Where I’m From

I’m from the South.

I’m from the land of black-eyed peas, turnip greens, sweet tea, cornbread, and butter beans the size of your fist. I’m from old dirt roads, the smell of honeysuckle in summertime, Golden Eagle Syrup, and sunrises with almost every color in the crayon box. I’m from women shelling peas in a galvanized metal No. 3 wash tub on a shady front porch, old men in Liberty overalls chewing Red Man tobacco on benches outside a fillin’ station and whittling a stick with a pocket knife made before I was.

I’m from polite, clean-cut high school boys in button-down shirts delivering groceries in old Chevy trucks, men with 1950s hairstyles and white T-shirts rebuilding car engines under an oak tree, and grandmothers slipping a five in your hand when your parents aren’t looking.

I’m from the aroma of cathead biscuits in the oven, bacon frying on the stove, and a fresh pot of Royal Cup Coffee. I’m from the faint, melancholy whistle of a train on a summer afternoon, the scent of rain on a Saturday evening, the smell of new comic books at the corner drugstore, the taste of fried chicken, and the way you feel inside when a baby smiles at you.

I’m from drive-in movies, Lynyrd Skynyrd, TV stations that broadcast The Andy Griffith Show every night at 10 p.m., John Wayne movies, barbershop poles, fishing holes, the Grand Ole Opry, and high school football on Friday nights. I’m from Willie and Waylon and Merle on the radio, John Deere tractors in a hay field, straw hats with sun visors, ice-cold creeks that gurgle, and red-and-white corks bobbing in the water when a catfish grabs lunch.

I’m from haircuts on Saturdays and church on Sundays. I’m from old hardware stores with dusty, hardwood floors and Radio Flyer red wagons in the window, the aromas of your dad’s aftershave, your mom’s Aqua Net hairspray, Swisher Sweet cigars, and gasoline. I’m from weeping willow trees, antebellum homes, boiled peanuts, turkey and dressing, and freshly mowed grass. I’m from RC Colas and Moon Pies, homemade ice cream, fireworks in July, Deep South Milk, and “Bear” Bryant.

I’m from babies cooing, children singing, crickets chirping, and the sharp crack of a baseball bat. I’m from deer hunting, faded old red barns with “See Rock City” painted on their roofs, lightning bugs, watermelon patches, and jars of fresh honey.

I’m from removing your hat and standing with an arm over your heart when Old Glory is raised and pulling over to the shoulder of the road when a funeral procession passes. I’m from bowing your head and zipping your lip when someone within earshot addresses the Almighty. I’m from giving up your seat to a lady or older person, leaving the waitress an extra $20 because her man isn’t around anymore and she’s feeding three kids, and handing the cashier a bill when the homeless person in line in front of you can’t buy a loaf of bread.

I’m from loving and helping your neighbor, regardless of what color skin they were born with or who they voted for, without expecting anything in return. I’m from showing respect to law enforcement officers, senior citizens, and anyone who served in the military.

I’m from patting your kids on the back and telling them “good job” when they’ve done their best, whether or not they made an A or scored a touchdown or got accepted by an Ivy League school. I’m from teaching them to say “please” and “thank you” and reminding them often that, whether they become a doctor or lawyer, a supermarket manager, or a Venusian fry cook, you love them, period.

I’m from a land of musicians, singers and songwriters, actors and comedians, writers, race car drivers, record producers, and rocket scientists. I’m from Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Don Williams singing about women named Amanda and waitresses called Maggie, and four guys from Fort Payne named Randy, Teddy, Mark, and Jeff. I’m from the Talladega Superspeedway, Burt Reynolds behind the wheel of a Trans Am, and Rick Hall and the Swampers making history in a little northern Alabama town called Muscle Shoals.

I’m from the land of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Nick Saban.

I’m from the South.

That’s where I’m from. 78

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