I am not a Southerner. Born and raised in St. Louis, Mo., I’m a Midwesterner and a city dweller through and through. I’ll take a bustling metropolitan downtown area brimming with shops, restaurants and culture to a sandy, sunny stretch of beach any day. After 10 years of living in the Coastal Georgia and South Carolina region, my opinion hasn’t changed, and it’s not likely to. There are a few Southern customs I’ll never get used to, and many who know me would say I have the patience of a Yankee — that is, I have none. My daughter, however, I suppose would be classified as a Southerner, which gets me thinking.
Will Reese be as proud of her Southern heritage as I am of my Midwestern roots? She was born in Savannah, and it’s looking like my husband and I will stay put for some time. Our little girl will grow up with other Southerners. She may develop an accent or a drawl. She’ll consider sweet tea and cornbread staples. Will she want to take part in a debutante ball or — unlike her mother — prefer a boat excursion or a dip in the ocean to the climate-controlled confines of a museum or theater?
Raising these questions in my mind made me realize the old adage “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” isn’t always true. And that’s OK. In fact, two apples from the same tree — siblings — can be as different as night and day, as is the case with my sister and me. Environment, geography, social influence, religious beliefs and family ties all shape a person to some extent. It’s a parent’s job to support a child as she explores these interests, learns lessons and grows into her lot in life — whatever that may be.
Growing up, I was a bookworm focused heavily on scholastic achievements and academic-based extracurricular activities, such as the school newspaper, foreign-language club and the speech and debate team. I had a small, close-knit group of friends. My younger sister, who also earned good grades, played every sport in the book, lived at the pool when the weather permitted and enjoyed her “social butterfly” status.
If my mother was surprised by her daughters’ wildly different attitudes, hobbies and goals, she never let on. She was supportive, encouraging and nurturing to both of us. I will strive to emulate her when it comes to helping my daughter blossom into the person she aspires to be — even if she decides that person is a beach-loving Southerner.