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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Southern Gentleman Or City Kid?

This takes a bit of a detour from my more common blogs of generational scrutiny, but maybe not as much as I was anticipating when the thoughts were running through my head this morning.  

I grew up in the Metro Atlanta suburbs, but the difference between myself and the vast majority of those around me lies in the fact that I was not an import or transplant, but born here.  My father's family moved to a little "city" called Alpharetta in 1969, which was long before it was considered metropolitan by any stretch.  When my parents were engaged, they began building a house after buying some land from my grandparents which was finished by the time they married in 1978.  My sister was born a few years later, and I came along two years after her.  

The area we lived in was heavily wooded, had dirt roads all over the place, and it was your fairly typical smaller city until the population surge a few years before the 1996 Olympic Games.  Pastures, wooded areas, and older homes were developed into subdivisions, shopping centers sprang up, sidewalks were poured, and schools popped up continually - property values also went through the roof.  Here was my family of my mom, dad, sister, and uncle next door (my grandparents had passed a few years prior) all living on a three acre spread watching a small city become a massive, affluent suburb.  

The thing is, my dad comes from a long heritage of farming and his two brothers were the first men in the family to break that tradition when one became a commercial welder and the other a commercial machinery mechanic - dad followed suit becoming a warehouse manager before ultimately being a carpenter.  Though, when I was a kid, my grandparents still farmed and had multiple, large vegetable gardens on our properties, as well as chickens, and your typical herd of cats running around.  That is how I grew up: seeing my grandparents in their feeble age plowing gardens, picking vegetables, pressing cider, shucking corn, canning, tending to chickens, and drying bed sheets on a clothes line, among many other things.  All of this was normal to me growing up even though everyone else I knew at school lived in a subdivision and had no experience with any of that stuff.  

When I was a kid, my parents did not have a lot of money to spare, so just like my grandparents and uncles, they saved money in the winter by heating their houses with wood heaters and fireplaces.  I grew up carrying in the firewood we had split over the summer so we could burn it on cold nights to keep the furnace from kicking on.  This is not uncommon in neighboring areas, but in Alpharetta?  None of my friends had to do that.  

Fireplaces give off a type of heat that has more of a comforting feeling to me than having a furnace running.  There is something about it you only understand if you grow up with the experience and I really do not know how to explain what I am talking about, so take my word for it.  

Today, for the first time in probably over ten years, I went back to that place.  I had things I could have been doing today for work and such, but my dad and I went over to my uncle's house instead and split firewood for a few hours.  As far as seeing the benefits of this effort are concerned, I will not since I no longer live with my family, but helping with things like that are traits I learned from watching my grandmother and grandfather.  These are the things you do because you care about people, no matter how sweaty, sticky, or dirty those things happen to be, and no matter if you have time for it or not.  
Any of that is irrelevant when you have a job to do.  
I let that all slip away for a few years because I was too focused on what I was doing for a living, where I was living, "friends" who ended up not mattering, going out to places which had no lasting impact on my life, buying a bunch of toys I did not need - it was nice coming back today and remembering the things I did growing up which have shaped me into who I am currently.  

I am the city kid who may have escaped the southern accent, but I never want to forget where I came from no matter where I may end up.

Grace and Peace,

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