No matter what, the South will always be home. Not just the towns in Mississippi and Alabama where I’ve lived, but all of the South. I can be in any town south of the Mason Dixon line and east of Texas and feel at home. Though we’re all different, there’s just that one little something inside all Southerners that binds us together. Whether it’s the ubiquitous backroads covered in kudzu, the little country gas stations where you stop for a diet coke and a pack of “Nabs,” or the fact that you feel compelled to talk and walk a little more slowly – there’s a thousand little connecting threads that make you breathe in deep and say, “This feels like home.”
When we were still in Arizona, we had the idea for me to use some upcoming birthday money to fly to South Carolina for my grandmother’s 85th birthday party and our family’s beach week. It would be a rare chance to see not only my extended family on my dad’s side, but also my grandmother and aunt/uncle on my Mom’s side as well. Since we’ll be out West for awhile, the chance to see so much family at once is rare and we decided I should make the most of it. Unfortunately, Charlie doesn’t really get vacation time, so I had to go alone and leave him behind to work seven nights in a row (crazy California nursing strikes!). However, I set him up with some gift certificates for a massage, a couple of movies, etc. to try to make up for it!
There were so many wonderful blessings on this trip that it’s hard to put them all into words. While I can’t describe how my heart practically burst from being back home for ten days, here are some of my favorite moments:
- My grandmother, Momer, staying up late in the hotel room in Atlanta just to hug me when I finally got off the plane.
- My mom bringing a Tato-Nut all the way from Ocean Springs so that I’d have one on my birthday the next morning.
- My Aunt Chae and Uncle Timmy surprising me with a cookie cake on my birthday at their cabin in the Smokies.
- Having to tell my mom and uncle to get off their Facebooks so we could visit!
- Enjoying a breakfast of fresh biscuits and blackberry jam with everyone as we watched the birds outside and looked out over the mountains.
- Seeing my other grandmother, Grandmama, laugh with her friends at her 85th birthday party. She and her friends lived in Rock Hill together as girls and have stuck together all this time. They are a riot to be around!
- Having the chance to visit with a lot of cousins I don’t get to see often enough.
- Having a coke on Grandmama’s back porch – my favorite place ever – looking out over her huge hydrangeas and enjoying the breeze.
- Celebrating my Uncle Cameron’s recent marriage to the wonderful Carol with a cake on our first night at the beach.
- The food! Peaches, Priester’s pecans, 14-layer caramel cakes, Kiawah trash mix, cobbler, cheese grits, Bates’ turkey sandwich, fresh steamed crab, sliced tomatoes with honeybaked ham, shrimp and grits. banana’s foster cheesecake, Lazy Magnolia’s Southern Pecan.
- Meeting my parents on the porch each morning to have our first cup of coffee and watch the sun come up. On one morning, I woke up extra early and looked outside to see my mom down by the water. I ran downstairs and we had a long walk along the water’s edge just as the sun was rising through the clouds.
The biggest blessing was seeing how the Lord already ordained this trip when we were still in Arizona. On our second morning at the beach, my dad wrecked his bike and broke the left side of his pelvis. He and mom had driven two cars to SC, and we needed a way to get both cars back to Mississippi since he couldn’t drive. The Lord knew all of this was going to happen and allowed me to be there as an extra driver to take him home then fly back from Gulfport. As much as I hate what happened to my dad, I’ll always treasure the extra two days we had in the car together and our dinner date in Biloxi the night before I left.
So in ten days, I hit every state in the South except Tennessee. And though I only passed Auburn on the interstate (so hard not to stop!) and was in Ocean Springs for all of twelve hours, I definitely felt like I was “home” the entire time. Of course, getting off the plane in San Francisco and seeing my wonderful husband waiting for me made it feel like I hadn’t left home at all – I was just flying from one to another.