She’s been living in the South four years, but can’t seem to get Chicago out of her accent. She waits tables in Mobile. All her customers notice the way she talks. Her regulars kid her about it.
“I try saying, ‘y’all’ sometimes,” she said. “But it never comes out right.”
It’s okay. Truth told, I hear more Southern teenagers using Yankee birdcalls such as: “you guys.” They say it with a drawl. It comes out sounding like, “You gahz,”
I blame the Internet.
“I’ve always wanted to live in the South,” she said. “Always felt I should’a been born here. Something about it.”
She’s no spring chick. She has lines around her eyes, a wiry frame, and her hands look strong. I asked how she came to the area.
“Moved here after my husband tried to kill me.”
I could tell she wasn’t being funny. So, I quit asking questions and made a remark about the weather.
She kept on, “Since he couldn’t kill me, my husband ended up killing himself, and our son. Ran the car right off the road, hit a tree. Looked like an accident, but I know it wasn’t.”
“I went from being a wife and a mother to being nothing. It was hard.”
After they passed, she quit taking care of herself. Her days consisted of Hamburger Helper, Marlboro Reds, and long bouts of crying.
A friend suggested she see a therapist. So, she looked one up in the phonebook.
“Didn’t even know what I was looking for,” she said. “Just stuck my finger on a name and made an appointment.”
And as fate would have it—if you believe in that sort of thing—the therapist was a widow who’d lost her child, too.
“When my therapist opened her mouth,” she went on. “She had a Southern accent, sounded so warm and friendly… I just really bonded with her.”
The Georgia-born therapist suggested traveling. But life decisions are easier talked about than made. So fate helped her out again.
Her boss fired her.
“That was the last straw,” she said. “I was like, ‘You know, I’m gonna go visit the Southeast. What do I have to lose?’”
So, for the first time she pointed her tires south. Four weeks she traveled. She treated herself to hotels, restaurants, and even walked some of the Appalachian Trail. And when she hit Gulf Shores, she decided once and for all: no more Chicago.
“I feel like my life is starting, even at my age. I know I’m not a Southerner, but I really like it here.”
Darling, you’re more than Southern.