my roots are just anchors; i am tethered to the south

I am of the South. I sprouted up, all pink and squirmy, out of red Georgia clay. Ate apple pie and drank Coca-Cola and sang Amazing Grace.

As a little pudgy girl with rosy cheeks and big, curious brown eyes, you could find me chasing fireflies at dusk. Poking holes in mason jars. Brimming with wonder at nature’s nightlight.

After supper, I’d lay on my back in our grassy front yard. Counting the stars. Hoping to catch one flying by. Flying on to oblivion.

Even if you tried, you couldn’t count the hours I wasted jumping on trampolines. Or swimming in the neighborhood pool. Or trying to dig to China.

I rode my lavender bike on make-believe trails through the backyard. I hunted four-leaf clovers. And made club houses out of empty refrigerator boxes.

I trampled through the creek in our backyard, looking for arrowheads, scared half to death of garden snakes and water spiders and southern boys.

Oh yes, the South runs through my veins.

I went to Sunday school. And learned to recite the books of the Bible. Genesis. Exodus. Leviticus. Numbers.

I wore curlers in my hair. Sponge rollers. Hot rollers. Curling irons. And everything in between.

My cousins were in beauty pageants. True southern belles with mascara on their lashes and Vaseline on their teeth before they ever had breasts or hips or a choice.

And that’s part of the South too.

The other part. The lonesome part. The part that won’t budge as the rest of the world spins on. Firmly rooted in pride and tradition. Arms folded crossly on her chest. Stubborn as an old mule.

The South isn’t all sunshine and swimming holes.

I have seen her darker side. Her demons. Her ghosts.

I have seen hatred and ignorance and long-lost souls. Anger and malice from hatchets not buried deep enough. Feuds not quite left behind.

I have met plenty of folks that never learned how to think for themselves. Never cared much about it either.

I have seen poverty. Trailer parks brimming with lawn chairs and empty beer bottles and McDonald’s wrappers and babies on the hip.

I have seen good men waste their lives to coal mines and poker tables and all-you-can-eat ribs and local bars.

Oh yes, the South has her own bleak, battered kind of underbelly. Sometimes that darkness is all I can see.

Until I remember the joy of a Sunday potluck after church. Or listening to my grandpa say grace.

Until I imagine the simple pleasure of picking fresh ripe figs. Pulling watermelons off the vine. A porch swing on a rainy day. A sprinkler party in the front yard.

And don’t forget about the fireflies. You can’t ever forget the fireflies.

I’ve seen big dreams lost to the small city. People, like me, who couldn’t quite escape. Moved away only to find that our roots are just anchors; we are tethered to the South.

But no one complains when they end up here. There’s still shade beneath the Georgia pines. And the waters of the Chattahoochee still flow murky and cold.

No, they don’t complain. They just pour themselves another glass of Country Time lemonade, find themselves a rocking chair.

And wait, and wait for the fireflies.

21 thoughts on “my roots are just anchors; i am tethered to the south

  1. This was a very evocative piece. I could taste that watermelon, feel the grudges. I’ve never been to the South; it sounds so foreign compared to where I’m from.

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  2. Greetings from Egypt, by way of South Carolina! What a beautiful post, like a ride in the country to Aunt Kate’s for Sunday brunch – I stopped out front to bring her a peck of fresh figs before slippin off my shoes at the kitchen door! Thanks so much for the beautiful memories!

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  3. I grew up in middle Georgia and the resemblance to your childhood and adult opinions to mine, are a bit uncanny. I was sucked in to this because I share nearly every thought. I live in NY (the country not the city) now but still wear the south in me. I’ve been up here since ’95 and when I go back now, the “stuck” you describe is a bit overwhelming. I have ties there though and my anchor is definitely strong. I’ll never settle back down in Georgia but there is something so appealing about living in the south to me…especially now that I have kids of my own :)

    Great post. So glad I ran in to you at the moonshine.

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      1. I have a lot of love for the South’s beauty and depth, but I also recognize we still have quite a long way to go. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts and sharing with others. Glad to have found you on the moonshine grid as well!!

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  4. I ❤️ that you said ‘supper.’ I can still hear my mother hollering out the back door, “Tiiiimmmme foooor suuuupppperr!” I’m your Midwest neighbor, fireflies and all. I’m new around here at yeahwrite, and am enjoying the new voices. Yours is authentic.

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    1. I love that you said “hollering.” That and “fussin'” are two of my favorite words. :) I’m new to yeahwrite too, so thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!!

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  5. I loved this. So vivid. Makes me want to visit the South. Part of it resembles where I grew up, in upstate new york… but we are definitely lacking some of that lemonade. Thanks for this it was lovely!

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  6. There were things in here that struck a chord of memory over my own childhood. The good times and the things we wished weren’t part of it. I still live where I grew up and while there’s those that cling to outdated ideas. I hope new generations bring along updated ways of thinking. Hopefully without forgetting the good things about who we are.

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