While residing in the Sunshine State, I longed for the simple life of the rural south. My fondest childhood memories are of those simple pleasures: watching the fireflies dance in the moonlight between the tear drop leaves of a weeping willow, the feel of watermelon dripping down my chin on a hot summer day by the glistening lake, and the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from being waved at by a complete stranger. I felt my escape from Yankee land would be my salvation.
Upon returning to my roots in Alabama after two years in the giant rodent and Yankee-infested Florida, I was relieved and shocked. Yes, I said shocked. Despite the fact that my absence was brief, I had apparently forgotten some of the idiosyncrasies of this rural wonderland. Memories are often like that: we remember the past fondly and only the most desirable aspects of our lives long ago.
It has been many moons since I have resided in Sardis, AL. The close and observant neighborhood seems like a foreign land to me now. Everyone knows everyone’s business. If someone does not already know your business, that community member becomes upset that he/she has been left out of the loop.
To those of you who have never left this quaint and charming area–let me explain. In a giant apartment complex in Florida, I only knew one neighbor, and I knew her when I got there. I did not know what went on inside my neighbors’ homes, where they worked, or even their names. People just aren’t that interested in one another in larger cities. Now, I find that people I don’t know apparently know me.
These people also know details about my life. My first experience with this was at the local water board. What I expected was to go in, give the people pertinent information about myself, pay a hook-up fee, and leave. What I experienced was very different indeed. I enter very business-like and in a hurry. I requested the water at my new address be put in my name. The following conversation occurred.
Water Board lady: “What is your street address, darling?”
Me: (address given)
Lady: “I thought your brother lived there.”
Me: “He did.”
Lady: “I seen ya’ll been doing some work on the place.”
Lady: “I think I heard something about your brother moving to the valley.”
Lady: “How’s your Momma and nem?”
Me: “Doin’ well.”
Lady: “Tell James that he needs to come get his deposit back.”
Me: “Sure thing.”
Lady: “Unless, he wants me to keep the $50.”
This is only part of a very long and somewhat one-sided conversation that eventually discussed my brother being single and making a good living. Did I mention that I have no idea who this person is? This is only one incident of my culture shock. Everyone–and I do mean everyone–knows we painted our house. I will go to the local store and be asked how the house is coming along by people that I have not talked to in years or do not know at all. I have apparently become entertainment for the community.
My slow but sure transition back into small town life does not end there. Each time I go into my yard someone honks at me. At first, I became annoyed when this occurred. Lakeland was full of New Yorkers, and they honk when the light is red, if you are in their way, or just because they can. Honking is ALWAYS a sign of aggression or agitation in Florida or up North (actually the same thing). When people would honk at me here, I would complain or curse saying things like, “I didn’t do anything asshole.” It took days for me to realize that the “honky honkers” are just saying hi. I wonder how long it will take for me to start honking at people or asking “How’s your momma and nem,” if ever.
I am Kristie – Noojin Barnett. I am a mother, step mother, and wife. I am a librarian, a yogi, and a nerd. I have a blog called Bookishnomad.com. My first book was just published. It is available on Amazon. The tile is As I Walk Through Life With A Stain on My Shirt and My Shoe United: Confessions of a Nerdy Clutz.