Let me explain this once and for all…
My dad grew up in Dallas, Texas most of his life.
He then went to Texas A&M and graduated from there a proud Aggie with an electrical engineering degree.
His mother is a southern debutante from Birmingham, Alabama and the picture of southern class. My grandmom’s mother, my namesake, was an aristocrat who enjoyed throwing parties and often flew to New York City to entertain strangers in the 20s.
My dad’s dad was from South Carolina and his grandfather worked for FDR and was the ambassador to Siam, now Thailand. My dad’s dad graduated from the Citadel, and ran the alumni association there until his death in 2007.
My mom’s mom is from Hartwell, Georgia and grew up a blacksmith’s daughter who also picked cotton. My mom’s dad, my Deda, grew up a sharecropper’s son and was the first to go to college in the big city of Atlanta on the GI Bill. Before college, he went to Germany during the Korean War, and worked the phone lines. Henry Daniel was the first person in Europe to hear that Eisenhower was elected president. My moms dad’s dad, Bud Daniel Sr, tried to get him to turn down the city lights by bribing him with a tractor if he would stay and work the family farm. He refused the tractor, and graduated from Georgia Tech and worked the rest of his life for the government at the Atlanta Airport. He is now retired on the land he grew up on and owns three tractors #patiencepaysoff
You see, I am a southern girl though I lived most of my life outside of Philadelphia. My dad was transferred up north on business when I was only three years old. My dad worked his way up through his company, ABB, and in my elementary years he was the vice president and general manager of the firm. This landed him an office in New Brunswick, New Jersey of all places. When my parents relocated our family up north to my mother’s horror, my dad’s business gave us a condo to live in for awhile which my mom affectionately called he “hell-hole” She quickly moved us out of New Jersey, and settled us in the farm-land of Bucks County, Pennsylvania where I grew up my whole life wedged in between cornfields. I actually attended highschool in Princeton, New Jersey fifteen minutes from the “hell-hole” and the Jersey life my mother ran from. Right after college, my first full-time job was on the Jersey Shore.
In the summertime, my mom would pack all four of us kids in our blue van and drive us back to Georgia, her home to enjoy our “southern sabbatical” for the entire months of July and August. We would enjoy the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, the coastal lowlands of Charleston, the farm in Georgia and the beaches of Fl.
Growing up, there were certain things I was not allowed to do or else I would be deemed a yankee by my mom. I wasn’t allowed to honk my horn under any circumstances . We never ate at dunkin-doughnuts. We certainly didn’t visit the shore and pay to get on the beach, and we had to wear dresses to church every Sunday ( until I was in middle school and made the radical choice to worship God in jeans). Hospitality runs deep into my bones and I know how to be considerate and sweet to everyone I meet. My dad and mom greeted strangers no matter where we went, sometimes to my embarrassment my dad said “howdy” to “folks” as he past. My best friend in elementary school was, no surprise, a girl named Savanna whose mother was from Quitman, Georgia and who spent all of her summers riding horses and managing their property on The Blackwater Plantation.
My mom always let us know that all of us were at-least conceived in the south, except John, but even our dog Rebel was from an Atlanta pound and my mom sweetly let everyone know he was a southern confederate dog at heart.
In school, everyone made fun of me for the way I talked. I apparently pronounce “pen” like “pin” and “chemistry” like “kimistry” and I called a grocery cart a buggee and a car accident a “wreck” We drank sweet tea every night with dinner, and always watched Andy Stanley Sr. on the TV as we got ready for church. My first ever book we read in high school was called “Cold Sassy Tree” and took place twenty minutes from Mema and Deda’s house. I was the only spokesmen about southern heritage in my Honors English class in Princeton.
When I graduated high school, I toured seventeen colleges and applied to twelve. I wanted to go to Princeton or Wheaton, and was picturing Ivy League in my head. As a joke, one Christmas, I applied to UGA on a whim to please my grandparents who liked imagining me only being forty minutes from them in college.
Ofcourse, I not only got accepted to UGA but received a generous “diversity scholarship” because I was one of the only “yankees” who applied from a small boarding school in Princeton, New Jersey and would offer the student body a different perspective and background.
Little did the admission committee know that I would do all my studying at “the farm” in Elberton, the same farm that my great-grandfather was a sharecropper on over a hundred years ago. So much for diversity. I wonder if they would have revoked the scholarship if they had known that I was served fried chicken casserole, green beans, cantelope and macaroni everytime I studied for a test?
Needless to say, I was not happy about returning to the “land of my fathers” to be educated. I definitely inherited a snobbish prideful personality up north and missed the open-minded, pluralistic, art-infused atmosphere of not only Princeton, but Philadelphia and New York City. I missed the ability to ride a train thirty minutes and see a Broadway show. I missed my Catholic, Jewish and Agnostic friends. I missed moderate political views and I deeply missed Wawa. I missed the beauty of Bucks County and the history of Yardley, Washington Crossing and Newtown. I missed any type of tree besides Pine and the hilly topography of the Delaware Valley Water Gap.
I missed a broader music spectrum and a deeper appreciation for Guster, Dispatch and theater of all forms.
Suddenly, when I was hurled back into the southern culture, I realized how much growing up in the north had shaped me. People in Georgia thought I was really blunt. It took a long time before someone could appreciate my humor. When I wrote a satirical article about human waste for the Red&Black newspaper, no one understood my humor and I was literally harassed on the streets, on the newspaper’s website and on my Facebook. People yelled at me to “Return back home to Pennsylvania, you yank.”
I didn’t care about football in the slightest. I took school way to seriously and I found the theater program at UGA seriously lacking. No one appreciated my honesty, I didn’t own enough dresses and I couldn’t understand why it was much harder to be friends with black people down here.
In all ways, I was socially awkward my freshmen year. No one found me funny anymore, often times they thought I was rude or mean. I didn’t even think to rush to join a sorrority. Instead of taking twelve semester hours so I could explore down town Athens my first semester, I took seventeen upper-level classes one of which being a senior level Comparative Literature class.
Then I jumped head-first into cultural Christianity. All the sudden, eveyone I knew loved Jesus, went on missions trips and attended church on Sundays. There was something in me that just didn’t quite click with the girls at Sunday School. They were beyond sweet and hospitable to me, but I just didn’t quite fit in. I didn’t know how to bake, I didn’t really love children and I didn’t grow up a die hard Georgia Bulldog Fan. I wanted more crazy worship, talk about the Holy Spirit or evangelism and instead I saw a warm family network and not people who could really know or appreciate who I was as an individual. I didn’t wear Chacos or Nike shorts, I had never had a boyfriend or even been on a real date.
Ofcourse, over four years I found my nitch. Actually, it was Jessica Longino who held my hand and helped me stop being bitter at Athens at large. I found “my place” with her and we tackled college together. Her proud mother from Mississippi had taught her how to walk into any room with poise and a smile. She knew all the rules of manners and etiquette, and in her I found the same hospitality that my mother had infused inside of me. I got more involved at Wesley, a body of believers I loved, and it changed the course of my college.
When I went back North and worked at Ocean Grove last summer, I could tell it took me about a week to get back into the sarcastic banter and witty jokes. Wherever I am now, whether I am at home in Pennsylvania or the place of my heritage in Georgia it always takes a minute to adapt to the rythem of the place. Still, people in Georgia say that I talk way to fast or that I pronounce my “Os” with way to much “A” and they don’t understand my open minded approach to people’s views, political ideas or backgrounds.
Judge constantly laughs at me because I tell him proudly, I am the best of the north and the south. I am a southerner who grew up outside of Philadelphia and I am offended when people call me a Yankee, but I am also proud to say I grew up on the banks of the Delaware River.
Most likely, I will spend the rest of my life in Georgia and make frequent trips back home. I am counting down the days till I get to return to BucksCo in a week and a half for Melissa wedding and enjoy seeing her get married amongst my extended family at Washington Crossing United Methodist Church.
I love God’s sense of humor. I love his poetry in my life. I love my history, and I am glad now that I know who I am.