I suppose my first confession should be that I was never actually a debutante. My family was not the type that belonged to the Mystic Order of the Voodoo Priestesses or had roman numerals behind our names. However, once I left the South most people I meet automatically assume that I did my time as a deb. And besides the title sounded clever.
My opportunity to post guest spots on Thad’s blog actually came about because I left home for Oklahoma and I changed a lot. Thad didn’t meet me until I had lived in Oklahoma for a few years and may refer to me as his “token liberal”, but I prefer not to label myself. Call me a moderate if you must.
So, in my first, but hopefully not last guest spot I decided to tell you what leaving home taught me about the South. I don’t care what these Oklahomans claim this is not the South. As I was pondering this column a song by the Red Stick Ramblers called “That’s What I like about the South” came up on my iTunes. They say it better than anyone:
“Let’s go back to Alabamee,
Let’s go see my dear old Mammy
Fryin eggs and cookin ham
That’s what I like about the South”
What do I like about the South and Wetumpka in particular? I love that we have a memory of place and people. Tradition, family, and stories still matter in the South in a way that I have not seen many places. We can make anything a party from a birthday, a funeral or a divorce. In Wetumpka, I love that the bridge is involved in every set of directions, I love that people of a certain age know where the Texaco at the 4-way stop is even though it is not longer a Texaco or a 4-way stop, I love that Coach changed our lives no matter what we grew up to be, and I love that a trip to Wal-Mart often results in an impromptu class reunion. The world isn’t like this everywhere. Not every town has such a memory.
What I have learned is that with fine memory and tradition come a set of ways that don’t often bend much less break. We do things a certain way because our daddy did it that way and his daddy did it that way. We believe things because that is just what you do and not what you choose. I’ve learned now that being 29 and unmarried is not a defect, that black people and white people can go to church together every Sunday and not just on special occasions, I’ve learned that it is ok to be a Christian and not be a Republican, and I have learned that I didn’t appreciate the highs and lows of my own hometown until I left.
Am I telling you to all pack bags and flee? Hate your people and your place? Absolutely not. I suppose I am just encouraging you to think outside your box. Weigh the options. Make a new tradition and don’t just rely on the way things have always been.