It’s not a boomerang, that keeps pulling us back to Tennessee.
But I don’t care if people say it’s that way.
I’m not so sure it’s even ‘home.’
But there is a time when you consider community. A time when you consider being known.
More, there’s a time when you choose a tone of a place.
Cities, small towns, every place has its own pros and cons. Every area has a tone some of which is inevitably negative and some of which is positive. You must choose a tone that suits you.
Bustling streets. Neighborhoods. Country air. Mountains. Disregard for physical characteristics. Proximity to colleges or factories. Access to art, music, and sophistication. Family friendliness.
The culture of a place either draws you or pushes you out.
For me, it’s difficult to live in a big city. It feels temporary. It feels like it’s temporary to everyone else as well. I know that can’t be true but it’s the feeling I get. The pattern is that family is second to single life and having a multitude of children is difficult and strange. It seems as though everyone’s roots are shallow and easily moved.
The communities and towns that make up Northeast Tennessee have their deficits. They have their cons like everywhere else. And some of those are hard to deal with; pockets of racial tension, the forgetting there’s a bigger world outside our area, lack of world knowledge, larger cultural interest, or experience.
But the pros of Northeast Tennessee include things like incredible views of the Appalachian mountains, accessiblity to nature- rivers and streams and paths to adventure abound, people who, in general, are kind to strangers. This area carries a sense of value for families, maybe even big families above small ones. Children are special and you can’t take yours anywhere without comments about their eyes, their manners, and how not to take their youth for granted. There is a gentleness here in the way people talk to and treat one another. There’s a tenderness toward life, that it be enjoyed slow and deep, like cider in the fall or lemonade in a sweaty glass on the front porch rocking chair. Sit down and talk awhile. Hear a story you’ve heard a hundred times before and still you laugh, for half the value in it is the telling, and the other half, the remembering. Spend more time and money creating something you could buy at the store because it’s how your grandmother did it. Every other young mother you know is growing her own food, and her kids are helping. Backyards are big and kids are sent outside to create adventure and entertain themselves.
I used to think in my youth that there was no culture here.
Now I know that IS the culture. Southern drawls and banjo music and sweet tea in a mason jar and making a friend out of the lady behind you in the grocery line and remembering ‘the time’ and festivals to celebrate small town life and valuing children and homemade everything: this IS East Tennessee.
And its tone, it fits me just fine.