Being from the south, I often woke up to the smell of made-from-scratch buttermilk biscuits or the sound of the lawn mower outside of my bedroom window. My parents took great pride in two things: the quality of our (all too buttery) cuisine and the grooming of our lawn. While I was spoiled with sweet tea and breaded and fried venison cube steak, I had to earn my dinner by performing good, old-fashioned yard work. This included everything from picking up sticks to raking leaves to mowing the lawn myself. I only got out of using the weed whacker because it scared the daylights out of me and it was heavy. When I did complete my duties, though, I was awarded the luxuries of every kid growing up in the suburbs of the South.
We lived about an hour south of Atlanta, Georgia. As I grew up, I watched the nearly rural area blossom into a bustling suburb, populated with lots of families, cows, and deer. Aside from a movie theater, a bowling alley, and a small miniature golf course and arcade, we had little to entertain ourselves. When we didn’t have the allowance or funds to participate in these exciting pastimes, we were forced to get creative.
If you grew up in the southern suburbs, you probably…
…begged your parents or your best friends’ parents to take you to the mall that was an hour away every weekend.
If they conceded, you would spend hours wandering from Hot Topic to Aeropostale to Abercrombie & Fitch without buying a single thing except an Orange Julius and a piece of Sbarro pizza. By the time you and your closest friends had been around the whole mall, twice over, it was time to caravan back to someone’s house for a sleepover.
…played hide-and-seek with the whole neighborhood after dark.
Each subdivision was home to a special group of friends who rode the bus to school together. Newcomers to the neighborhood were immediately given the third degree before being accepted into your geographically imposed friend group. You gallivanted through the streets on foot, bicycle, or Razor scooter, and by the time you reached the cul de sac you hacked out a plan to play hide-and-seek, manhunt, a game of H-O-R-S-E , or explore (read trespass on) one of the houses that was being built down the developing street.
…attended the high school football game every Friday night.
If you weren’t a football player, cheerleader, mascot, or marching band member already obligated to be there, you were definitely in the stands hooting and hollering for your team. You wore beads and face paint, and maybe you were among a group with the high school acronym painted across your chests or bellies. Homecoming was by far the most important event of all and you just weren’t cool if you didn’t attend the game.
…hung out at the local swimming hole.
Be it a spring, lake, or community swimming pool, you were definitely spending your time trying to cool off at any body of water available.
…spent hours in the high school parking lot.
Once you had your own car or a friend to ride with, you got to school early to claim your parking spot. After school, you would spend up to an hour or more standing in the parking lot devising something to do besides go home.
… got to know the Waffle House waitresses and waiters by name.
This was the place to go at any time of the day or night and in any attire — post football game, before the homecoming dance, in your pajamas on a Saturday morning.
You went romping through fields and forests in your four-wheel drive truck just to see how incredibly muddy you could make it. You proudly drove it around, displaying the thick layer of dirt like a badge of honor.
…craved Chick-fil-A every Sunday.
Even if you had eaten a chicken sandwich for dinner three times that week, you would inevitably wake up craving a chicken biscuit from Chick-fil-A on the holy day they were closed. You may have even made it all the way to the empty parking lot before realizing your folly.
…never went anywhere without seeing a familiar face.
Whether it was the post office, the grocery store, or the buffet after church, you could be dang sure you would see a classmate, teacher, or a friend’s parents out and about. You’d put on your southern charm and say hello despite the urge to run the other way, because that would just be impolite.