My Heart Always Points South

February 11, 2015 | By | Comments (20)
my heart points south My Heart Always Points South

Illustration: Gracia Lam

I’ve tried to move away from the South many times. I attended college in the Midwest, graduate school in the Northeast. My first real job was in Boulder, Colorado, a place as un-Southern as any I’d visited, what with all the earnestness and dietary fat avoidance.

Back when I was 12, the age my youngest daughter is now, I’d flatten myself on the baked concrete of the sidewalk outside our Florida house, let the heat soak up through my clothes, and dream of places far away where the air was cool and thin, and I didn’t have to check my shoes for palmetto bugs before I slipped them on.

By my late teens, I was done with Coca-Cola cakes and wearing tights to church and having to “be sweet,” lest my mother gasp, shake her head, and roll her eyes to the heavens as if to ask why God had seen fit to give her an outspoken daughter like me. I told her I was going to work in “the big city” someday, so convinced I’d had enough of the South to last a lifetime. I was wrong. As I discovered, I could no sooner abandon the Southland than I could the family dog.

The first thing I noticed after I moved away was not the cooler temperature shift (which was not as welcome as I had imagined) but the cooler interpersonal relations. I was used to a constant stream of open-faced chatter in every diner and waiting room, but outside the South, public spaces fell eerily quiet. Folks actually passed each other without saying “Hello.” That took some getting used to.

So, too, the overall seriousness of the exchanges that did happen. Teasing and absurdity are part of the very air Southerners breathe. Not so much in other parts of the country where I found myself keenly homesick every time I had to utter “I’m just joking” to a bewildered checkout clerk or worse, a date.

There were other issues—food-related mostly. (I recall the first potluck I attended in the North and what passed for “dessert.”) And nobody cooked. Or even cared about knowing how to cook.

So I moved back South. Something I would do time and again after a job or relationship temporarily lured me away.

None of my Southern kin were surprised at my yo-yoing. They knew that as much as I might protest, I could not quit the South. More to the point, the South came with me wherever I went. My manners, my palate, my accent, my appreciation of humidity—none of that diminished while we were apart.

I came to realize that the South was the love of my life—the dark, complicated, delicious, messy, blindingly gorgeous love I could never stop pining after, no matter how far I traveled or how much I claimed I’d be better off without it.

The other day, after a dinner of fried chicken and sliced tomato, my daughter informed me she was planning to attend college in California, and then maybe move to Europe. She said she was tired of the South and craved “an adventure.”

“That sounds fun,” I said, smiling, knowing full well, as my mother did with me, that sometimes you have to leave in order to find your way home.

COMMENTS

  1. honeyforbear

    Reblogged this on Honey for Bear and commented:
    I’ve had the most insane few weeks with a lot of life changes. Once the dust settles I will share. In the meantime, I’ll share this post from Southern Living that really speaks to me.

    July 17, 2015 at 10:51 am
  2. Joye Wilis-Pautz

    I am Southern born and raised.After leaving SC twice for the lure of job opportunities, my NY husband and I have returned with delight to the hot, southern graces we love. I enjoyed your
    Article that speaks about exactly how it feels to live where the easy conversation and yes mam, yes sirs are non existent. And never a Bless your heart. I am hopeful my children will long to return to their southern roots after their college tours as your last sentence touts! Thanks for the reminder that its so good to be home.

    March 9, 2015 at 11:50 pm
  3. Annie Home Baker

    This wonderful article sums up how I have felt ever since I moved away from the South. The smiles, the warm fuzzy ‘howdy, ‘how y’all doin’, potlucks, humidity, chatting with strangers and neighbors, two first names, and so much more. My heart will always belong to the South. It reminds me to never forget my manners and my Southern hospitality ways. It’s a must to teach my daughter, ‘right’…if you know what I mean.

    February 26, 2015 at 1:03 pm
  4. Reba

    Wonderful writing

    February 23, 2015 at 11:37 am
  5. Sherry

    Allison Glock has done an excellent job describing her feelings about the South in such a brief essay. She conveyed her thoughts perfectly. I must say that most of her sentiments and observations are so true for me, so close to me, that I forget about them the way I forget about breathing. About the potluck (“covered dish” supper to the Baptists), nobody in Texas would dream of contributing a dish that wasn’t superlative. It is an honor to be asked for a recipe.

    February 13, 2015 at 12:36 pm
  6. “My Heart Always Points South” | Southern Serendipity

    […] I recently stumbled upon this article. […]

    February 12, 2015 at 12:58 pm
  7. Sharon Hand

    Even though I live and have lived in the South all my life, I get this. We(my husband and I) sometimes wish to relocate, but, this is home. I am never more proud of my Southerness(is that a word?) as when we went to England about 25 years ago and the sound of a Southern accent made everyone turn their heads to listen.

    February 12, 2015 at 12:40 pm
  8. Leslie

    I have lived overseas for 20 years and I miss the south everday. My European husband has noticed that Irelax the moment the wall of heat and humidity hit me as I walk of the plane. We have thought of moving back however the jobs were never in the south and I have told him there is no point in moving unless it is home i.e., The South.

    February 12, 2015 at 7:17 am
  9. Robyn

    Sitting in my living room in Switzerland trying not to cry after reading this. Almost 20 years living away and i know i will never stop missing the South.

    February 12, 2015 at 5:45 am
  10. Sarah

    Love this – I’m from North Florida (5 minutes south of the Alabama line), but I now live in Saudi Arabia. While I (mostly) enjoy our family’s adventures as expats, I crave the southern culture of my roots. I try to add in extra southern idioms in my conversations with my kids, we celebrate holidays southern style (as much as our Saudi grocery store will allow) and I take my family back home to the Panhandle as much as possible. After seeing quite a bit of the world, I still love the south and will be excited when we can return. Thank you for writing this

    February 12, 2015 at 3:05 am
  11. Lorri Shrewsbury

    I enjoyed this article! I’m a native Floridian, too, but after being gone 25 years, my hometown no longer resembles what I grew up with. (I call it the “paving over of Central Florida.”) I can identify with the writer’s horror of Western potlucks (a 1-lb tub of potato salad from the local grocery store’s deli was too often the default). My Colorado-born husband never understood my potluck dismay until we lived in SC. And now I know that my “odd” sense of humor is really just Southern! Nevertheless, I long for the essence of the South, even though I only get to visit every few years (we are a military family overseas), if for no other reason than to “reset” my soul.

    February 12, 2015 at 1:15 am
  12. Debbie Samuels

    I too was tied to this article! I am from Florida too,Lived in Boulder in the late 80’s,yo-yoing back and forth. I’ve been in western Colorado now for 10 years and am dreaming of going home for vacation. Mom and Dad are gone and I feel like there is no home now but The south never leaves you. Some days I long for the Humidity and a cloud in the sky. Thanks for your article!

    February 11, 2015 at 11:35 pm
  13. Sarah

    I felt so tied to this article when I read it. I too am from Florida, lived in Denver and am now in Minneapolis freezing to death. All I want is to get school over with so I can get south if the Mason Dixon! At least the grocery store near me has Crystal hot sauce and Alaga syrup.

    February 11, 2015 at 11:23 pm
  14. Rose

    It’s so true!!! I miss so much the interaction with strangers at the grocery stores, at church, and the neighbors sitting outside on their porches ready to visit anytime!!! And I miss the lightning bugs come Spring!

    February 11, 2015 at 9:42 pm
  15. cwandkd

    Sitting here in the frozen tundra of central Illinois my husband and i are looking at jobs in the South as we speak. Now that we have launched the three children….All I want is to come home.

    February 11, 2015 at 7:18 pm
  16. Jon skaggs

    Children circle and return home with a lot of exciting adventures to tell. What a blessing. Think of it this you have taught the north the way life should be lived and the English language with feelings that no regular English word describes.

    February 11, 2015 at 6:56 pm
  17. Wanda

    I was born and raised in the South. I’ve lived up North and couldn’t wait to get back home. The older I get, the deeper my appreciation for my ‘southernness’ grows. No place like the South.

    February 11, 2015 at 6:56 pm
  18. Kathleen

    Thanks. I shake out my shoes before putting them on, too. Before air conditioning, you had to also shake off the mildew that had accumulated on your Sunday shoes.

    February 11, 2015 at 3:07 pm
  19. Shelli

    I love this, I have never saw anything like it, so unique.

    February 11, 2015 at 2:46 pm
  20. Dinahdog

    Bravo, I agree 100%. Thank you for articulating my feelings about the South!

    February 11, 2015 at 10:06 am

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