Sometimes, being who you are – as opposed to who others think you are – can be a real riddle. I am both very Southern by location and inheritance – and not "Southern" at all in mindset (the second part of that equation is something my late mother-in-law never forgave – and what must have been even worse in her mind, her son married me anyway! Not only that, it was the happiest thing either of us ever did.)
Unless you, too, have this mix of inherited (through many generations!) and acquired genes, you really can't explain the feeling; it's just part of you. Nevertheless, I slide rather easily from one side to the other (and heaven help us all, I am not a so-called Yankee!)
Rest easy, mother-in-law-dear. Your son spent a safe 50+ years with me and never suffered a single day; and the two of your grandchildren born to us grew up to be wonderfully responsible adults, even without ever having shown any inclination whatsoever to go to Ole Miss.
But I've never lost my love for some things Southern, many things, in fact. The love of a good story, for instance. The delicious taste of spicy turnip greens and okra with crowder peas. The inborn tolerance of – and joy in – relatives with unusual traits. My ancestors wore the gray uniform in the Civil War. In fact, my great-grandfather's own father, who was an officer in the local Mississippi militia, fetched that 13-year-old boy home when he ran away to join the Confederate Army, tearfully telling him, "We've already lost two sons to the cause. We can't give up another. Come on home now."
There's a lot of poignancy to being Southern – and a lot of downright joy and fun. (But so is being a Pennsylvanian, which I also did for eight lovely years.) I had a good education, I maintain correct table manners, I don't chew tobacco, I still defer to my elders – all proper Southern traits as well as just plain good sense.
At my age I don't expect to move around much more. Who, after all, would want to leave a place you love? But this world is big enough for all kinds – and, by gum, I'm one of 'em!
[Caroline Cavett, email@example.com, holds dear the memories of eight years in the Diocese of Bethlehem. She lives on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee and is an active member of Good Shepherd Church where "we still do not handle snakes; we read and write and use the liturgy quite coherently, and we all wear shoes." She and her late husband Van were parishioners at the Cathedral while Van served as Comment Pages editor at The Morning Call. Caroline wrote good stories for the former Diocesan Life and channeled Gilbert and Sullivan in ditties about the Diocese of Bethlehem.]