My Place

I recently had the adventure of traveling with a group of college students by train from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Washington, DC.  Being the odd man out age-wise (or just a generally odd man), I found myself listening to my iPod train mix (a mix that would have made any Real Southern Man proud) and observing the passing landscape of the Southeast.

Photo by Destiny Church

When we pulled out of Tuscaloosa, I began to notice those diverse Southern shrines that dot the countryside from the Gulf to the Mason-Dixon: football stadiums, BBQ shacks, small rural homes and reverently steepled churches.  The view didn’t change much over the next 900 or so miles—sure there were more hills or less, more farmland or more forest, more city sprawl or more rural beauty—but you could still tell where you were, where this journey took you.  You were in the South.

Photo by Savanah Singley

As a Real Southern Man I am enamored of place.  I like to read works that develop a sense of place.  I crave music that is evocative of place.  I love art that is inextricably tied to place.  I am intrigued by place — especially my place, this place called the South.  I want to know where I am going and where I have just been.  I want to explore and taste and listen to and observe this place.  I want to know the place from which my people have traveled over the generations.  I want to discover, experience and know my place.

I live on the Gulf Coast of Alabama now. This place is now my home, but it is not my place.  My place is the small house with vinyl siding that sits on the busy shoulder of U.S. Highway 43 in Northport, Alabama.  It definitely isn’t a mansion, but it is still home.

Jerrod as a child, in his "place."

The vinyl siding is stained in some areas, the faux rock siding beginning to show the wear and tear of many years.  The centipede lawn creeps in and around the roots of many trees, battling for superiority.  The oak trees that were once small enough for a child to place his hands around, are now providing formidable shade for the home’s inhabitants.  The back yard echoes years of children’s joyful screams. Momma and Daddy have recently moved from this house, just up the hill, but it is still my home, my place.

This house used to claim an address in the country, away from the clamor of city life and even suburban sprawl.  Now it is simply landlocked between the thriving strip malls of the asphalt village and the booming suburbs in the north part of the county.  It seems as if the asphalt is moving increasingly towards this community. Soon multi lane highways and convenience stores and cheap storefronts will twist snake-like, north to south, engulfing the small home and the memories that go with it.

The Brown family continues to grow around this simple axis.  I am the lone child to settle more than two-hundred yards away from this place.  But when I come home to this place I look at that house, I see my life in short form.   I may only see with the naked eye, but the heart perceives 42 years of living, in the shape of sand boxes, trees, steeples, houses, roads, and people.

Photo by Destiny Church

Perhaps this place is not where this story ends, but where it begins: on the back porch of the little vinyl-clad house, looking out over life and remembering my story, a story unfinished. No matter where this journey leads, this Real Southern Man will never be very far from this place.

My place.

“In the South, perhaps more than any other region, we go back to our home in dreams and memories, hoping it remains what it was on a lazy, still summer’s day twenty years ago”
–Willie Morris

2 Responses to “My Place”

  1. This is fantastically written, Jerrod, and I know exactly what you mean.


  1. Real Southern Men Get Personal | Real Southern Men - June 14, 2011

    […] It could be Jerrod Brown’s meditations on the nature of home in “My Place.” […]

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