Alabama, From My Mother’s Side

As much as I consider myself a Louisianian and love New Orleans, my Louisiana heritage all comes from my father’s side of the family.  My mother was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and lived in Alabama until she married my father.  And it seems that all my life, while never living there, I have been traveling back to Alabama.  I feel it has left an imprint in me.

My mother would tell us stories of her youth and passed on much to us that she learned from her parents.  On top of this, my travels as an adult have taken me to and through Alabama many times.  Two reasons that have taken me back to the state in recent years are that the Air Force’s Chaplain Service Institute has been located in Montgomery and that my brother and his family live in Dothan.

I see many positive qualities in the people of Alabama.  First, they are warm and hospitable.  It doesn’t matter where I am in the state, folks always seem welcoming.  When you walk into a restaurant or a hotel, people genuinely smile at you and ask you how you are doing and where you are from before getting on to ‘business’.  Second, faith matters in Alabama.  You see churches everywhere, and their parking lots fill on Sundays.  On Sunday mornings in Montgomery, you can find worship services aired on the main television stations. (Something dropped years ago in most markets in favor of national television shows where talking heads yack about politics, as if we don’t get enough of that already). Third, patriotism seems to matter to most Alabamians.  I don’t mean by this that they simply plaster bumper stickers with flags or patriotic sayings on their cars.  But you will read in their papers and see on billboards about how they uplift community, state, and national service in a variety of ways.

So, with all the good, is there any criticism of that state?  I read a recent editorial in the Dothan Eagle which bold faced the comment, “It’s an Alabama tradition to call one thing by another name and pretend it’s something else.”  It had to do with the practice (now abolished) in Dothan of outlawing liquor sales in restaurants on Sundays but allowing them to sell liquor if the restaurant called itself “a club” and then sold “club memberships” to patrons to get their alcohol on Sunday anyway.  Although I am ambivalent about the Sunday liquor sales, I am glad they abolished this loophole, which only created the facade of no liquor on Sunday.

But I also think this maybe a part of the culture that I inherited: sometimes talking around things instead of talking about something directly.  Even though I don’t live in Alabama, maybe that editorial was aimed a bit at me too.

Now trust me when I write (and you have seen in a past blog post) that I think my mother is a gem, and I love her tremendously.  She gave me so much, and lots of that came from the culture in which she was raised.  Nevertheless, if she were in her forties as I am today, she would be the first to say don’t just accept everything without considering it fully.

I hope that I did pick up on those Alabama traditions of hospitality, faith, and service.  But I also hope to speak more plainly sometimes and call something what it is, even if it might make some uncomfortable.

What cultural traditions do you feel your parents passed on to you? Which traditions from the world in which they grew up would you affirm? Are there any you’d like to change?

Just some thoughts to consider,

In Christ and all the best,

Tom

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