Monthly Archives: July 2012

Bedrock

Fishoutofwater

I used to be a chameleon. Not in a former life. NOT a real one on a branch in some petrified and camouflaged pose to survive. Survival might have been my alibi back then but it is doubtful that I would’ve ever admitted to it during my chameleon fling. The story is that I used to be one of those people who changed ever so slightly based on my surroundings. Maybe we’re all guilty of it at some point in our lives. Pretending to be someone we aren’t isn’t hard. In fact, I would argue that it’s too easy. Look at what happened to Jessica Simpson when she dated John Mayer. It was so obvious. Chameleon. Dark brunette trying on existential for size and some unconvincing cerebralish, angsty rocker tees. Poser. And we all saw how that one panned out. Not well. 

Being Southern hasn’t always been a source of pride for me. Just take note for a moment of some of the events that earned us spots as national headliners in history. It is not an excuse for my seditious ways. Just an explanation. It was my first stint in the real world as a 20-something. I was surrounded by sophisticated transplants from about the globe. Every job I landed celebrated a great geographical mix of people. My parents always put education first and it opened doors to some great experiences. I am certain that was the idea behind all of the sacrifices they made in order for this to happen. I eventually arrived in Colorado on a self-dare with every intention of making it home. And the question would invariably come from each new acquaintance or colleague: So where are you from? It is the unfailing 20-something inquiry. The novice’s most monotonous and predictable of pick-up lines.

30- somethings ask so-what-do-you-do? 

40-somethings perhaps will ask so-who-do-you-do? I don’t know (not there yet). 

But 20-somethings living in a town of transplants always ask so-where-are-you-from

I can remember flashing an extra toothy grin before and during the hometown interrogation. This was an effort to demonstrate that not only did I have a mouth full of teeth but they were perfectly, ridiculously straight (orthodontia, be blessed). Preemptive strike against the banjo jokes. God forbid that my answer,Tennessee, frighten a potential suitor away.

I grew my vocabulary intentionally and religiously during those formative years in an effort to thwart the stereotyping. I highlighted words in books. Kept a nerdly little list of my favorites and found ways to slip them into conversation in an attempt to appear at faux Ivy League from a distance.

It was a subtle and forgivable snubbing of my origins from the bystander’s perspective. But let me tell you, the first time you downplay ownership of your home fires, it stings your very heart if you have one. It is a betrayal on some deep-rooted level. Most of the people I grew up around are salt of the earth people. They work hard. They’re loyal. They’re honest. But suddenly, it seemed that people from elsewhere were judging. They thought that I was just getting lucky during conversations when my subjects and verbs agreed. Consistently. I am not proud of the period in my life in which I downplayed my origins. 

For many of those disillusioned years, I had no idea that I was sitting on a goldmine of my own sophistication. Literally sitting on a quilt hand sewn by my great-grandmother. Or thumbing my grandmother’s recipe books, for instance. It takes years to cultivate the knowledge that comes from knowing what you have when you have it. I know how to fold a linen napkin. I know where the dessert spoon goes. I know thank-you note protocol. I know the love that goes into a good casserole and why Flannery O’ Connor described herself as a pigeon-toed child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I’ll-bite-you-complex. Because that is exactly the way I feel about my southernness now. I will knock out a doubter with a cast iron skillet these days before I will ever deemphasize my southernness again. I mean you won’t find me flying the Stars n’ Bars from my car antenna but I can get down on some peach cobbler. Down here, we regale you with our imperfections after we make peace with them ourselves.

Growing up, if you needed to find me, you might follow the trail of muddy footfalls inside or out. But even back then, I would not listen to country music. Country was not cool among my teenage company. A full decade before I even came into this world, southerners were already making it clear that being-from-the-south is an identity to be owned and appreciated. Look at 1969. Mere Haggard was already proud to be an Okie From Muskogee. Three decades after Okie hit the charts, I was living in Colorado making it my second job to suppress any nuances of my southern accent (which, for the record, played a small part in my husband asking for my digits the first night we met in Boulder. God bless you, persistent accent).

At some point, this southern identity crisis sorted itself out. Enough that I hit the knees and begged my husband to relocate us back to Tennessee so that my kids can have this stop on their passport for a few years. I feel that strongly about it. Around the same time that I molted out of my chameleon skin, country also got really cool. And I don’t blame it. But the cat’s really going all feral crazy out of the bag lately with Hollywood infiltration around here. I don’t know how I feel about that. For years, I wanted it to be cool but this is not what I had in mind. Ashton Kutcher did not need a front row seat at the Country Music Awards.

I’ve come to the realization that the South is like a family member with whom there are no crimes beyond forgiveness. Even if you turn your back on it for a period of time, it is still perfectly happy to see you when you come back. Most all of us always come crawling back to our native foundation. A good ole’ piece of bedrock where even chameleons are welcome. Especially one with a good pair of cowboy boots. Oh, and there’s a vocabulary word that I can introduce you to. Lucchese. As in the boot. Take that, Italy. Hand crafted in Texas since 1883. Get (I mean git) ya some.

Till The Town

Plow1

For the longest time (read: the handful of years since spouting their first words), my kids thought the word till was just short for until.

Will you read this book to me for the 800th time?

Can you wait ‘til your dad gets home?

How long ’til we can have chocolate?

Can you try to wait ‘til the sun comes up?

Asparagus tastes funny.

Oh, wait ‘til you go pee.

But these days? They’re getting introduced to the real definition. The Merriam-Webster version which may or may not include the phrase dirt-don’t-hurt. 

Till_def

Tilling is precisely what we have been doing to our little hometown during this summer heat wave. We’ve been plowing and mining it for a few diamonds in the rough. Translated: Getting our kicks on a budget. The result? This little photo essay detailing our scavenger hunt of late.

The goal this week was for us to find five cool things about our town that Murfreesboro, Tennessee dwellers may scarcely notice when out and about.  It happens. We all tend to neglect that which we see everyday. Live in Colorado long enough, you may fail to notice that the mountains really do come up purple with the sun. Live near the beach, you forget that your nighttime ears are privy to the sound of waves while others greet their pillow to the tune of sirens. Or bongo drums. Or coyotes. Or crickets or 13-year cicadas.

Everyone’s written about it. Everyone from Toni Morrison to Francis Bacon. We can all own up to that lackadaisical way that we meet life when it gets predictable. Better known as taking stuff for granted. It is a little monstrosity of a vice deposited in our DNA. The inability to appreciate that which is right in front of us. Without further adieu, I present:

5 Good Reasons To Till Your Town

 (…because you might be missing something like this.)

  1. Billy Bassmouth at The Donut Country. If you live here, you surely know this donut stop on Memorial Boulevard. In fact, I’ve known their mom n’ pop faces since I was a kid and my feet dangled a foot above the ground on those well-loved bar stools that do, in fact, spin a full 360 degrees without stopping. Last week, we stopped in for the signature chocolate-dipped donuts. They were all out. None left. Not surprising after 10 a.m. The early bird gets the donut. When the woman behind the counter saw my kid’s sugar-deprived heart break, she actually went in the back of the kitchen and hand-dipped the remaining three plain glazed ones. I think that she dipped them three times. Ever since my kids were babies, they have been obsessed these donuts AND another inconspicuous gem in the down-home establishment. He resides on the wall just out of kiddo-reach and range of vision. But he is there- just to the right of the counter. You can burn a few donut calories by hoisting the little ones up to jab their chubby little index finger (who am I kidding… I did it for my 8-year-old last week) at Billy Bassmouth’s red ‘ON’ button. He animatedly sings “Take Me To The River” AND nearly flops off of the plaque in his groovy glory. Call us easily entertained if you must. This one gets a collective smile from my whole crew every. single. time. 
    Billy1
    Donutcountry
    Billy2

  2. Penny The Tracks. No, it will not derail the train. Already verified on Snopes. I would not steer you awry. Yes, your grandmother will disapprove of this endeavor based on the inherent risk leaning over a train track involves so don’t invite her this time. Is it dangerous? Possibly. But probably not. Keep in mind that there is risk involved everytime you pull out of your driveway in a 4,000 lb. piece of molded steel with your hands at ten and two o’clock on the wheel. Near the Cannonsburgh Village (but closer to where the old Court South gym facility of the 1980’s used to sit), there is a place where you can actually hang out in your car or on the curb to wait for the train. I still have my paper-thin penny talisman from when I was a little girl. I’m pretty sure that it’s kept me out of trouble from time to time. All you gotta do is believe, right?
    Train_penny
    Penny
  3. Wilbur. The name given to the Willow Tree across from Middle Tennessee State University’s campus by my kids, your local arborists. If you grew up near any weeping willow trees, surely you have wondered if the hanging limbs would suffice for a tarzan swing or two. You may have even tested out the hypothesis as a kid. I never did. So 30 years later, when my own kids vocalized their wonderings, I told them that I was doubtful that the long shoots could support them. I was wrong. The whole time the kids made swings of the the braided green shoots, I was having flashbacks to Shel Silverstein’s most magical of all children’s books, The Giving Tree. I’m not sure campus authorities would appreciate a whole classroom full of swinging kids on this exceptionally beautiful tree but I will swear on my life that tree enjoyed having the attention of my kids for an hour or so. If you don’t believe me, perhaps you should have another read of The Giving Tree as soon as possible. It’s good for the soul if you are feeling particularly Hobbit-like in this heat. 
    Wilbs1

    Above: Wilbur, Keeping someone’s bike seat cool. Below: Wilbur, Keeping some ginger child happy.

    Wilbur2
  4. Jam On It. I beeline to the same little booth every weekend at the Saturday Farmer’s Market on the town square. I’m not sure any kitchen is fully complete without a jar or two of Marcy Jams. Let the kids pick their favorite jar for spreading on crackers. My favorite? Firecracker Pepper. I know. Who would’ve thought spicy for jam? Well, who would’ve thought weeping willow for swing too? Trust me. I won’t beg you to go and snatch up a jar of it but I will tell you that your winter, spring, summer and fall taste buds are missing out if you don’t. If you’re on the organic bandwagon, you’ll be pleased to know that many of the ingredients in these jams are grown right in Marcy’s backyard. P.S. You will also want to check out Marcy’s recipes that make fab use of her jams right here. –> http://www.marcyjams.com/recipes.html
    Firecrackerpepper
  5. Saturn V. It’s worth a high-five. Just over on Baird Lane in front of Hobgood Elementary School sits a 29- foot model of NASA’s Saturn V rocket. No, it’s not Disney material nor has it been reported to transport Buzz Lightyear to infinity and beyond. However, it is still a very cool afternoon stopover for your blooming astronaut(s). Several business in the Murfreesboro community donated materials and labor for the Saturn V model. You Tube a montage of the Saturn V moon launch together before you go then bike over to check out the model at Hobgood during the summer when the kids are out of school. You can always commence your school-to-school playground crawl (a far cry from the pub crawls of old) from here afterward. This is how I plan to raise the Rick or Rachel Steve of the next generation. Make them noticers of the mundane who react to the world around them. And surely when that happens, they will spot me an airline ticket to the Amalfi Coast, right?
    Hobgood

‘Til the next time we TILL some little or big town.  

Au revoir, y’all.