If you check out the “About Me” under any of my posts, you’ll see growing up in the south is one of the first things I mention. I cherished my time in Georgia, where pine trees were abundant, dirt was really red clay, and the weekend was all about football.
But you know what? I’m such a hypocrite.
Behind my monogrammed necklace and pearl earrings, there’s a midwesterner playing dress-up. Dig around in my pantry and you’ll find my staple items are boxed macaroni and cheese and peanuts instead of Duke’s mayo and shelled pecans. Up here in Wisconsin, I’m the closest thing to Julia Sugarbaker. I am teased for the incorporation of “y’all” into even the most professional of conversations, and casseroles have become my trademark for annual gatherings.
But when I’m at home, when I’m really settled in, my habits would horrify the neighbors south of Mason-Dixon. That tea in my cup? Oh yes. It’s sweet, but thanks to Splenda – not because I waited for water to boil and watched the sugar disappear as I added heaping spoonfuls to the pitcher. The photo I just captured of my little boy and baby girl? You don’t have to look closely to notice a missing grosgrain bow or a button-down. By the time the day comes to an end, they’re lucky to be clothed at all.
My attempts to replicate my southern upbringing are watered down, a Cliff’s Notes version at best. It’s not worth keeping up the façade. My heart tells me that my Georgia roots are deep and far and wide. But my head. My head tells me that my roots are shallow and started to lose their grip the moment I moved near the Great Lakes. My head reminds me that I am not truly from the south and to come down from the grits-and-cornbread clouds I’m residing in. Come down to the canceled Southern Living subscription and the one lonely red and black game day dress hanging in my closet.
Maybe you’ve never been to the south and some of these references make no sense. But I think we’ve all been in this position before — the moment when we feel like we’ve lost who we are. We’ve lost the things we believe define us.
What I’ve realized, though, is that those things help shape and mold; they are not the end result. I am not the south. But I am a mixture of the places I’ve been, people I’ve met, jobs I’ve held. I am not a southern woman anymore, but I am a mom trying to instill tradition, a love of college football, and the importance of manners. There’s nothing phony about that.