I’ve always been a bit of a loner and tended to feel outside most groups. It wasn’t until far into adulthood that it occurred to me that my odd childhood, raised in the North by parents with deep Southern roots, was the source of the feeling of being different.* Throughout my childhood I adored visiting Lexington and my family here. Bouncing back and forth between the two worlds was kind of normal; from the industrial North to the gracious South and back many times a year.
My behavior was a little too Northern for my Tennessee-born grandmother, who used to scowl at my parents when I did something rude (like failing to put a “ma’am” after “yes,” horrors!) and say, “That’s what you get for raising her up there with those damn Yankees.” She thought of the North as rude and crude and the South as the place of grace and charm. Born in 1885, she grew up with first-hand accounts of the Civil War and she loved to rave about how those rude Yankees used their swords to cup up fine paintings and broke all the china and crystal in the lovely homes. Until I was old enough to start reading about it, I had a vague notion that the Civil War was about rude, sword-yielding Yankees invading the South for the purpose of destroying art and busting up the table ware.
I never felt like I fit entirely in either world. A little too Northern for the South and a little to Southern for the North, I was an amalgam of the two cultures and not quite comfortable no matter where I was. I didn’t realize until I started examining the threads of my life that my pattern of “outsider-ness” began back there with the odd fact of having Southern parents who moved to the North. Amazing sometimes how much our lives are influenced by such seemingly small circumstances.
* My dad’s family goes back to about 1800 in Kentucky and my mother’s settled in Tennessee in 1780; my parents met in junior high in Lexington.