As I grew up I thought my town was backwater, hick and disgusting. People drove big trucks and talked like they were dumb. I saw them as isolationists afraid of the advancements of the world. I put pictures on my walls of places I’d like to go, first to Portland, then, San Francisco, New York, then I imagined I’d move on to Paris, and when I got there they’d say, “no, you’ve got it all wrong, the center of the universe is the South of France.” As an adult, I’ve seen the pictures of the south of France and they look disarmingly like my hometown in rural western Oregon.
But I did move to Portland for work. It’s the best city, but just too dark, cool and clammy for my general health, I was getting more and more depressed. My whole family is based there, sisters, grandparents, and nieces. A funny thing happens when the sun comes out in Portland, a lovely amnesia. One feels like they’ve earned this sunshine and lush greenness that glows in the golden sunlight. One forgets the months of patience and frustration to go outside without a literal six layers of clothes on. One forgets that there will be what I called the “February Fake-Out” when it seems like Spring for two weeks. We would all clean and smile and put thick blankets away as we awaited warmer weather. Then every year we’d have to pull those blankets back out since the sun wasn’t going to come out for real for almost four more months.
Eventually my hopes and dreams were answered when I met and married a wonderful man who grew up in Florida. We’d planned to move to New Orleans so I could live in a warmer climate, but had to change our plans after the hurricane. We decided on Northern Florida where he grew up. Boy, I didn’t know hicks and isolationists until I moved to North Florida. There’s very little refined art, less live music. There is a serious shortage of teeth around here. I didn’t know that an entire city could survive on a GED culture. And then I laugh to myself. I love Florida, I’ve been very happy, our new friends, the sunshine, I get to wear dresses and sandals, and there are good people here, salt of the earth good people. The south of France is always in your own back yard, you just have to remember it was there the whole time.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.