My husband and I have a cross-cultural marriage. I come from northern stock with roots going back to the Mayflower and my husband is a direct descendant of the family of Robert E. Lee. My husband is the only one in his family to marry north of the Mason-Dixon line; I am the only one in my family to marry south of the Mason-Dixon line. We have communicated across the boundaries of family and culture our entire married life.
My parents were born in Massachusetts – home to the Boston Red Sox, clam chowder and the Kennedy clan. My husband is from the land of boiled peanuts, ‘Bless her heart!’ and the Confederate flag. One of my mother-in-law’s favorite sayings is “Save your confederate dollars boys! The South’s gonna rise again!” In my husband’s family it is not called the “Civil War”; it is called the “War of Northern Aggression”.
And this weekend we were in his territory, in his land, where the only thing that out rivals the friendliness is the food: biscuits and gravy, barbecue and grits.
It was a great weekend! Flying into Atlanta on Thursday night, we went from the cold and drizzle of Boston to a warm humidity. We were met with the hospitality of Cliff’s youngest brother and family and the next day we made the trip to the mountains of Georgia where my husband’s ‘kin’ have settled for the summer months, leaving the plant-wilting sun of Florida to work its warmth and sunburn on northern visitors.
Windy roads and drop dead views (I am being literal – you would drop dead if you fell over the railing) of the Smoky Mountain range was our terrain for the weekend. We sat on porches overlooking mountain upon mountain, drank sweet tea, picnicked by a river and took hikes around a lake.
We experienced fried green tomatoes,sweet peach tea, fried pickles, pecan toffee bars, smiles at every turn, and a small Baptist church where the preacher came off the platform to dialogue with the congregation. Quick smiles, friendly ‘hello’s’ and waves every time we drove by had us in a state of perpetual smiles. We couldn’t help it. It was so friendly; it felt so foreign. My youngest daughter, an extrovert who loves people and conversation, decided within minutes that she belongs in the south.
We heard about private schools and government schools and thanked God many times that we had a rental car and not our little PT Cruiser that boasts Massachusetts license plates. We were in a place where there was little separation between church and state and the Pledge of Allegiance along with the “Star Spangled Banner” started off the church service as a way to remember on this Memorial Day Weekend.
It was as if we were in a different country; a different world. The only thing that seemed to bind this rural area of Georgia with Massachusetts was the word ‘united’ in United States. It was quite remarkable.
I live in an area that can be somewhat arrogant. Boston and New York are both cities that boast education and enlightenment. Both these cities have been known to assume ignorance of someone who speaks with a southern accent as well as to consider anyone other than those whose ideology lies at the far end of left to be “ridiculously” conservative. If someone expresses a different opinion, the general thought can come across as “Well you’re just out of touch”. But I had to ask myself during this trip “Who’s out of touch with whom?” The farmer, industrial engineer or retired veteran in rural Georgia has as much right to an opinion of what will benefit them as the New Yorker or Bostonian. The mistake both can make is that the other’s respective opinions, perspective and reality are not important.
And now we’re back – with a bit more lard in our systems and photographs to remind us of a great weekend. A weekend of communicating across boundaries and cultures over sweet tea and biscuits with a side dish of ‘bless her heart’.
My “morning coffee” view! Rest for the soul.
A local coffee shop has the New York Times delivered for customers and puts the names of those who subscribe at the top pf the paper. They come pick it up and cross their names off a list. Seems not many subscribe…..
A shelf of old spices and bottles at a local flea market.
Tallulah Point offered a perfect spot to look over Tallulah Gorge.
View from above Tallulah Gorge