Oh, Georgia. I moved to you when I was six, in the middle of an ice storm. The first place I laid my head was the Bulldog Inn in Commerce. A Waffle House provided my first meal.
I started first grade in Athens, GA the year first-grade classes were finally integrated, in a classroom where, after the Pledge of Allegiance, we sang a version of The Battle Hymn of the Republic that included the lyrics Glory glory to old Georgia, the South shall rise again.
I learned to read, to swim, to drive in Georgia. I went to high school with its current governor. I traveled from childhood to adolescence there, from adolescence to adulthood. My children were born there; my parents are buried there.
In Georgia, I turned the you guys I brought with me from Wisconsin into y’all, to fit in. When I went off to college 12 years later, I stifled that salutation, also to fit in. But then, two years later, homesick almost to heartbreak, I came back and resurrected it. It’s what comes out of my mouth all these years later, when I talk to Brits, to Aussies, to Study Abroad kids when, before last month’s election, I stood in their classrooms, explaining their voting rights and how to request ballots.
Nonetheless, when people ask me where I’m from, I never say Georgia, which might have more to do with the long arm of my birth state than with anything else. My Texas-born parents lived in Georgia for 50 years, almost twice as long as they ever lived in Texas, two-thirds of their long lives, and still considered themselves outsiders.
What a strange, slippery (and maybe silly) construct home is. Maybe most of us pick and choose. We all create stories, about where and what we come from. This morning, I come clean:
Y’all, (I think ) (maybe) (it’s possible) if I’m from anywhere, it’s Georgia.