I have loved every blessed minute of my American travels. I revel in our country. I think there is just something “American” about Americans, whatever section of the country you look at. There is a spirit that defines us and even transcends national origin. And “spirit’ is just the only word I can think of. It embodies pioneering and innovation and, yes, brashness that others may find off-putting, but which we know that it is just that old American Spirit. It is necessary for our accomplishments and endearing to those of us who live here.
I hope all people feel the same way about their nations, and I assume this feeling of loyalty and exuberant love of home are natural.
Sorry, I’m spinning out of control. I tend toward old-fashioned patriotism. Tears well at the National Anthem, and I love documentaries like “America’s Heart and Soul,” which I heartily recommend that you all order right now (through our site!) from Amazon for Independence Day celebrations. Look at this trailer for just a taste of the great-American offering this documentary is:
Anyway, back to my title. Much as I love New England; much as I love the Pacific Northwest; much as I love the great American Southwest, what I really am is a Southern American Girl. I have had the bestest time traveling this country, but home and roots are in the South for me, and it is just the bomb.
I love watching you Northerners, recoil at the thought of a tick—we just yank ‘em off and flush ‘em. Yeah, we know all about Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick fever. We jes’ don’t get bent out of shape ‘cuz of it…we just yank ‘em off and go on. Most of us who have grown up among them fear the misery of chiggers more—shudder!
Experiences that “feel” Southern to me include:
- Humidity: popping out in a sweat the very second you step outside in the summer air.
- Lightning bugs and crickets/frogs chirping at night;
- As a child: sweat beads around your neck and itching from wrestling down in the grass when your mama calls you in at night for a bath;
- Iced tea (real sweet with lemon or, if you’re high falutin’ like V’s mama, a slice of lime or a sprig of mint);
- Skeeters keeping you up at night (“hummmmmmmmmmm” ad infinitum) and ending up with a blood-splattered bedroom wall from killing them. Believe me, you will go to great lengths to get them so you can get a night’s sleep.
- Calling that piece of furniture that holds your clothes a “chester drawers;” “renching” out a glass in the sink.
- Ice-cold watermelon, fried chicken (hot or cold), ‘tater salad, fried okra, grits, pecan pie, ribs, fresh cucumbers in vinegar and pepper, cobbler with blackberries you have picked (at great risk of chiggers—see above).
- Funeral home paper fans.
Growing up V and I just waited on the day when our mothers would allow us to go barefoot as the summer began. We rarely put our shoes on after that until school started (except, of course, for company or going out), and by end of summer we could run across gravel, no problem, because our feet were so tough. “Summer feet,” we called them.
Part of the American experience comes from the old “melting pot” theory, our invitation to the world, as inscribed on our Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
We’re a comingling of traditions and influences from around the world. It makes for an interesting stew, and I believe that our country has, over the centuries, attracted those who already tend toward those pioneering traits that signify the spirit I mentioned above. We have welcomed the infusion of that spirit from fresh sources, from those yearning to breath free.
And part of being Southern is hospitality. We’re taught to give it and love giving it. We’re taught to accept it graciously.
And, right now I am P’d Off that someone would become an American citizen, fleeing the repression of Pakistan for the wide-open-spaces freedom of America, and then—just a year later—participate in a terroristic attack on Times Square. Yes, “innocent until proven guilty,” for sure—it’s the American way—we’ll see. If the charges are true, then he’s guilty of more than terrorism. He’s guilty of returning our welcome and our hospitality with rudeness and treachery. It’s plain bad manners—this guy was not raised right.
Being an American is exciting, wonderful, and a privilege. A terrorist attack would be a hard return for being allowed in on it. C