Thursday, October 15, 2009

Song of the South

Maybe it's because the holidays are drawing near, but lately I've found myself missing home. Not home as in where I reside with my husband and children, where I have settled in over the last six years or so, where I love to return to at the end of every day, but HOME. The place where I played on my first (and last!) softball team. The place where I had my first (definitely not last) kiss. The place where I stayed up late with my babysitter watching "Fantasy Island" and tried to figure out exactly what was going on in that bungalow.

For me, Home with a capital "H" is Nashville, Tennessee. The South. I love the South. I know it has a lot of baggage associated with it, some of it deserved, some of it exaggerated, and some of it just plain made up by people who have merely passed through or never even visited.

What do I love about the South? The obvious, of course: it's home to all of my family. When you leave a place as a single girl, you miss your family all the time, but you're building your own life, so it's easy to push those feelings aside in favor of the here and now. But when your life transitions to the next level, when you begin to create a family of your own, that's when you begin to miss your family in a way that hurts....and not just because you have to pay everyone who's not family to watch your children!

Then there are the little things: the insane food which, no matter how anyone above or west of the Mason-Dixon line tries, cannot be duplicated. (If I had a nickel for how many times I've said, "You call that 'cornbread?'" I would be lounging on a tropical island at the moment.) Sweet tea. Chick-fil-A. Need I say more?

The friendliness. Sure, some of it is phoney, but in the south, when you walk down the street, people--people you do not know--look you in the eye and say hello; they don't avert their gaze as they pass. People chat you up in line for no reason. Just because that's what you do.

The landscape. The rolling green hills and three-hundred-year-old trees. The beaches and seafod boils. The front-porch swings.

The driving. People drive fast there. People get in the left lane and actually pass the people next to them. Who knew this was something I was taking for granted the first half of my life?

The hospitality. The luncheons for the most insignificant of reasons. The food people cook for you when you have a baby, lose a parent, lose a job. The table settings. The deviled egg plates. The effort.

The decorating. Yes, I said "decorating." Southerners are not afraid of going all out where aesthetics are concerned. Of filling every vacant space with objects. Of passing down items from generation to generation, even if said items are worthless to the average person. If it's not tied down, we monogram it; it's not that we don't know they're our towels, we just like an excuse to throw curly script on something, especially if it's pink.

I know many (if not all) of these things exist in some form in all parts of the country, even in the world, but I miss my own special variety of it all, or at least the variety I have conjured for myself. Some of it surely has been romanticized, but isn't that the great thing about all that is far away, whether geographically or chronologically? We forget all that made us pull out our hair in favor of that which makes our eyes glisten with nostalgia. Thank heavens for that.

I was fortunate, growing up, to have an extra-special home/Home. We lived just outside the city on 18 acres, in a home built in 1808. As a 9-year-old child, moving from a duplex I shared with my single mother to what then seemed a palatial home with outbuildings, a barn, a pool and a guest house, I felt like Little Orphan Annie moving into Daddy Warbucks' estate.

As an adult, I now see my house of childhood in comparison with the McMansions that have sprung up all around, and I see that our house is not so grand. The edges are worn, things need replacing. But it has something those McMansions will never possess: soul. And that is a fine thing indeed.

My family has since gone through some changes over the last few years, and our family house is now for sale. My mother sent over a few of the listing photos, which inspired me to reflect on not only my childhood house, but my childhood Home, and why I miss it so.

Then I remind myself: home isn't a place but a state of mind--it's the people who make it home, and we carry those people with us wherever we go.


Averill said...

Lovely post and a wonderful apology for my favorite region. [And your childhood home is gorgeous!]

the sweet life with olives said...

beautifully written! would you believe i actually have a tear in my eye as i sit here with my coffee?! i'm a displaced southerner as well. it's a funny thing the south, as you wrote so well. i miss it too. i didn't right away when i left some 13 years ago. i traveled and moved and saw the world (i now live in italy) but with two kids of my own, a husband and a life across the pond i now often find myself nostalgic for sweet tea, porch swings and strangers conversation. your childhood home is stunning!

Revival Home and Garden said...

Sweet Life, I love that even in Italy the South has a pull on us former southerners.... Limone can't compete with sweet tea!

Lindsey@14footceilings said...

While I am a Northerner through and through, I LOVE the south. I have been vacationing in Charleston for over 10 years, and nothing compares to it. I love the food, people, history, etc.

So I can understand why you miss it, but it's also true that home is where we make it, and who we make it with.

GrannySmithGreen said...

Oh, from this Southern girl to another--what a splendid post! I LOVED it! Thank you for putting into words what so many of us feel about our Southern homes and heritage.

(By the way: I had Chick-fil-a for lunch and the sweet tea's in the fridge now!)

trove interiors said...

Your post moved me so much. Although I'm from the Northwest I still have a strong attachment to my childhood HOME as well. Nothing compares to those memories of special occasions in your home as a child. I'm doing my best to create those memories for my kids and make our house a HOME that they will strive for as they become adults. Your childhood home is incredible. But, so is your adult home. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Ditto - from another southern woman to the others (Texas & Mississippi) you definitely exemplified the words...

ArchitectDesign™ said...

How lucky you are to have grown up in such a beautiful place and even luckier still to know to appreciate it! Hopefully whomever buys it will appreciate it as much as your family has!

sheilabird said...

Loved coming upon this posting- I've just moved back to Nashville after being away for years. A lot has changed- everything is slightly different, but the heart and the soul of the city, and the people, remain true. I am so happy to be back, and love rediscovering this great city. Come visit!

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