Assimilation

I don’t always volunteer that I’m from Louisiana.  Mostly because if I come across a savvy southerner and start getting questioned on certain areas, I might get exposed as being from Louisiana and not knowing a damned thing about it.  Which is the worst kind of southerner there is.  It’s blasphemous.  I know Community coffee, King cake, and Tony’s Chachare’s – and then the culture lesson is over.

But today I had to drive through St. Landry Parish to get home.  I don’t think I’ve ever been through that Parish.  In fact my mom already teased me about thinking Opelousus was anywhere near Breaux Bridge, because apparently it’s not.  But as I was driving, I was reminded how pretty this state can be.  Not to mention all those places that I recognize, but less than a minute out of the state I wouldn’t know if Bayou Grosse Tete was real or a cajun joke (it’s real.)  But I can state for a fact that the little town of Point Barre’s claim to fame is “Birthplace of Bayou Teche.”  And driving along interstate 190, behind all those pretty wooden houses that sit up on stilts is Bayou Courtableu (and for my french-speaking friends, I guarantee you are pronouncing it wrong.  start with converting “mais oui cheri” to “mais yeah chat” and then we can go from there…)  This is the stretch I had never seen up until today, and it was picturesque Acadiana with Cypress trees surrounded by Cypress knees and moss draping down – perfect for a silhouette. 

And I always can’t believe that this is the place that I grew up, because my life now is so different from what it would have been if I had stayed.  I come home and see all the pictures my mom has of her grand-kids and then the one frame of me and just me.  And my best friend who doesn’t understand why I’m not focusing on babies first career last.  And I dread running into high school friends because they always ask about the significant other and the babies, where are those babies.  But this is only one side of living so far away from home.

The other part is what comes as instinct to me.  I am not a city gal.  I feel very comfortable starting conversation with strangers in small towns (I would never do this in a city.)  I can get around backwoods roads pretty well and spend the majority of an afternoon talking about the joys of being a baby factory and a stay at home mom (I can admit that if you catch me in the right sentiment my ovaries might actually begin to twitch at the idea of being a stay at home mom.) 

And I feel like a fool as I realize there are silly day-to-day things that I get so frustrated with myself over.  Like really wanting to leave work some days and spend the entire evening vegging on the couch with Jack instead of going full force into that Cell Bio final take-home.  Like walking down the sidewalk and letting the people around me – loud-talking, loogie hocking, skateboarders flying up around me – get me so irked that I want to go sit in silence for a while.  Like during those brief 6 mths that I lived in San Francisco proper and I met ex-boy downtown one evening and I didn’t know what bus to take to get home.  It was late and foggy and I started to cry and just started running for the nearest bus in hopes it would take me somewhere near home and ex-boy didn’t know what to offer so from the street corner a block away he yelled “I love you Alison Lee!”  And in all these circumstances I beat myself up for not being able to handle it better.

But it’s not instinct for me.  It’s like Jack.  He came from being abandoned in the Pinnacles to living in Oakland.  So when I went to the dog park with him for the first time I thought “that is so adorable.  He’s rolling around in the grass because he’s so happy.”  Then it was explained to me that my puppy rolls in dog shit because he’s a herding dog and that’s how he assimilates into a herd – by smelling like the herds’ poop.  And there Jack went, herding all the other dogs into place.  And all those times I let him do that on our walks only to rub my face affectionately in his afterward, unaware he was covered in residual dog crap.  But that’s Jack’s instinct.  He can learn not to do it, but he’ll probably always want to roll in the poop.

And I can pretend to enjoy the smell of my own farts with the other SFers, but I can’t beat myself up over not being able to assimilate into city life as much as I may want.

So times like this, sitting on the floor of the foyer because this is the only place where I can get both Internet and power, in the dark, with a typical southern thunderstorm going on outside knowing that my three nephews are probably going to wake me up at 5 am and my mom will have the Community coffee ready for me (ooohhh and let’s hope some homemade muffins!) I am really happy to have this place to come back to when I need a break from the chaos.

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