Confessions of a Displaced Debutante

By: Kimberly Hays

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.

11 thoughts on “Confessions of a Displaced Debutante

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  1. I couldn’t have said it better myself Kim! I moved to California when I was 21 and on the way there I was so excited to be leaving po dunk Wetumpka, but when we got to San Diego at 3 a.m. after driving all day and checked into a hotel, out the window you can see fast food joints still open and people milling around as though it were noon on Saturday. I cried myself to sleep and begged my new husband to take me back home where people went to bed at normal hours and would be questioned by the police if out wandering after midnight. We were stationed there three years and it got better, but I still longed for home. Now I am back and I find it hard to beleive that I will ever leave.

  2. Kim that was so well said! I moved out of Wetumpka as well & though I wouldn't trade the way I grew up for the world, I also wouldn't trade the growth & life experiences I gained from moving away! When we first moved to Phoenix I had some major growing pains, but someone told me it's a 5 year itch… if you make it through that, you'll probably never move back. I have been here over 6 years & I found that timeline to be pretty accurate. I do have dreams of one day retiring in Wetumpka & coming back to the quiet life, but for now… I appreciate where I come from & love where I'm headed :)))

  3. It always humors me that those who move away from the south always seem to have this enlightend experience about how things are here. The truth is this.1. I am 29, single, and fine with it. 2. I don’t care who sits beside me in church no matter what color they are.3. I am a Republican because I have to pay taxes. The point I am making is this. There are ignorant people in every part of the country. Don’t you think there are plenty of people up North who have certain careers because of their dad, or do things the way Daddy did it. There is nothing wrong with that. It is not just a Southern thing. People are not more open minded just because they are from other parts of the country. They are just as stubborn about their beliefs. Love ya Kim…………………Kevin Robbins

  4. I am going to go out on a limb here and offer my two cents. As an outsider, I have really enjoyed reading this blog. I am not from here and have lived here barely a year. My husband went to Wetumpka so I am a native by marriage? I grew up mostly in TN and a little in TX so I am a Southern. After that I moved around to many huge cities up & down the east coast. Anyway…I think that the difference is big city vs small town. I have lived in cities my whole life so moving to Wetumpka was a total culture shock. I will say that I have grown to love all the small town things Wetumpka has to offer. I could have never let my kids run around a park or ballfield unattended before. I could have gone to Walmart 100 times before ever running into someone I knew. There was a school every 5 miles with a different mascot and different mission. I am thankful that we moved here so our kids can grow up with a feeling of community. I still miss the malls and the restaurants but what my kids are getting from living in a small town is much more important.With that being said, will we ever get a Starbucks? Please…….Lisa L.

  5. To know where you are going in life, you must know where you’ve been. That itch that so many speak of, I think works both ways, I have never left Wetumpka, not that I didn’t want to just had other things holding me here, but now after all these years I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. NO shame in leaving, coming home for good, or just a visit, just blessed to be from here with all the memories I have, and all the memories I have left to make. Jason Rodgers

  6. I enjoyed your story Kim. I was born in Okla. city there until I was 5, and still have mostly maternal relatives there. They are a "different" breed out there. Definately NOT southern. ::giggle::Being a military child myself, I too have been all over the US. Lived in many states, the longest, other than here, being in West Palm Bch, FL. I was moved there as a senior in high school. (My father wanted to "go home" after retirement to his "small town". It wasn't small anymore, and nothing like he remembered. He moved to Ocala in 1986 or so.) I wouldn't go back for love or money. I had 3 different 1st grade schools and 4 different teachers. I never had that sense of "belonging" anywhere. Where is my hometown? We always went to see Mema and Papa in Florida, I have many many relatives in the old city cemetary. Most of my family there are now scattered. It has always been difficult for me to make friends. I remember as a child making a friend, doing everythig together, then that person or myself would have to move. we're being transferred….My family is from the south, Ga & FL, and I was raised with southern values and manners. I love the fact that my children will go to school in the same town from kindergarten to graduation. They will make lasting friendships. Sit on their front porches, probably with a laptop lol, and reminisce about their childhood. This will be home because I choose it to be. I love this area and have often wished I grew up here. I have been in Alabama since the end of 1991,with a small stint back in FL in 1993, and worked in Wetumpka since 1995. Wetumpka isn't as small as it used to be, and I miss that in a way.I recently moved to Eclectic, and love the peacefulness here. If I want "big city" stuff I can always go to Montgomery. I did yesterday, and after about an hour I was sooo ready to be home. :)Genie Webber

  7. Totally agree with the comments about the hometown feeling and the feeling of belonging. I grew up in a small southern town and look forward to my kids having the same experiences and the values that are acquired by surrounding your kids with “good old country folks”. Some people prefer the big city hustle and bustle and i respect that but i prefer the slower lifestyle and look forward to watching my kids grow and prosper in a tight knit small community where everyone knows everyone and if you don’t, you will. Where else has a river running through the center of town, 2 lakes within 20 minutes and a crater site(that i built my home on)? It don’t get much better than this folks. I grew up in the south, went to college in the south and will remain in the south. And i am also a republican! Tiffany R

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