So last Monday during my break in between lectures, I was sitting inside an empty classroom catching up on some good ol' quality textbook reading when I noticed several missed calls logged on my cell phone. Three calls to be exact - all from my father within minutes apart. From the look of these rampant calls, something seemed urgent. I started to panic. My father is not exactly the chatty type... And the fact that he had called several times in a row made me paranoid that there was some sort of family emergency I needed to be aware of. It took me no longer than sixty seconds to drop my books, grab my phone, and bounce down to the first floor of the building and to the front porch outside.
He answered within a few rings.
"Dad?" I said. I was trying not to act nervous. "Dad, I saw that you called. Is something wrong? What's going on?"
"Mo!" He responds in a carefree tone. I can immediately tell that the issues I have created in my mind are void of legitimacy. "Listen," he continues. "I was thinking about your blog, Mo... I've got a great idea for something you should write about."
Not only am I relieved at this point, I am quite flattered. My dad wasn't trying to tell me that our house had burned down or that mom was in the hospital, he was simply excited to share new ideas for this blog I just started to write. The mere fact that my dad takes time out of his days to read the rants of his youngest daughter is wonderful enough - but he is so invested in it now that he not only wants to be a passive member of my audience, but an active one.
Here's his idea. "I think you should write about how we live in a Waving State." This was a concept I didn't quite grasp at first. But after several seconds of explanation, I, too, thought this was a great idea for an article.
This one's for you daddy...
My father is a yankee. Born and raised around the Baltimore area, my immediate family full of southern women lovingly refer to my father as a "Balti-moron". He transplanted to the South in 1968 when he enrolled at Tennessee Tech. After graduation, my father found his first job as an auditor for Springs Mills in a small town called Lancaster, South Carolina. This was the town where he would meet my southern belle mother. After they were married, they moved around to Charlotte, then southern Virginia, and back to southern North Carolina where they still live today. Long story short - my father has been a southerner at heart ever since that chance year, never returning to his northern roots. I often think of what my father felt when he stepped foot onto the campus at Tennessee Tech that year. Or even what he thought when he first heard my mother's southern draw.
My father has made this observation: we live in a waving state. We wave at everyone who passes by. Whether you're simply walking by someone on a parallel sidewalk, driving by someone's front yard, or sitting next to someone at a football game - we constantly wave and greet all around us. It is uncoothe and considered rude to pass someone coldly with no eye contact, hand motion, or even a silently mouthed "hello".
Now clearly, this doesn't happen everywhere. For the Southeastern region of the U.S. that we live in (lovingly referred to as the Bible Belt) is a unique culture all our own. We like going barefoot, drinking sweet tea, and basking in the hot sun on a humid summer day. Beyond that our women are gossip queens, our children drink Cheerwine, and our men have farmer's tans. Not to mention, we all try to beat each other to the best restaurant in town on early Sunday afternoons after the last church bell has rung. Love us or hate us, we're going to wave at you when you walk by.
I'm sure this is bizarre to newcomers. I picture my father as a twenty something year old on his first day in the south. Did he, too, think it was odd that everyone who passed greeted him? Had he ever heard the word "Ya'll"? What did he think when he ordered "ice tea" and got a mouthful of sweet nectar on his first sip? Whatever these impressions were, it seemed to really grab my dad, not turn him off.
My father, although born in what my family considers "the North", is a changed man. He has converted over to "Southern-dom". He'll probably be a southerner for the rest of his life. The waving states kidnapped my dad... And he looks pretty happy about it to me.