I’ve heard it takes seven years to become a true member of a community – whether northern or southern. And August marks seven years for me, a northern girl moved to the south.
I wrote a post at the 5 year mark, and this includes quite a bit from there.
… since we sold our city row home, packed all our earthly belongings, and moved south. Moved into a house I had never seen before, on a dirt road, and back in the trees so far we couldn’t see our neighbors. That was quite an adjustment from living in the city and having our front yard be the sidewalk, where hundreds of people walk just inches from our front windows every day.
…since I left the rolling farm land of Lancaster County and moved to the flatlands of Georgia, where the only thing that grows is pine trees and onions. (just kidding. Well, sort of. J )
…since I left the tame farmyard animals of cows and horses to go to the native animals of armadillos, alligators, wild pigs, and snakes.
… where living near the ocean is simply divine.
… since I moved away from everyone I had known and moved to a place where I hardly knew a soul.
… where you can drive on flat country roads with child in lap.
… where wide front porches are for watching rain and neighbor waves.
We now live in town, which is still relative. City here is more like development, and there is nothing over two stories, except a few historic mansions. :) Walmart is nearby, and Kmart, and well, a few little shops in the one-block downtown area and a few more scattered around town, but that’s about it. I was used to having any kind of shopping desirable within 15 miles.
I felt c.u.l.t.u.r.e. s.h.o.c.k. the first few months that I lived here. That was something I was not expecting. I mean, this is still the United States, right?
I remember one of the first times I was running errands in town. I went into the bank to make a transaction, and the teller found out who I was. “Ooooh, ah know Bee-yun!” she gushed, because Ben had worked at his dad’s car wash in town several years before we got married, and learned to know quite a few local people through that. We talked for a bit, and before I left I asked her name. “Tay-nuh” she told me. “Okay, nice to meet you, Tayna!” I said. “No, it’s TAY-nuh,” she said. “Okay, Tayna!” I happened to glance at the name tag that was sitting at her desk. Too late I realized I didn’t even understand when someone told me that her name was Tina. I remember wondering if I have to learn a new language to live here!!
The drawl was only one of the new things about living in the south. Everywhere I went, I felt like I was in another country and totally didn’t fit in! That is probably why I learned to pick up the drawl, if I need to, just so I didn’t feel like such an odd ball every time I went into town! And I used to make such fun of people that move to the south and start talking like that… J
But even more than the external changes, it feels as though the Lord has really used this time to change me deeper, on the inside.
Perhaps if one has never moved out of their home area they may not fully understand the identity crisis one goes through who is suddenly the new person, when they were once loved and known. To find a place of belonging when everyone else already has a place. To struggle with the new area when other people seemingly adjust well made a new person (me) feel as though there must be something dreadfully wrong with me. Feeling so stripped as a person that I wondered if I had anything left to offer anymore. And if I did have something, would people want it, if they knew nothing about me? Leaving the security of family, the safety net of friendships formed by years of connection, to a place where I knew not a soul, and only been with my husband’s family several times…
Not everyone that moves feels all this so deeply, but to those who do, it is very very real. There is a deep sense of vulnerability. Will people get me? Will they like me? They don’t know anything about me or my family. I’m not known by anyone.
I remember someone (another ‘transplant’) asking me at church once if I was homesick, or if I was okay, and I immediately burst into tears, sobbing like a child.
And sitting out in the car waiting on my husband, because I didn’t know anyone and everyone else had someone they were already talking to.
It can kind of feel as though your life is over. :)
But I felt as though I didn’t even know who I was anymore. And the new people around me didn’t know who I was either.
They didn’t know anything about me, except that I was Ben’s wife. Which is okay. It really wasn’t about them. But coming from an area where I knew so many people and where so many people know the family I come from, and doing what felt like starting over with my life, it was a lost feeling.
It’s not that I was upset at people for not knowing. It’s just that I felt so lost, so who I am??
I still see so many areas that the Lord is at work in me. And like almost everyone, I’m sure there are just as many blind spots not yet revealed. But looking back, I can see how God has really used this move to strip me of my “props” and who I thought I was. Was it easy? Ohmyword, no.
Music, education, and traveling were huge to me. And really, looking back, I can see that I got my identity from those things. God had led me into so many wonderful opportunities before I was married, but I somehow had gone from looking at those opportunities as gifts to receiving my worth and affirmation from them.
It’s been a long road, this identity and stripping and growing and learning who I am all over again. Some of it has just been time. I have learned that it takes a lot of time to really feel at home.
But even more than that, it’s a releasing of what I thought I was. Of who I thought I was. Of what I expected to be. Of what I expected my life to be like. I remember sobbing to Ben once that it felt like I was being stripped of anything and everything that I ever knew and loved and cared out.
I don’t feel like I’m exactly “on the other side” of it all. But I do know that there is soul-rest within me that wasn’t present before. A fuller God-trust, that He IS good, and that His will for me IS perfect. I do not have to understand everything about life in order to trust, and believe His Sovereignty. And a letting-go, an unclenching of the fingers to be open-handed about what God wills for me. Wanting His glory more than my comfort. A release of expectation, letting go of my own way of doing things and trusting Sovereignty, the One who chose my paths since before time began.
And hopefully an identity that is more security of a true kind. Not one based on what I do or don’t do, or who my family is or isn’t, or what I’m known or not known for. But an identity based on the simple but precious truth that I am a beloved daughter of the King. That’s all. That’s all that truly matters.
Onto some every-day life experiences in a lighter note…
It’s been quite an adventure living here. It’s funny, because now, as I write this, I have to really think about what is so different. I’m much more adjusted to it than I realized I was! I’ve been thinking about this 7 Year Anniversary for a little while though, and thought of a few highlights/experiences/new things about living in the Deep South.
[and a few pictures of evening boating]
~ For a true Southerner, so many foods are fried. Fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fried chicken… And smothered in butter. Paula Deen is the epitome of true Southern soul food – I‘ve never eaten at her restaurant but from looking at pictures and her recipes I know that! I can’t say that I’ve adopted this style of cooking, although I can eat it once in a great while!
~For excitement if you’re a teenager: there is “The Strip” [a particular section of a particular road on a particular side of town] where you drive your car, I mean truck, and wave at all the cute girls also riding their cars, I mean trucks. Really!! This actually happened in Ben’s day! I will not say whether or not her participated… J
~Other areas of excitement: mud-bogging, tractor and truck pulls, beauty pageants. I must say something about beauty pageants. I have never, never in all my life, seen so many pageants! There is at least one contest for every age girl from very newborn to Miss America age. Honestly!! The majority of Southern women care very much about their appearance, and the appearance of their much-too-young-to-care daughters.
This pageant thing is very much a status-quo in this community. And it’s for the parent more than the child. To be “cool” here, you have to have your son involved in sports and your daughter in pageants and twirling from the time they can walk.
~ The local newspaper has mainly two sections: news and sports. And no news outside of the county. Read that: county, not country. Oh, except an entire page dedicated to Nascar! rolls eyes :)
~ There are Rednecks that are proud as can be about being redneck. Even will differentiate between themselves [who they call classy Redneck] and other “lower-class” redneck. I was wide-eyed when I first heard this from a proud Redneck himself! These Rednecks do not say their “TH’s” and thus words become “dis, der,” and “dat” [this, there, and that]. And they say “birf-day.” :)
~ Men do not drive cars here. Rarely, rarely, will you see a man behind the wheel of a car. It is just not cool to drive a car! A truck. Yes, a very very big truck. The bigger, the better. And the hugest tires you ever, ever have seen. Some of them look like you need a ladder to climb up into them. Seriously!!
~ You can say anything about anyone as along as you end with a “Bless their heart!” Example: “That girl’s teeth are so bad they look like a half-eaten cob of corn! Bless her heart!”
~ I think it is safe to say that the majority of people in this town have not traveled south farther than Florida, and north farther than one or two states (this is what Ben tells me). They simply have no reason to travel, because all or most of their family and friends are within several miles of them, right here.
~It is very, very rude to answer/address a person without saying, “Ma’am” or “Sir.” This is something children are taught from the time they start talking. And last names are not used when addressing someone, a big switch for me. Instead of “Mrs Yoder” I am “Ms. Clarita” and my husband is “Mr. Ben.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone being called by their last name.
~ I learned to water ski in a lake known to have gators in it! No, I did not see any while we were there, but I know people that have. I was semi-okay being in the water as long as I was rapidly moving. But very very nervous when I was down in the water waiting for the boat to pick me up!!!
~ There are two seasons: Summer, and January/February/March. J No, not really. But summertime comes early and lasts late; normally, May through October are really hot months. In the intense heat of June/July/August/September, it’s gets up to 90-100 almost daily, with high humidity. So much humidity that you’ll start sweating at 7:30 in the morning, just from stepping outside the house.
~ Most of the local radio stations are Country. There is no classical station to be found. Only one Christian station accessible here. But many Country. Did I mention there are a lot of Country stations here?
~Gardening is very difficult. We have to plant 4 times the amount of fertile northern gardens to get barely a quarter of what they do… There is so much sand where we’re at. Our driveway is natural sand.
~“Proper” takes on a whole new meaning here. I was in a local salon one day, talking somewhat but mostly listening, very fascinated, to the locals talk. One of the very preppy ladies suddenly announced to everyone there that she “had to tinkle!” I just try to hide my wide eyes and sudden smile.
~ Everybody is a friend. Some you’re met, some you haven’t! When I go back north I wonder what everyone’s problem is – they’re just not friendly! In the north, sometimes one will see someone they know, and both parties will pretend to not see the other. Absolutely unheard of here, and now I can’t believe the lack of social politeness up north. Of course the friends you have up north are friendly, but here the general public is just nice to each other.
But a downside of that here, there is a lot of “shmooze” – not all of which is sincere I’ve found – but the general idea is to make everyone feel as good as you can! It’s like there is an invisible contest to see who can make each other feel the best about themselves. J It’s quite interesting! Here, if you meet someone’s eye, they will at least acknowledge you with a smile or nod, and it’s not uncommon to chit-chat with a total stranger you meet on the street or in the grocery isle.
But sometimes it’s not as nice as you might hope. I had an experience a little while ago at a shop in town where I was looking at a go-away bag for Zoe. The lady gave me a price about something, all the while gushing and calling me “sweetie” and “darlin’” and all sorts of things, and told me that she is waaayyyy cheaper than another store where she buys them from (and named that store in TN). Little did she know I was going to that very area of TN the next weekend, and that was why I needed a bag! I ended up buying the bag simply because I needed one, but checked out that store when I was in TN. I was chagrined to see a much cheaper price than what I had bought for! And very chagrined to realized she had straight-out lied to me! In the north, there is not so much gush and goo, but my experiences there were that people were at least honest and straight-forward. Northerns are more “what you see is what you get”, and here sometimes it can feel more fake-sweet sometimes.
~ These Southern women can. gush. over. babies like you have never seen! In the north, you’ll often be met by a friendly, “Ohhhh, how sweet!” Down here, it’s a, “Looooook at the baybay! Her is sooooo precious! Yes, her is! Her is so SWATE!! [sweet]” and on and on, using terrible grammar reserved only for talking to babies. J Oh, and after being indignant several times over my baby being called this particular thing, I learned that it is actually a compliment (!!) for a baby to be called a “buggar”. Yes, really!
~ I think the Civil War is still going on down here. I don’t like to tell people I’m a Yankee. J Confederate flags still fly freely. A little bumper sticker and T-shirt I’ve seen: “Fighting terrorism since 1861.” Are ya kidding me??? :) And there is still a a lot of racism going on… I come from an area where people of all skin colors are looked at equally. Here? There is a big distinction, and I don’t think it’s good.
~There is some Southern lingo that I had to learn when I first met Ben. I remember once when he was visiting when we were dating, and my whole family was seated at the dinner table. Ben was talking and started with, “One time when I was coming up…” and proceeded to tell the story. My whole family, including me, was lost. “Coming up where??” someone finally asked, because he never said his destination. Ben burst out laughing, and said that “coming up” is a term used in the south meaning, “growing up.” It doesn’t mean you’re going somewhere!
Another time I heard someone describe a person as a “sorry man.” I thought that meant the man was apologetic. I learned later that really means that a man is a pathetic case, or without much character to show for!
“Ugly” is another term used to describe bad behavior. “You apologize to your sister right now! You were acting so ugly to her!”
Another term used frequently is “along and along.” Up north we would say “little by little” or “as we can.” Example: Mr. Smith is fixing up his house along and along.
~ Shopping carts are called “buggies” and the signs even write them as such in parking lots.
~Your ego could grow pretty fast here! Everyone calls each other “sweetheart” and “darling” and “baby” and “doll” – even if you don’t know each other. The cashier at the grocery store will call an old gentleman “sweetheart” and he’ll respond back by calling her “baby” or some such thing. This was a NEW thing for me down here, and I was not sure how to respond to all these gushy people! Older men in particular can be very “sweet on you”.
Sooo, seven years later, I find myself feeling more at home in the midst of all this than I ever imagined I would. Yes, it’s taken a while, and Pennsylvania still feels like home to me too. And the adjustments and feelings still come and go.
But this has been quite an adventure, a rich experience to live here. I feel that I am bettered for it, and I am privileged to call many people true friends… I can laugh at some of my experiences rather than feel frustrated and out of place. I feel that I am still learning, because there are still some things that amaze me, but I think (most times!) I can take it with humor now instead of a bug-eyed where-am-I feeling!
Because, I mean, even my two daughters now say “nekked” and “ya’ll” and “don’t be ugly” and words I never dreamed my own children would say. I’m surrounded, and I give. :)
Y’all! have a great day J