Southern Roots and Northern Blossoms
Twenty six years ago as one of my bridal showers was wrapping up, Mrs. Shirley Friedman and I were talking about my upcoming marriage. I felt overwhelmed with the generosity of my mother’s friends and wondered what would become of me when I left my home in Georgia to marry my handsome Marine husband.
You see, he was also a Yankee which could only mean one thing—he didn’t have the appreciation for the South that native Southerners do, a potential problem when it comes to choosing where to live. I was scared to death he would take me out of the South; I was right to be afraid. Though we didn’t immediately move away from all that was dear and familiar to me, moving was inevitable when he became a helicopter pilot.
I confessed my misgivings to Ms. Shirley. (Any well-raised southern child knows you never address one of your elders by their first name. You always include an honorific even with a first name.) She understood my dilemma immediately.
When she wedded Mr. Maurice, she lived in LaGrange, Georgia, and he moved her all the way to Sandersville, only a couple of hours away, but back then it might as well have been a world away. She tried to ease my mind. “You shouldn’t worry, Sugar,” she told me. “You’ll have Southern roots but you’ll have Northern blossoms!” I was charmed but still dubious. I wasn’t sure I could be as optimistic about my future away from home, but if Ms. Shirley had faith that I could blossom in the midst of a strange locale.
It has taken me many years to acclimate to the Midwest and to lose a great deal of the accent that so marked my language when we first moved here, but I have remembered Ms. Shirley’s words. Her words have inspired me to do something with my life, to plant seeds and nurture them to see what my “blossoms” will be. I have worked as a travel agent, substitute teacher, stringer reporter, and high school English teacher. I am now moving into the next phase of my life.
Ms. Shirley is still my mother’s friend. She and I still keep in touch, occasionally through the mail but also through Mama. I owe her a debt of gratitude not only for the title of my blog, but also for her faith in me, a faith I’ve finally come to share. In my early years I was sustained by family, by red Georgia clay under a sky shaded by pines. The South with all its flaws and finery formed my core.
In the South I absorbed the stories of my people, the cadence of their language, the history of my home, but now I walk among those with clipped vowels and curt nods. I bathe in the lakes and rivers of the Midwest where I feel the essence of this land coursing through me. Something about this place feels limitless—I know why settlers went west years ago—it’s a place where I can create my own place, my own destiny. This is a place where a woman like me can become what she wills. A writer. With southern roots and northern blossoms.
Shannon, I found you tonight and wish you well in your writing endeavors. Our book club will want to read your book when you have it finished, as Betty so wisely told you. Good luck!
Thanks for the encouragement, Colleen. I can’t wait until the moment I bring the book to our book club!
Hi Shannon. I found you! Thank you for these words: “…it’s a place where I can create my own place, my own destiny. This is a place where a woman like me can become what she wills.” That “sense of place” is what I have where I am. I just have to, at this point, re-create it and me to be what I want. It starts by simplifying. Kathleen
Thanks for your kind words, Kathleen. It’s wonderful to have a sense of fulfilling what is meant to be. Reclaim your space and live the life you want!