Even though I spent the first ten years of my life living in South Carolina, I could never call myself a southern girl. When my family visits our extended family in Georgia, my Philadelphia accent sticks out in a sea of southern drawl. I can’t say “y’all” without feeling like a total imposter trying awkwardly to fit in. I didn’t go to college in the south, so I can’t call myself a Georgia Bulldog like many of my family members can. And to top it all off, I’m the only one of my siblings who wasn’t born below the Mason-Dixon line.
I promise you, at one point in my life, I did have a southern accent. There is video evidence to prove it. But after moving from South Carolina to Pennsylvania, I dropped the accent, threw away my overalls, and embraced my new surroundings. I’ve become accustomed to the cold weather (as much as one can), as well as the infamous cold demeanor most northerners tend to give off.
I wouldn’t change the path God set out for my family for anything. I feel incredibly blessed to have spent the last twelve years in Pennsylvania, although it means I don’t get to see my extended family but once or twice a year (three times if I’m lucky). But when I do get the chance — boy, do I love it.
For the last week, I was able to spend some time with my family in Georgia. Over the weekend, my grandmother, my sister, two of my cousins, and I drove up into the mountains of north Georgia to relax for a few days in my grandparents’ mountain house. The house is older than me and stands firm right on the edge of the river.
The last time I visited the mountain house, I was probably about seven years old. On that trip, I spent one afternoon sitting on the steps that led right into the river. Nobody knows quite how it happened, but one minute I was on the steps and the next minute I was flailing my arms in the water, screaming and crying in hopes that someone would come fish me out.
Thankfully, someone saved me from my spontaneous dive into the icy cold water, and although it was probably a little scary then, we all look back on the memory and laugh.
Returning there this weekend was such a treat. We drove up mountain on the curvy road, winding this way and that, until we finally pulled into the gravel driveway. I barely recognized the place because my grandparents had done some major renovating in the 15 years since I’d last seen it. Upon walking in and seeing the new living area, kitchen, and loft, a small smile made its way across my face — I knew this weekend would be the perfect time to relax, dive into a new book, and maybe wade in the river for a little while. But wading wasn’t really part of the plan, apparently.
Somehow, a few hours after we’d unpacked the car, I found myself about a mile up the river, in my bathing suit, holding an inner tube under my arm as my sister, cousins, and I stepped into the icy river water. One hour later, after screaming and laughing, climbing over a fallen tree-turned beaver dam and dodging the spiderweb filled trees, the river carried us safely back to the mountain house.
My grandmother met us at the steps and helped us out of the river. She laughed as she said we all felt like ice cubes to her touch. After changing into comfy clothes, popping popcorn, and tearing open bags of Milky Ways and Peanut Butter M&M’s, we settled into the cushioned chairs with blankets, ready to watch a movie. It took all of ten minutes into the movie for me to fall asleep in my chair. A whole movie and some time later, I awoke to this:
Turned out I wasn’t the only one who needed a major nap.
Besides our adventure on the river, I was able to get some reading done (Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks — way better than the movie, in case you were wondering), as well as help my grandmother prepare meals and take some photos, which I hadn’t found time to do in a while.
At one point I was sitting on the back porch, swinging back and forth on the porch swing, and I couldn’t help but recognize how quickly life moves and changes and twists and turns, and how quickly moments become memories. The sweet memories from this weekend also reminded me how precious the memories from my childhood have become.
I had no idea back when I was seven that I wouldn’t see the mountain house again until I was 22 and a college graduate. I didn’t know that three years later, right after my tenth birthday, my dad’s job would move us to Philadelphia, the place I would eventually call home. And I had no idea I would become a Nittany Lion or an English major, or that I would live in France for a brief time and travel Europe.
Life is fast. It is amazing, but it is fast, and this weekend reminded me how important it is to relish in the chances we get to live simply and enjoy being around people we love.
I may not be able to call myself a southern girl, but I feel pretty nifty to have southern roots. My extended family may not live next door, but that makes our trips to see them that much more significant and memorable. Thankfulness doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this past week, and I am so looking forward to the next time I get to visit.