beans cooked in fatback, and if I’m lucky, we might have chocolate or tapioca pudding for dessert.

I am from tobacco fields and cigarette factories and a downtown that smells like grape juice to a young child who doesn’t understand tobacco smells like that. I am from Moravian settlers who left their marks with sugar cake, cookies, and coffee. I am from drama schools and live theater and underwear mavens and small liberal arts colleges. I am from a very American place.

I am also from a place in which, to my horror, the “n” word is used and spoken, but where, mysteriously, blacks and whites actually work, socialize, interact with each other, and live in the same neighborhoods far better than they do where I currently live. I am from a place where, as one black friend of the family who moved north only to come back, once described it, “you hate us as a race, but you love us as people.” I am from a place where life might be much better if only everyone would admit to a legacy of unnatural and unfair prejudices. It's a place where, contrary to popular belief elsewhere, 95% of the people are not "still fighting the Civil War," but where many, many people are still fighting just to survive every day.

My hometown is so stiflingly conservative and cliquish, I’m not going to be able to breathe if I don’t escape it, so I flee to a place where I’m sure I’ll find far more like-minded people. I am wrong, but not completely wrong. So, now my hometown is a place I’m learning to forgive for its stifling ways, but where I don’t ever want to go back to live.

I am from a place where people aren’t nearly as stupid and backwards as outsiders seem to think they are, but where everyone still has a lot to learn. But then, aren’t all places like that?


Anonymous said...

I love how your food description evolve from one paragraph to the next. Makes me really hungry! It's great that you can reflect on your hometown by accepting that there is some good and bad.

Rebecca H. said...

Yes, I love the food description too! And it's nice to hear a bit about your southern roots (after noticing a little bit of your lingering southern accent).

Litlove said...

It's so interesting to see the personal slant everyone puts on this meme. I love the way you use I am from as a springboard into your thoughts, rather than as a structure to your sentences. Gives it a very 'Emily' feel!

Froshty said...

I am from where the world stops for 4 days in early March as the four universities that constitute "Tobacco Road," take on what is now 8 teams, but used to be 3 other teams, in a celebration of college basketball known as the "ACC Tournament."

I am from where cotton and soy bean fields lie close to skyscrapers and the very best celebration involves a pig-pickin'--with either Lexington-style sauce or eastern N.C. sauce, and all the hushpuppies you can eat.

I am from where old-time fiddlers and musicians gather in tents on Saturdays and Sundays in the summer and familiar traditional tunes fill the air, day and night.