Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm from SOUTHERN California - Does That Count?

In the move "Jaws," Chief Brody's wife asks her friend, "When do I get to be an islander?" The friend laughs and says, "Never! You're not born here - you're not an islander!"

I found that to be true when I lived on Catalina Island. I lived there for three years - and loved it. But three years or fifty years - I would never truly be an islander. That's the down side. However, my non-islander status did give me a perspective that true islanders can never have.

When I moved to Virginia, I found that the same rule applies. I wasn't born in the south, so I will never truly be a southerner. And that's ok.

I did have some pre-conceived notions about living in the south, though. To be honest, I had always regarded the south in extremes: graceful plantations with romantic, sweeping verandas...

I knew that it would be hot and unbelievably humid in the summer; the bugs would be weirder and because some folks can't let go of the past and still think that the south will rise again - racial issues (which infuriate me probably more than anything else I can think of) are still a hot button topic.

Friends warned me, almost like the admonishment above the River Styx: "Abandon All Hope - Ye Who Enter Here" that I was moving to RED NECK country.

And that I would likely never be seen or heard from again. Or, if I was, I would have been transformed into Ma Kettle or Granny Clampett.

"It's a cultural wasteland," some cautioned. "You'll be starving for civilization - and you'll be back in SoCal in 6 months."

It has now been a year and a half. Not ONE of those dire predictions came true - well, at least not to the extreme predicted. Yes, the weather is VERY different; we do have some weird bugs, most notably the stink bug - a seemingly benign little creature who resists attempts to dislodge him by emitting a stink worthy of a skunk.

The few red necks I have met were nice to me, courtly even - and not at all like what I had imagined. This is, after all, Virginia - not Possum Holler, Kentucky. And racial issues, well, let's be honest. They exist everywhere. You either choose to live that way or you don't. And our neighbors, of whom we are very fond - don't. Thank God.

As for cultural opportunities, there are lots of community theater groups in the area, a writers group - and we're an hour and a half away from DC and the Kennedy Center. Even a weekend trip to see a Broadway show is doable.

Life is slower here, more peaceful. Most houses have front porches - and folks use them.

I now subscribe to Southern Living (great recipes!) and I read Virginia Living online.

Paula Deen is one of my favorites. I follow her on facebook, but the secrets to true southern cooking are passed down generation to generation - like DNA. Only a world class chef could duplicate the delicate and enchanting flavors. Someone like Julia Child - or Audrey Kovacs.

I have finally had a chance to try moonshine! No idea where it came from - but it was blueberry and it was actually pretty good. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in how it's produced. I have always pictured a moonshine still hidden deep in the forest, with guys with sawed off shot guns on their laps and a sign saying: "Revenooers Shot on Sight". (Okay, maybe I watch too many movies.)

But the reality was more like -

In somebody's perfectly modern kitchen.

Still - as much as I love and have embraced the Virginia countryside, I know that I will never really be a Southerner. And despite the fact that I yearned for years to move to the country - I will never be a full fledged country girl, either.

This fact was brought home to me in a little white box my son-in-law, Eddie, placed in our refrigerator some weeks ago.

I took no notice of it until one morning I was pulling items out of the fridge for breakfast and something icy cold and wet flew out of the fridge and landed on my bare foot.

It was a night crawler - name says it all. A big, fat earthworm.

BUT WHAT WAS IT DOING IN OUR FRIDGE??? The little white package was full of rich, damp soil and a large population of night crawlers - for Eddie's fishing trip the next day. Apparently this night crawler had more smarts and gumption than his fellow inmates, because he figured out how to escape the package and make a desperate bid for freedom.

I'm told they heard me clear over yonder in West Virginia.....