Thursday, April 23, 2009

Whistling Dixie

Yesterday, as I was beginning the Great Seasonal Clothes Switch-Out of 2009, I came across Sally's too-small bathing suit, and I started thinking about our upcoming summer vacation to the North Carolina coast.

I was mentally reviewing a checklist of what clothes would need to be found or purchased, and that thinking turned into a plan about what we would need to pack. From there, I jumped to pondering how many activities we could pack into a week without turning the vacation into more work than fun.

Then I took a mental tour of all the fun things we could do, but wouldn't have time to do, and before I knew it, I found myself wrapped up in nostalgia and missing quite a few things about living in the South.

The whole process was all very If You Give A Mouse A Cookie-esque.

I'll admit that when I lived in the South I mostly daydreamed about when I wouldn't live in the South. It wasn't that I disliked the area, but I missed my family and the landscape of my childhood.

We spent a lot of time on hot Southern coasts, but I wanted my kids to know mountains and crisp autumn mornings and deciduous trees that seemed to burst into flame overnight and cold Christmas mornings and SNOW.

Surprisingly, they weren't getting much of that where we lived. I remember riding in a convertible with the top down on New Year's Day, which was fun, but just seemed unnatural to a girl whose every fiber was programmed to be wearing a parka by that time.

But since we try to be a "bloom where you're planted" kind of people, we always found something great about where we happened to be. And now that time has passed, I find that I miss the South more than I ever thought I would when we moved back above the Mason Dixon Line.

Pennsylvania will always feel like home to me, but there are some great things about the South that the North just can't match. Sorry, but it's true.

  • The word y'all. Seriously, this is a great word. I wish that I could get away with it up here. It is so much more elegant (yeah, I said elegant.) than youse or youse guys or even you guys. I don't want to be a you guys. I want to be a y'all. And all y'all is even better.

  • Sweet tea. I know we have Chik-Fil-A up here, and they do make a mean sweet tea, but you can be pretty sure of getting a proper sweet tea in almost any eating establishment in the South. Take note, Northerners: Snapple in a restaurant cup does not equal proper sweet tea. Just sayin'.

  • Less clothing for the seasonal clothing switch. It gets warmer earlier and stays warmer later, so you can really get about three seasons worth of wear out of lighter weight clothing. I used to wail that the South had two seasons: Summer and FACE OF THE BLESSED SUN. Now that I have four kids worth of clothing to wrangle, I look back not too unfavorably on that. Besides, people in the South treat their summer like we treat our winter. We avoided going outdoors and found fun things to do in the AC.

  • The beaches! Now, I know that not everyone in the South lives near a beach, but those who do know what a good thing they've got going. I grew up with the Jersey Shore, and while I have great memories of summers spent on the sand, once I set foot on the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico I was lost forever to New Jersey. Clear, warm water . . . sugary soft sand . . . oh man, I need a vacation . . .

  • Liquor in grocery stores. Ok, ok, I realize this is not just a southern thing. There are lots of normal states out there who sell their alcohol in the grocery store and not in a state controlled store, but the first time I walked into a Winn-Dixie and saw a wall of wine to my right, I thought, How convenient! I'm not a big drinker, but there have been many recipes that I have not tried simply because I would have had to make a separate trip to the state store. I know this makes me just plain lazy, but I miss that.

  • Biscuits. I mean real, fluffy biscuits, not the kind that you buy in a cardboard tube. And real southerners will probably dress me down for saying this, but sometimes, when the mood hits me hard, I would trade one of my kids for a sausage and egg biscuit from Bojangles. Thank God there are no Bojangles up here. The rest of Southern cuisine is delicious too (grits, I'm looking at you), but it's the biscuits that get me.

  • The people. I probably should have put this first, but I miss the people. Don't get me wrong, I love Northerners, I am one, but there is something open about the South. People you don't know wave to you on the street. Small talk crops up naturally in the stores. I found that overall there was less of a tendency to be suspicious of people's niceness down South. Up here, everyone thinks you have an angle or that you are trying to scam them. It can be a little stressful. (this is not to make the North sound like some kind of hostile place -- I just think people keep their guard up a little longer.)

I'm always happy to go South; it feels like a homecoming of sorts. And it's funny to me that Francie and Fiver are very proud of the fact that they were born in the South, even though what they remember about the states of their births fades with every passing year.

I've always been interested in what keeps people tied to their geographical region. Is it love, family, obligation, work?

What about you, my friends? Do you live in a place other than where you were born and raised? Do you miss anything about a place that you used to live?


  1. I was born and raised here on the lovely Gulf coast, but I feel a yearning for mountains and snow. Bella was amazed by the topography of parts north - hills and what she called mountains but I think were just really big hills. I have visited family in PA and it holds a special place in my heart and I would love to go back. I would love to live somewhere that actually has seasons. If you look at our Christmas pictures you will notice everyone in shorts. I dream of a white Christmas, too!

    The people I encounter throughout my day are already discussing the looming summer (which will start in probably a week or so). Someone at work yesterday mentioned that pretty soon it would be too hot to walk anywhere. I was discussing local parks with a friend and we were trying to remember which ones are shaded and which ones have those little mist hoses on the equipment.

    Y'all come on down! You're more than welcome, anytime. There is always a pitcher of sweet tea in the fridge, and grits are on heavy rotation on our breakfast menu. We don't have a Bojangles here (although I had a bojangles biscuit on our trip and I agree - they are amazing) but my grandma makes a mean drop biscuit, and if you pair that with some of her homemade jelly you get a little glimpse of what heaven must be like. She'll also make you some cornbread and collard greens, with lots of potlikker. It's good and good for you!

    And as for the people....I have more than once heard someone's rudeness explained by geography. "She's from New York, you know" and everyone says, "Ohhhh". :-) And my grandmother (who has passed away) still tossed the term 'yankee' around. However, the southern pace can madden someone from the north -we do most things, including talking, a little more slowly. But that's usually because it's too hot to do anything too quickly. But remember, it's not the heat, it's the gall-durned humidity.

    I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time on your trip. I'm excited for you!

  2. Did my mom put you up to asking those questions at the end of this post? Cause you know I would love to move back home! Most of my family lives in the same county. Do you know how much free babysitting we could get from that?!

    And, sweetness, you do realize there is one Bojangles in PA? Even more important, it is located at a place that is somewhat accessible to you. Right across from one of our old hometown malls! I've had those biscuits and they ARE mighty good.

  3. A native NYer, I am loving life in Texas.

    It's the all y'all that keeps me here.


    No, I mean, I love the South! I'm a sun and beach kind of gal, and while we are hopelessly land-locked (I KNOW Texas is on the gulf coast, but when you are 10 hours from said coast? Land-locked, Sugar.) I love the hot weather and incessant pool time.

    I love the people. Family-friendly? You bet! A governor who wants to secede if things get too wacky? I haven't felt this safe since the Reagan years.

    Tons of Catholic friends with a zillion kids? check.

    And my parents moved a mere 12 hours away to Colorado. One hellish day in the car. Not bad at all.


    Oh... right. I don't miss NY at all. (could you tell?)

  4. i've recently been feeling some of the very same sentiments!
    i don't know that i would ever live down there again, but i do miss it more than i ever thought i would!

    Can't say i miss the word y'all though! i relish being one of youse guys...particularly when Southerners told me i sounded like i was in the mob or something when i said it *rolls eyes*

    i'm definitely feelin' this post though, girl!

  5. Born in the North (although just across the Ohio river from the South), I am a Southerner at heart. I have ancestors from Alabama and my dad was born in Tennessee, so it's in the blood. I'm also Italian "at heart" and there's not a drop in the bloodline, so go figure. I should have been born in 1910 also, so I guess you could say "my heart" is a bit screwed up.

  6. I was born and raised in Boise Idaho (very Northwest) but came to the south for college and have never left. Although there was a time I mocked people for saying "ya'll" and "fixin'to", they are now a part of my daily vernacular and I say them proudly. I love gi=oing home to visit...but I am a southerner at heart!

  7. Oh, by the are more than welcome to come visit us ANYTIME! We could go visit Graceland (Home of the KING of Rock and Roll), Go to the Grand Ole Opry, I'll even make you a big ole glass of sweet tea that we can sip by the pool!

  8. Born, raised and still living right here in good ole North Carolina!

  9. And the further North you go, the less friendly things can get (there are always exceptions but in general). I lived in Connecticut- briefly- and when I came back, the first thing I noticed was how many people in PA smile or say some small pleasantry as you are coming/going from a store- especially a Wawa. I have had great experiences on vacation in North Carolina too :)

  10. Loving this post. You know I was born down here in Florida, and it is seriously in my blood. Suprisingly, I miss PA more than I thought I would... the seasons a tad, the spring MUD and soft grass the most.

    I have had only one white Christmas, and it felt very strange. When Jim spent his 1st Christmas here, and was griping that it wasn't cold enough to really count, we went to the beach. On Christmas Day. With our cell phone. And THEN made all the calls to relatives up north. Very nice, indeed: "Speak up, brother, I can't hear you over the waves..."

    Plus, have you ever studied the background of any nativity card? Palm trees. Sand. Clear sky with bright star. Hmm- looks more like the south, yes?

    And even though my part of Fla isn't exactly the proper South... it is still a beautiful and wild kind of place. You're dead on about the "treating summer like winter". Poor Kade hasn't been to the beach yet b/c he was born in the heat of the summer... and by the time the weather was mild enough to take him out, the snowbirds were here. HEY! you could be a snowbird someday :)

    Also- which states were F&F born in? Cuz I have some cool Florida books, and maybe a NC one too. For kids, with facts adn all. Let me know :)

  11. Oh! You've so hit a cord with me! We just moved to Maryland, from Michigan and while there are a lot of nice things about MD (mostly weather and scenery-related) I ache for Michigan. It really isn't anything practical (except the close proximity of IKEA probably) but it's just a feeling of home-ness that MD can't give me. And the people. What can I say? I love to belong and I don't think that I'll ever really "belong" in this small town. Small-towners sort of suck. Sure, they'll wave at you and talk to you in the grocery store but unless you been there for generations then you'll never really belong. After my vast 9 monts experience that's my take. But the weather is nice...and I'm glad to hear that someday maybe it will feel like a home-coming to come back here.

  12. I live in South Jersey after growing up in North Jersey. It's a whole different world. LOL! I love it here. The only thing I miss about North Jersey is my family (and the Paterson Falls)

  13. Ok, I was never born or lived anywhere but in PA, but I must say that in visiting y'all (see...I still use it...all the dang time too!) when you were living in the South, I totally believe I am Southern at heart. I love the slower pace, I love the heat, the beaches (truly, the beach we went to in FL was amazing!), the people, the food, pretty much everything. Actually, it might be a good idea that I stay in the North, because just reading about the food that some of the comments and you are talking about, I'm salivating and if I lived down South I think I'd be way heavier than I am. And I REALLY want a biscuit. Like BAD.

    But the South was amazing. Those are some of my favorites memories of childhood, going down South to see y'all. Jampacked in a hot car, sweating like your life depended on it, seeing the cotton fields with cotton in them, seeing puffs of cotton on the side of the road, listening to the accents...oh, and no one can overestimate how good it makes a girl feel to have every guy treat her like a lady! That's something I definitely don't get up here in PA.

    Man...I miss the South too...and now you have all these folks inviting you down South again...can you take me? I can't wait to go back!

  14. I live 160 miles from the town where I grew up. And I don't plan on leaving. I love my town. We are happy to call this place home for good. Even though the town has grown a lot since I came here for college, it still feels like a small town to me. I guess since we are so involved in the local college's sports and our church, it just feels like we know people everywhere we go. I think our town retains the feeling of a small town while embracing growth. And I love living in the south. I'm not a winter person at all. While I don't relish the hotter than heck days, I will take them over freezing cold and snow any time. I am however a rebel in that I don't care for sweet tea and I don't have much of an accent. The great thing about TX is that if you are willing to do a little driving, you can find just about any kind of climate/topography. I love it.

  15. Anonymous8:38 AM

    I live an hour from where I was born and raised, but I too love the south, the sweet tea, the people, the weather, everything. While we have never lived there - we visit the southern U.S on a regular basis and I totally agree with everything you said. Esp., the part about the people just being so open. Tom and I had the girls on a vacation in Tennessee and after our second visit to Cracker Barrell, our waitress (the same one both times) said, "Oh, hon if y'all ever need a babysitter- I would love to lend a hand." When I told her we didn't actually live there, she said the offer was still good while we were on vacation if Tom and I needed a night to ourselves.(and nothing about this conversation gave me that creepy- why is this stranger so into my girls? feeling) -southerns are just different and I think they and their states are fabulous!
    Mirabella MOM

  16. Anonymous3:48 PM

    I spent 24 years in NY, 7 in the South (plus 9 extra months courtesy of the USN), and now almost 6 years in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

    It took me 31 years to find my home; I don't regret the journey but I am overjoyed at the destination.

    Dad is Glad in PA

  17. Howdy,

    We just re-met on Facebook.

    Of the two, I'm the one currently living south of the Mason-Dixon line.

    Plus, I'm married to a woman likes the Civil War, and country music.


    Guess who

  18. Come to Ohio. We have liquor in our grocery stores (shocked me that PA didn't my first week @ college there and the grocery store manager laughed at me when I asked "Where's the beer"?). We have lots of people that wear less clothes as they buy their liquor from groceries and they use the word "y'all" too. It's not a southern thing. More of a West Virginia-transplant thing.


Go ahead and say it. You know you want to.