Pieces of My Culture

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1961

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A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

“I get so frustrated when I talk to people and they say, I don’t have a culture. And it’s mostly white people who say it. And I say, that’s bull, of course you have a culture, where did you grow up? Who’d you talk to? What’d you do? What was your thing? What was your family’s thing? Where’d your family come from?” – – Rhiannon Giddens

I was born in Athens, Georgia, and thus by natural inheritance will always be a Bulldog. Not that I’m an over-the-top fan of any football, but it’s part of my culture. I grew up knowing what red and black were for. My parents met in Athens, where they were both living in the first government housing built in the town. My Dad lost his father when he was four, and Mom’s dad abandoned the family when she was a baby, so they were both raised by mothers who had to work hard all their lives. I never knew my dad’s mom, who died before I was born. But, my Mamaw Bryan was always a sweet, white-haired, lilac dressed Grandma who treated us to Coca-Cola in jeweled colored metal cups and cooked up wonderful fried chicken in her little apartment.

I’m sure being raised without fathers played a part in my mom always being home with us while Dad worked hard to provide. We never lacked for anything, but I have no doubt my parents were on a tight budget. Mom made some of my clothes and we ate a lot of beans, but I never worried about where my next meal was coming from. I learned to save what money I had to purchase what I wanted, like a ten-speed bike and my first stereo.

We moved to Jacksonville, Florida, via Montgomery and Ft. Lauderdale, when I was six. I grew up there in the same house until I married. The Georgia Bulldog devotion stayed with our family, especially due to the Georgia-Florida game played each year in Jacksonville. My life revolved around school, church, and neighborhood. We saw Mamaw and our Georgia cousins once or twice a year. The extended family loved to visit us, partly because of our proximity to the ocean. We were less than 30 minutes from the beach and that was a huge part of my childhood and teen years. Flip-flops, body surfing, driving on the beach and listening to WAPE radio are all cherished memories that fashioned a part of me.

This was all background, though. It helped shape me, but there is much more to culture. There are also beliefs. When I was ten years old I came face to face with my sinful state and knew I needed a Savior. I went to my mom, who sat me down in the kitchen and gently answered my questions. I was soon after baptized and spent the next seven years or so with a group of friends, many of whom I’m still in touch. Our world was one of church picnics, choir trips, “rolling” each other’s homes with toilet paper and “dinner on the grounds”. I am forever grateful for those gentle times of growing up feeling safe and secure.

Jacksonville was a last-holdout to racial integration. This affected me in numerous ways. My parents would always claim not to be prejudiced, but they yanked me out of public school the year that desegregation was finally enforced. Yes, it was a tumultuous time and I would not have wanted to be bussed across town, but I actually was anyway, for a year, to a private school. By 10th grade I was back in my local high school, and had my first real encounter with a different race. I never told my parents that I actually made friends with some black students. In my house the “N” word was common; even my brothers and I called each other that when we were mad.

Music is a big part of every culture. In elementary school we sang “Found a Peanut” and “Billy Boy” along with learning all the military branch songs; I still remember ““Over hill, over dale, we have hit the dusty trail, and the Caissons go rolling along.” I grew up on the Beatles, KC and the Sunshine Band, and “The Church in the Wildwood”.

I imagine it might take a whole book, and perhaps a quilt maker, to piece together all that is my culture. It’s southern, middle class, and pretty white. It’s sprinkled with ya’ll and yes ma’am and grits. Funerals are prefaced with lots of food; July 4th and New Year’s Eve bring reason to shoot off tons of fireworks; “Merry Christmas” still abounds as the go-to December greeting. I hope that I have passed down all the good parts of my culture, and let go of the parts that needed to be left behind.

ADVENTURES WITH A 17 YEAR OLD IN B’HAM – DAY 3

My brother-in-law and niece are in town this week. He came for the SEC Baseball Tournament at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. She has no interest in baseball, so she and I set about exploring Birmingham.

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Day 3

The day started out nice at Oak Mountain Park, but the niece got to feeling sick, so we had to cut the visit to the great outdoors a little short. We stopped for a beautiful view from Ada Overlook on our way up the mountain.

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We were able to get in one hike to the top of Peavine Falls. It’s always beautiful outdoors enjoying God’s creation, but I was expecting to see a bit more water in the falls. Maybe next year in April after the rains I will try it again.

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There was a Senior Picnic going on at the pavilion area, with quite a large group of senior citizens in attendance. I’m sure they had a lovely day!

We took it easy the rest of the day, and then picked up pizza from Johnny Brusco’s on John Hawkins Parkway for supper.

ADVENTURES WITH A 17 YEAR OLD IN B’HAM – DAY 2

My brother-in-law and niece are in town this week. He came for the SEC Baseball Tournament at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. She has no interest in baseball, so she and I will be exploring Birmingham.

Day 2

If you read yesterday’s post, you know we got lost. Today we started out by getting locked out of the house before we could even leave the driveway. I had switched my purses and grabbed the wrong keys. JUST AFTER closing the locked door behind me I realized I had the husband’s car keys, and no house keys to get back in. The guys had just left for breakfast at the Egg & I, so we had no other choice but to sit on the back porch and wait. The shade was nice. I had tried all my windows, so at least I know now that my house isn’t easy to break into.

The worst part was we were headed to Maylene (a spot in the road) to pick up my pastor’s son for a belated Birthday Breakfast. We finally got there about 10am, and then headed to Panera Bread in Alabaster to enjoy our breakfast and celebrate Gabriel turning 10, then head to the Dollar Tree and Books a Million.

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The niece and I then went to Helena (which  has one of the lowest crime rates in the US), strolled down to Buck Creek Park to check out the dam, then walked the block of nearby Old Town shops.

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Tonight we sleep, for tomorrow we hike again.   🙂

Adventures with a 17 year old in B’ham – Day 1

My brother-in-law and niece are here this week. He came for the SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover; she tagged along to hang out with me.

Day 1

We headed out in the morning for a little hike at Moss Rock Preserve. We both had our cameras and were hoping for some good nature photos.

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We saw a few squirrels, a chipmunk, and a cardinal, but the coolest thing I saw was blooming cacti growing out of the limestone rock. It was an unexpected sight .

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Our adventure kicked in later, as we were on our way back and got totally turned around. After backtracking several times, I finally had to admit we were lost. I spotted a trashcan and shouted “Yay, civilization!” thinking we were at the other edge of the parking lot where we’d started. Turns out we were at a parking lot alright – at the back of what I figured out later is Simmons Middle School. So back into the woods we went. We finally popped out again at a Firehouse!! The kind firemen pointed us in the right direction – about a half mile further down the road and we finally got back to the car. You can check out our route HERE.

After a break at home for food and showers, we headed out for a book adventure; first stop – 2nd & Charles on Montgomery Highway. This unique bookstore buys and sells new and gently used and it has lots of non-book products, also. I got a book for myself and a gift, the niece left with an armload.

Second stop – the Hoover Library. After giving my niece a brief tour, including the Cone of Silence, we stopped at Coffee-ol-ogy where I got an iced coffee and she got a delicious chocolate milkshake.   She then scored three books she’d been wanting at the Friends Bookstore, all for under five dollars.

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On the way home, we made two stops at Target and Kohl’s. I was glad to get back home and rest my aching knees!