Every now and then I am reminded by outside forces that I am Southern. At any given point in my daily routine, the chances of being called simply "Alabama" or "Auburn" are pretty high. I find it endearing—because it's better than being called "Dummy" or "Hey You, Gooberl!". I can take a good ribbing, but lately I've gotten a lot of greetings along the lines of, "Mollie, what is wrong with your state?!"
"Oh, lord, what did we do now?" Has become my new catchphrase.
Let's be real. Alabama hasn't exactly been a beacon of shining light in the news lately, but damn if I haven't been craving some humidity and a decent pulled pork BBQ sandwich for less than $5 (with chips...and a drink). I've also been missing the people; there's something to be said of Southern hospitality, politeness, and the all-around-genuine-warmth that comes from a land of people that bake you pie/biscuits/fried chicken for no reason. Frankly, I was convinced that these were things indigenous to the South.
But it's not entirely true. "The country" can be found on the West Coast. You just have to find it—and when you do, it is surprising and delightful. And a little weird, because the people do not have accents.
I recently found myself transported back to the South—only I was technically in Elverta, California. And that, dear reader, is when I had my epiphany, as I gazed and marveled at the splendor of the chandelier trees in the yard of a house where I'd just eaten some homemade apple pie; the South—and all its Southern Hospitality—is alive where you need it to be. "Southern hospitality" is only as genuine as your host. And if you've ever driven through Elverta, then you've seen rural Alabama: country roads flanked with sporadic houses that were built before your parents were born, and there's probably an old truck/tractor parked in the yard with overgrown weeds clinging to its rusted frame.
Beyond those trucks and inside those houses are people that might give you apple pie. And while the cicadas may not signal the summer nights on the West Coast like they do in Alabama, there are other ways that these Californians remind me of home: they have their deeply-rooted traditions, just like the South. You know what I mean—these endearingly quirky things that make a place home—I'm thinking things like bathtubs-as-flower-pots next to the mailbox shaped like a John Deere tractor, keeping cornbread on the table with as much frequency as the salt and pepper shakers, Sunday iced tea on a porch, etc. These things are just trickier to seek out in California, but I'm getting closer. A few months ago I discovered that a chandelier tree is exactly what it sounds like. And I want to see so many more things like this, dear reader. I know it it's here, and I'm ready.
I know what you're thinking: if you miss the South so much, dum dum, why not just go back? Because... there's so much to see on this side of the world. California is beautiful, and I still need to learn how to do things like pick out a wine and learn how to ski. And sometimes I forget that I am not the only stranger here. Sometimes, when I'm least expecting it (like on an elliptical machine at the gym, as I sweat into my obnoxiously pink workout gear), I'll meet someone that says something in passing like, "Oh—I'm not from here, either. I'm from Georgia." And once again I fall hard, on my face, for California.