the places that made me

This week I’m thanking God for the places that made me. I am a Southern girl through and through, but I admit that the Deep South is a complicated place to be from. For all our churches, hospitality, and genteel manners, we can’t deny a legacy of racism, classicism, illiteracy, and poverty. Turns out, though, we’re not the only place on the globe where humans hurt each other or just plain hurt. So I’ll keep being thankful that I’m a Southern girl, and I’ll keep pushing to change the things that need changing where I’m from and beyond.

So where exactly AM I from? I’m thankful to call four Southern states home–or perhaps I should say Southeastern Conference states. When I say I’m from the South, I mean all over it. And yes, I did just make reference to that hallowed football conference, the one that churns out the best games of the season every year.

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Here’s a confession, though. I was late to catch on to the whole college football fanaticism that characterizes the region. Evidently, it kind of ranks up there with religion and political persuasion. Oh I yell “Roll Tide!” the loudest these days, but I actually think I’ve been branded a football heretic because of my muddled SEC allegiances. I secretly cheer for three teams (and possibly a fourth recent addition to the conference)—I will NOT tell you which ones because two of them are supposed to be mutually exclusive so it’s a mortal sin to cheer for both.

But every week at least one of my teams wins. Pretty good odds for me.

My four states have also given me a hard-to-pin-down accent that chameleon changes all over the place. I used to think that was weird. Now I just think it’s a way that I carry part of each of those places with me.

My kids love to hear me get really passionate about something, though, because I lapse into what must be some quintessential small-town, country-girl Southernese. The other night my GPS ordered me to turn right on a “Snook Road” after a series of bizarre back-road navigation choices. In a moment of frustration I hissed, “Snook Road?! I don’t know nothing about no Snook Road!” My son burst out laughing. “What just came out of your mouth, Mom?” I have no idea, but I’ll be durned if I was going to turn on Snook Road.

Much like my recent back-road driving experience, it’s time to bring this very Southern ramble to a close. Here, then, are a few memories from my four home states in hopes they spark your own thankfulness for the places that made you:

Georgia – my birthplace and early childhood home. My memories are more like snapshots: glorious grassy hills and community parks, kudzu creatures looming from the roadsides, glossy magnolia leaves, my parents’ 1970s Chevy Impala—green inside and out—that hauled us from house to church to the Bi-Lo grocery store.

Alabama – these are the vintage home-movies of memory: gathering with family to savor my grandmother’s steak and gravy, standing around awkwardly at junior high dances, marching down the high-school football field, floating down the aisle at my wedding.

Florida – four years of bonafide adulthood: real jobs, a tiny yellow house to call our own, newlywed spats and the making-up afterward. We thought we’d spend our free days at the beach, but instead, we fell in love with the Wekiva river, with float fishing from a canoe and learning how to paddle together.

And finally, Texas – Since your Aggies joined our football conference and since I’ve never felt anything but right at home here, I’ve decided you are a Southern state, too. Our part of the state with its bayous and crawfish boils already claims to be anyway. You are the place I birthed my babies and am watching them grow up. They aren’t exactly Southern kids—they don’t really eat grits or drink sweet tea—but you are helping them become big-hearted people who work hard and love others. Thank you for that and for adding a little Texas cowgirl spirit to this Southern girl. I like how you’ve made me very much.

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