I heard a new song today on the country music station, Where I’m From by Jason Michael Carroll It’s a song about a guy from small town America. The lyrics…oh boy howdy…these lyrics made me tear up a bit. Reconciling who I am, where I’m from, and where I want to go…well that’s a been a bit of a struggle for me these past four and half years that I’ve lived in DC.
I said I’m from the front pew of a wooden white church
The courthouse clock that still dont work
Where a man’s word means everything
Where moms and dads were high school flames
Gave their children grandmothers maiden name
Yes it may not sound like much
But its where I’m from
Where the quarterback dates the homecoming queen
The truck’s a ford and the tractor’s green
And Amazing Grace is what we sing
Well there’s a county fair every fall
And your friends are there no matter when you call
Yeah It may not sound like much but it’s
Where I’m from
This line “Where moms and dads were high school flames, gave their children grandmothers maiden name” brought me back to sitting on the shore of Mobile Bay during the Christmas holiday visit of December 2006. I’m talking with a guy that’s about as southern as they come…complete with Lee as his middle name….as in General Robert E. Lee! If you don’t know who that is, you probably should just stop reading now…the rest of this story won’t make sense to you!
So “Lee” (as we shall call him in this story) and I had a bit of history. We went to high school together, but were not really friends. He was of the football crowd and I was of the band crowd. However, time has a way of getting people to forget there high school cliques.
We had reconnected the previous year at a wedding. He had been a groomsmen; I was the maid of honor. Up until the spring of 2005, I had not much thought about Lee since…well, ever! I’m not sure if we ever had talked in high school. I have a vague memory of talking about Jack Daniels whiskey while I was visiting our mutual friend at Auburn, but it had been a good 5 years since we had last laid eyes on one another. I probably would not have even reconnected with him at the wedding, if it were not for a conversation with his Mama that had piqued my interest a month before the wedding.
She had been invited by the groom’s mother to one of the wedding showers. In true small town Alabama fashion, these women were close friends. A friendship born from having been football Moms together. Now that there boys were grown men, they stayed close because they had a shared history that kept them close…long after the last pass had been thrown of that losing Senior year football season. Oh yes, those women could still tell you the season record and how far their sons had run, or blocked, or passed, etc.
My mom was from another small town in Alabama. But she did not have friendships with other women based solely on their children’s activities. Oh, she was nice to my friend’s mothers, but she preferred to keep close to friends she had from growing up or new ones from work. I remember her being invited to a bunco night with some of my friend’s moms. She didn’t want to go. I was so frustrated. I wanted to be popular. Some of the mom’s of the popular girls were part of this group. I wouldn’t understand until I was much older why she didn’t want to go. Now, I see. She really just wasn’t interested.
I think about that now. I was not the center of her world. Don’t get me wrong. She cared very much about me. But my mother did not get validation or a sense of purpose based on me and my activities. Now I see how freeing that was. I never had to stick with something or try out for something to keep my mom in a social group. I’m ever so grateful for that now.
But I’m off track. This is supposed to be a story about Lee. Now…where was I? Oh yeah, his Mama.
Lordy child, his Mama and I got along so well. I just adored her from the moment I met her. And I know she liked me as she was giving me the hard sale on her son. I was polite. I tried to not show her that my interest was up. I made a mental note to explore reacquainting with her son at the wedding and went on about helping with the wedding plans.
I’ll skip the details here, but the main thing you need to know is that during that wedding weekend, I did reacquaint with her son. And Lee was pretty much what she had been selling to me. I left home on a plane back to DC with a heavy heart. It wasn’t so much a heavy heart about the boy. I knew that wasn’t going to go anywhere. No, my heart was heavy because of what he represented. He was pure Southern male…from his charm and manners, to his drawl, his Auburn cuff links (given as a graduation present), his distrust of anyone foreign (including yankees), his love of country music and his truck, his desire to never leave our hometown. He was the epitome of the guy I wanted to marry when I had been in college.
But I wasn’t in college anymore. I had moved to Washington DC six months before the wedding. What I had become aware of during this particulur trip home was that the move had changed me. Those six months away from the Great State of Alabama had opened my eyes to other worlds, other ways of living, of thinking, of learning, of interacting with my peers. I didn’t know until I left that weekend that I was now staddleing a divide. On one hand, all I wanted was to move back home and marry a guy like Lee….on the other hand all I wanted was to stay in DC and have a really big adventure.
I stayed for the big adventure, but a part of me always felt like I was missing out on something at home.
Flash forward a year and a half later to the Christmas vacation mentioned above. I ran into Lee at the local hometown bar. We ended up talking long into the night about all sorts of subjects….his life in our hometown, my life in DC, a job he was applying for, my boyfriend, his Mama, our mutual friends, our goals for our lives, places we wanted to visit and on and on and on and on the conversation flowed. At some point we named our imaginary children….McKenna Nall and Walker Lee. He told me that he planned to name his daughter McKenna as that was his mother’s maiden name. I told him that I plan to name my son Walker. It’s my grandmother’s maiden name and if I had been a boy, it would have been my name. We decided on Nall as a middle name because that was my mother’s maiden name. Obviously, Lee has been a name for generations in his family.
It’s silly I know to stay up late into the night with a guy I’m not dating, making up names for children we will never have….all the while knowing I have a life and a boyfriend and a career and plans and dreams that are 1000 miles away from where I thought I would be just three short years before that moment. But there I was…still flirting with the life I couldn’t have because I wouldn’t move back home.
My heart was still heavy on the plane ride back to DC. But once I landed, saw my boyfriend, and got back to the swing of things, I was happy to be back…living my adventure.
I’ve been living in the DC area for four and half years now. It wasn’t my original plan to stay here, but now I know I am going to be here for a good long while. I’m happy with that decision. But some days, I hear a song about where I’m from, and there is a part of me that wonders if I’ll ever find a guy up here that plans to use his mother’s maiden name for his firstborn’s name.