My name is Hannah, and I was born in a tiny unincorporated township in northeastern Alabama. I’m beginning a series of essays on my experiences. This is an excerpt from the first essay in that series. For the rest, check out my blog, or check it out in Mill Pages Vol 3, coming soon!
People always say I should write about Alabama. “You have such good stories!” they say, and perhaps they aren’t wrong.
I enjoy telling those stories. I’ve told some of them dozens of times, at places like Christmas parties or during slow stints at work. Sometimes it’s relevant to the conversation at hand, or someone asks for a repeat of their favorite. Sometimes, though, they just leap out on their own volition.
As a teenager, I often sensed that the absurdity of my experiences would make good stories one day. My mother used to tease me about it, saying I should write a book about my youth and call it ‘Children of the Cornbread’. It would be a dark comedy about a cynical, soft-hearted southern woman who wished to be a tough, morally-upright northern man.
Again, not wrong.
Some of those stories are worth telling. It’s just that talking about it and writing about it are different. Writing is more of a commitment. Repeating those old anecdotes is cathartic and entertaining. Chronicling them for the future is owning them. The moment I pour my energy into writing it all down, I’m bonding myself to it. It’s taken a long time to gather the moxie.
I think the hesitation partially comes from the inevitable question: why did you leave? You see, I live in Massachusetts now, not too far from Boston. If I mention my southerness, ‘why did you leave’ is the first question out of someone’s mouth. It’s usually curious, sometimes unbelieving, and always so earnest.
I guess you ask that question to anyone who crosses the country, especially to somewhere so different. It’s hard to answer that question, but harder to ignore it. And the answer is as complicated is it simple.
Allow me to try.