Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I went back to Georgia for a two week visit. I have lived there most of my life.

I moved there from Germany in the second grade. I can still remember how heavy the air felt when we stepped off of the plane directly onto the tarmac in Augusta. It was night and still very hot and I didn't understand why. We pulled through a McDonald's on the way to our temporary housing.

When we moved into our new neighborhood, just off of Tobacco Road, it seemed like everyone was either black or white. In Germany, I had been living in a multicultural utopia of sorts, our apartment building like an "I'd like to teach the world to sing" Coke Ad. I didn't understand the racial tensions in my new town. I learned the "n" word that year, while riding the bus home from school. I asked my friend what it meant, repeating the word once and only once, and her older brother swung his duffel bag at me, sending me flying down the steep hill at the entrance to our neighborhood. I didn't ask again.

Certainly, I would have learned the same lesson in Texas, Southern Florida, New York; it's not like the south has a lock on treating people differently because of ethnic and cultural differences. Still, I can remember thinking my parents had made a huge mistake in settling on a small southern town. Even though I had never lived there, I started calling Cleveland, Ohio "home" since that was where the rest of my extended family lived. I declared that, as soon as I was old enough, I was moving up north. Between my 7 year old evacuation plans and the fact that I had no other roots in the south, I set myself up as a little bit of an outsider, a misfit in the place that I grew up, got married, and started a family in. I lived it but never fully embraced it.

It would be 35 years before I left the south, heading west instead of north. This last year was the longest I can remember ever being away from the southeast. As we landed back in Phoenix, I felt pretty excited to be back. The kids and I have been a travelling roadshow, visiting four different houses in the last few weeks. We are exhausted and sick of sleeping in the same room together. Though it was great to see everyone, I can't help but think, I am so happy to be home.


I wonder if I am ready to let this one stick.


Lisa said...

I hope so!

latisha said...

oh me too. and as i was reading your reflections, i can't help but wonder if you haven't noticed that the problem is still alive in the southwest but it's a bit quieter.