When Amos told me that he had gotten an offer from Samsung, and that it was in Kansas City, I was not that excited. As a child I dreamed of living in Maine, Oregon, or Washington. In the third grade my class had to do these book reports on different states, and I fell in love with the glowing, green pictures and foggy coastlines of my state, which was Oregon. When I met Amos, years later at college, I told his Yankee butt that I would, under no circumstances, leave the South, so he should get ready for a lifetime of sweet tea and sunburned toes. Even after moving to New York I had this dream of raising my kids in the South, with all its idiosyncrasies that I understood so deeply. I made myself far more miserable than necessary, honestly, by continually blaming New York for not being Alabama. There was some merit; it’s hard living in an apartment that you never feel like calling home, knowing that you’ll be moving sooner or later. And that move did come; after four years we packed up for Athens, with a baby, hopes for another one, and a far lesser job, both in prestige and salary, for Amos. We were settling for that because we were settling where we wanted to be.
But all the dreams I had were broken when faced with the reality of the South. After four years away, I was shocked by what I found. I have always been liberally-minded, and because of that I never fit in with my peers. I had friends, and I was friendly with lots of people, but those relationships included quite a bit of silence on my part. I think gay people are natural and worthy of love, basic human rights, and care. I think it’s fine to fall in love with people of a different color than you are. I don’t believe in god. I think women are undervalued, stereotyped, and pushed down, and I like being loud about it. And those things don’t gel with the overriding cultural tone down there. It hurts me to say it, because I love the South, but it was there, everyday, from all sides. I’m cool with people being religious if they want to be, but thinking about all those other things affecting the girls as they grew up and figured out who they are and who they love took my breath away. So when this job appeared Amos and I factored in these thoughts, and it was part of the reason we moved. It wasn’t the coast, but it wasn’t Alabama, either.
Now that we’ve been here for a little while, I can tell you that this area is a mix of things we love. There is a highly visible Catholic culture here, but it differs from the Southern Baptist in two major (for us) ways: no one gasps and tells us about hell when we come out as atheists, and there seem to be more relaxed attitudes about diverse groups of all types here. That’s what I’m talking about – peaceful coexistence. It’s nice.
My point, in this rambling, personal exploration of our move, is that I should have trusted my third-grade self. I was meant to love the South from a distance. And Amos has promised me a Maine vacation sometime in our not-too-distant future.