Sunday, January 23, 2011

Going Home

I haven’t been able to write about the houses because I’m afraid I’ll jinx myself. I guess I’m really superstitious. I avoid walking under ladders and I do knock on wood, using my head if there’s no available oak or pine. But now it looks like everything’s going to go through so I think I’m safe. Knock wood.

I’d been out of Jersey for seven years but it took my mother dying for me to get homesick. That’s the reason I’m going back. People assume it’s because of work. It’s not, though I expect it to be better up there. I miss my peeps.

And I don’t feel welcome here. I’m a Yankee.

At first I was in denial. I even wrote a story about it, Yankees and White Lies. But once I started analyzing my feelings about why I had this sudden urge to get out of here like the room was on fire (was this just grief?), I realized that I was not imagining being disliked and sometimes discriminated against by the people who didn’t know me and I was tired of it! I’m great! I want to be where people appreciate me and even if we are different, even if we have a difference of opinion, even if we vote differently (egad!), we can still be friends. We can still tolerate each other.

The fact is, I don’t feel safe here. Admittedly, part of it is because of what we went through with the Evils. But the other part is because I am different. And that’s a no-go in the south. I warned Kelly not to tell anyone that we go to the Unitarian church—they won’t like it down here and I didn’t want her to start getting picked on. I was afraid to put a bumper sticker for Obama on my truck—afraid the truck would get keyed the next time I was in Walmart. I hesitate to admit I think gays should be able to get married just like everyone else.

I was even told that my grandchildren will never belong here. A friend of mine informed me that if Kelly has children, they will never be considered “from here,” even if they are born here, because their grandparents are from the wrong side of the Mason Dixon Line. Even when I pointed out that her ancestors were from Europe—that was different—she made sure I knew that my future grandchildren would never belong. I’m a Yankee and all my kin, forty years from now, fifty years from now, doesn’t matter, will be Yankees. This was my friend.

So I’m going home to a place that, ironically, has a reputation for mean people but where I’ve never been assaulted, robbed, vandalized, harassed, or had my dogs poisoned like what happened in Ferrum, and where I’ve never paid a higher price than what someone else paid because of the way I speak, like what happens here all the time. When they hear my accent and figure out where I’m from, they either charge me higher prices than my neighbor because they don’t like me or because they think I’ve got money. Either way, I get ripped off left and right down here.

Sometimes I think I was meant to be here for a while so I can truly understand what black people go through when they complain they were stopped for walking down the road or couldn’t get a job simply because they were black. I used to think, “Ah, get over it. Stop being paranoid.” Now I’m rethinking the matter. Now I’ve got a taste of it and I know what they’re talking about. Only they can’t change their skin and I can go home.

To be clear, I am not saying that everyone is bad down here. Just like all Yankees are not bad, but some are, all southerners are not bad. I’ve met some wonderful people—Becky and Claudia the writers, my other writer friends and blog buddies, too many to mention, some nice horse people, my German girlfriend Tanja, the nice folks who own Blair’s store, Effie, Olivia, Dee-Dee my seamstress, George my farrier, the Johnsons—I could go on and on. But best of all my neighbors, Pearl and Eldon. They have been a bright spot in my life, teaching me how to garden, bringing me pies, bringing Kelly to Dairy Queen and choir, taking care of my animals when we had to go to New Jersey because my mother was sick—they’ve been the closest thing to family that I have here. I can’t even talk to them about moving because Pearl and I start crying. I’m really going to miss them.

But I am busting with excitement because I am going home. We sold this farm and we bought another one. You won’t believe how we did it all and what we are up against next. It is crazy with a capital C. And now that it looks like it’s all going through, knock wood, I’m going to catch you up.