Blame it on Skynyrd
by Jamie Berube
It’s 10 a.m., and I haven’t showered. A lazy Sunday ponytail and my blue and orange Florida football shirt make me dreamy with thoughts of home. I think back to a moment two years ago in which I sat in my mother’s kitchen with a bowl of cheerios before church, prayin’ to Jesus for no rain.
“You’re a California girl now, cut it out.”
The newly–made, sun-kissed Southern California girl mindset of mine fights against those memories.
As I cruise a familiar, sleepy street in the urban sprawl of Orange County, I flip on the radio.
Then it happens.
I hear “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynryd Skynyrd, and it doesn’t matter that my hair’s a mess; and I haven’t showered today.
The rugged 1970’s guitar riffs, and the image of the band in their black cowboy hats and bell bottoms awaken the Southern twang in my soul; and all I want is to be eating BBQ by the river where my roots lie.
I should not admit this publicly. The refined So Cal elites and West Coast bros may never forgive me for what I’m about to confess.
I miss the South.
I let my car windows down and take my foot off the gas a bit. I’m not going to fight it. If only for the next few minutes of the song, I’m going home. Back to those sticky summer nights that were alive with the chirps and croaks of crickets and toads. Back where people cut their own grass with rusty old mowers and tattered hats to shield the sun. Where barefoot is beautiful, and BBQ stands aren’t a question but an answer. It’s where people fall in love on porch swings and in church parking lots. A place where hurricanes are celebrated with cheap beer and board games: that’s my home.
In the South there’s no such thing as style and refinement in the middle of August because no one cares how trendy you are when it’s 105 degrees outside. It’s where your backyard becomes an eerie swampland of mosquito bugs and slime after sunset, and you fear looking an alligator in the eye while tubing down the river.
In the South, there’s no such thing as “low fat” or “diet” at Sunday night dinners and sweet tea calories don’t really count. And you never tell grandma you’re on a diet when she cooks. It’s a sin and she’ll pull out her Bible to prove it.
It’s where you catch lizards and frogs for fun when you’re 10 years old.
Where no matter how often you skim your swimming pool there’s always beetles and spiders crawling in the corners.
It’s back where everyday in the fall feels like Thanksgiving ‘cause there’s always football and food. And no matter where you are, you are only ten minutes away from a country road or cow pasture.
It’s where scholars and teachers say “y’all” and “ain’t” and nobody dares to think twice about it. The boys with muddy pickup trucks open your door, and people smile at you in the grocery store as if you were next door neighbors.
It’s where Fourth of July is spent hoping your dad, brother, cousin or friend doesn’t kill himself shooting off fireworks in their driveway. And no holiday passes by without homemade pie, cobbler or cake. Most of the time, it’s all three.
Where I grew up we swam in freshwater springs and only owned flip flops. It’s where mom squeezed oranges from the backyard for juice and butter on biscuits wasn’t questioned. Back there magnolia trees dampen the mornings with sweet secrets and the wood of grandpa’s rocker holds the smell and stain of every smoked cigar and spilled cup of coffee.
I’m not saying the South is perfect. It certainly isn’t for everyone. But it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what it is; mostly simple things that don’t shimmer or shine to the outsider’s eye. The South stays true to an identity of simplicity, built upon the belief that the best food is served at your grandma’s table. You don’t always have to wear shoes, and whether it’s football or Fourth of July fireworks, you must play and party like Jesus is coming back tomorrow. So if you see me with a plate of peach cobbler, barefoot on a porch somewhere, talking about tropical storms and SEC football, you can just blame it on Skynyrd.
Jamie Berube was raised in the South for 16 years before relocating across the country to California about a year ago. She is a freelance writer and social worker. She has a passion for delicious literature and any candy combining peanut butter and chocolate. She wrote this article to capture the simple and magical things that she misses about the South.