Since we are going to spend the next bit of time together, I thought it would be fun for you to get to know me a bit.
I was born in Texas . El Paso to be exact. I have the certificate that grants me the right to wear my 10-gallon hat with pride. I grew up in Michigan, which pretty much makes me a northerner. I live in Georgia now and according to them I am a “d______ed Yankee.” If you are not from the South, a “Yankee” is defined as someone from the North. A “d___ed Yankee” is someone from the North who came to the South and stayed.
I do, however, come by my southern heritage rightfully.
My parents are Southerners. Born and raised in the solid, rural south.
My mom’s parents were Mamma and Pawpaw and they lived out in the country in Magnolia, AR. My dad’s parents were Grandma and Grandpa and they lived at the end of dirt road that literally deposited the unsuspecting driver in their front yard. As far as I know, Shongaloo, LA consists of a post office and maybe a stop sign.
I think everyone, regardless of who they were, called my grandma – grandma. I remember once hearing someone ask where Zera was and I had no idea who they were talking about. They were just always Grandma and Grandpa.
Every year during my growing up years we traveled to my grandparents homes for vacation. They lived about 30 miles from each other; just across the state line. I loved being at both of my grandparents’ homes. All I have to do is close my eyes and I can smell the home baked blackberry cobbler that Mamma made because she knew it was my favorite. I can hear the cows in the pasture surrounding their home farms and I remember the rude dawn awakening of the rooster crowing.
We called my grandparent’s farm “The Farm.” I know, really original. But to this day that is how all of us in the family, even my boys, refer to it. Living on the farm was a short two-week novelty to me full of egg collecting and cow milking (a talent my grandmother just about gave up on us city girls ever learning!). We relished the old truck rides out to the fields where we tossed the hay bales out to feed the livestock, riding double on the horses down to the country store for a bottle of coke, and shooting BB guns at cans down by the creek.
To me, this was vacation. To my parents, living on a farm was their life. The Farm was home. When we visited, there was always this one particular experience that happened only at grandma and grandpas.
My dad is one of 5 children and I am one of 17 cousins – not counting the two or three subsequent generations that would include all of “the cousins” children.
My grandmother had 10 siblings and my grandfather had 5. For the most part – a good majority of the family stayed in the relative area of Shongaloo, this wide-spot of a place where they had all grown up.
On Sunday afternoon, after we all attended morning services at the tiny country church my grandparents raised their family in, and after we’d all eaten our fill of fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, fresh corn, black-eyed peas, and oh the best biscuits I’ve ever had …
“the family” would come calling.
That is a true and old – probably dying – southern family thing. I did not ever experience that in Michigan where I grew up. I have never experienced it in my own adult life living in Georgia even though my kids are grown and certainly could come visit.
This was unique to my visits to the Farm. I never knew most of the people who came to visit. They all seemed to look alike to me: blue-gray teased hair on the women and their best blue jean overalls with a ball cap for the men. To this day I don’t know the difference between Uncle Waylon and Uncle Dale.
Yet somehow they always knew who I was. Who I belonged to. It was always “You must be Nita and Larry’s girl.” As a child I never quite understood that. There had to be 50 people crammed into my grandparent’s sitting room that had space for 5 and they would only see me once a year. But somehow they always knew – if not my name – at least who I belonged to.
Fast forward to a few years ago. My parents were living in a small town in central Arkansas. Not quite rural, but just as southern.
My parents knew everyone. I knew no one. One evening, as we were heading in to see a movie at their local theater, my mom ran into a friend – Mary Ellen.
As they greeted each other, mom turned toward my direction to introduce me but didn’t get a word out. I was instantly transported back to those days on the Farm when all the family would come visit and somehow know who I was as Mary Ellen said, “Anita, you don’t have tell me who this is – you can’t deny her – she looks just like you.” I was “Nita’s girl”
My name did not matter to her – she knew what was important. She knew who I belonged to because I bear the image of my mother.
In my office I am surrounded by pictures of my family taken over the years. In each one I am struck by how different, yet similar we all are.
Blake – 1963, Ben – 1990
My oldest son, Ben, favors his father – both in build and temperament.
Denise – 1964, Jordy – 1992
Our youngest son, Jordy, favors his momma (that would be me).
The boys each have their own characteristics, just like my husband, Blake, and I do – things that make them unique, distinctive, and unlike the rest of us. But they carry enough of us in them that when you put all of us together, there is no denying that we all belong together.
Photography by Dana Mixer
I bear the image of my mother. Our boys bear the image of me and the image of Blake. You bear the image of people who have gone before you.
We all bear the image of those who created and molded us; those we allow to influence our thoughts and our actions.
We might not get to choose whose image we reflect biologically, but we have a whole lot of say-so in whose image we reflect through the words we speak and the things we do.
The question of flourish is “whose image do you most desire to reflect?”
Next stop…. Created in the Image of….
Reflection / Discussion – and please leave comments. I’d love to get to know you a little better too!
- What memories do you have of where you came from?
- Have you ever experienced someone knowing who you belonged to, even if they didn’t know your name? How did that make you feel?
- Who do you bear the most resemblance to? I understand some of you may not know your biological parents. Instead of physical characteristics, what about your personality characteristics? Or, how has some else stamped you somehow with their image?