If you have ever physically moved away from where you have lived for sixteen years, and feel excited about it, then I for one say, "Good for you!" You are willing to step out of the box, your comfort zone, and experience something new. I did this very thing. Being a true GRITS (Girl Raised in the South) girl, this was a major dot deal, especially to my friends. They all stood in amazement that I would attempt such a wild and crazy thing. Of course, they knew me well and this was most definitely not the first wild and crazy thing they have ever witnessed me doing. Before the man that I thought that I was in love with popped the question, we had conversations of where we would live if we did marry. He had the much higher paying job than a teacher's salary, so there really wasn't much of anything to discuss. Up to the North it would be!
Being young and carefree, I thought that it would be a wonderful experience to live in a totally different environment than Texas, Mississippi or Tennessee. I can tell you that it was an experience, for sure. Sometimes wonderful and sometimes I questioned myself about what the hell was I thinking when I said yes. For one thing, it gave me a whole new perspective on life in general. In my opinion, now at my age based on what I know, this is always a good thing. At the time, not so much!
Before the wedding, I visited to meet his family and friends, as well as to find a house where we would live. One of the first things that reached out and slapped me across the face was when I was introduced to my soon to be mother-in-law. She curtly asked to see my ring. I gave her my hand and she stared at it and then stated with the attitude of a shark ready to devour her prey, "You know that MY son is NOT rich!" The said ring was a simple 1 carat diamond. So now I know that I am most definitely not welcomed as a soon to be daughter-in-law, but as a female after her son's money! Probably a time to run there and then. Did I? No!
Friends of his were welcoming, yet also a bit taken back by the southern drawl, no matter how hard I tried to conceal it, it just slipped out. I could see that they heard "red-neck" and not a soft southern drawl. Comments were made to me that I did not have to wear make up or dress up to meet them for a boat ride on the Susquehanna River or to go to a Penn State football game. I told them what I was wearing was my casual clothing and that I have always been taught by my Mom and Grandmother to wear makeup and to dress in style for the event that I would be attending. I even went on to explain how dorm and sorority mothers teach the young women how to dress the part for different occasions, so it was pretty much who I was at this stage of my life.
Let's back up to the football game. I will say that Penn State knows how to have tail gate parties very well, just not dress for them the way that an Ole Miss coed would dress. That is okay. Every place has their own traditions. I was aware that I took them by surprise. It was as if they were expecting characters from TV shows that portrayed women of the South, such as Petticoat Junction or The Dukes of Hazard. In other words, there were ways that I burst their bubble on that misinformation.
However, just let me take off my shoes at home and go barefoot? Then the teasing came in based on the fact that they had always heard that women of the South are all barefoot and pregnant. It did not help much, that soon after our wedding, I was indeed pregnant. The teasing got to be a little too much at times. Feeling outnumbered, I usually just went on about my business and ignored what I felt was totally inappropriate rudeness. I, after all did not make fun of them calling out "you's" to my "y'all.
Another huge difference was the weather. My first October in Pennsylvania was beautiful, although a bit chillier than I was ever used to in the South. It made up for the chilliness with the colorful fall trees. That is until 6 inches of snow fell. IN OCTOBER! This blew my mind. I had a husband out of town working (which was quite often) and there I was alone to deal with shoveling sidewalks and driveways, because I was told (and it was true) that I would be fined if I did not have it cleared within 24 hours. Pregnant and shoveling? A little at a time, I did manage to get it done. In all fairness, once that happened, a company was hired to come over and do the shoveling or snow blowing whenever I needed them to help, which by the way, was quite often.
New experiences were happening all around me. One day, I heard a loud engine outside of our home. I looked out just in time to see a man getting out of his big tanker truck, pulling on a big gas hose from the back of his truck and hauling it up to our home. What was he doing? My wild imagination was going over the edge at this point. Was he going to ignite our house? What could he possibly be doing? I was trying to call my husband to find out just as this man was walking between our home and a neighbor's home. He was placing the nozzle into something on the side of our house when my husband answered the phone. He was able to calm me down by letting me know that this was how fuel was pumped into our home in order to heat the house. At least the older homes, of which we had purchased had this type of heating. OMG Who knew?
It just so happened that the same day, a man showed up on the front porch to say he needed to come in to get to the basement so that he could read our meter. Again, another call to my husband. I had never heard of such a thing, yet it was true. I had to let this man in our home to go trudging through the house in order to go down to the basement to read the meter. Who knows at this point what the meter was for? Gas? Water? Electricity? All of the above? It just seemed barbaric to me.
Hormones and anxiety kicked in for sure. I made a call home crying to my Mother that I needed to come home because I had made a terrible mistake. She listened and she tried to calm me, yet I still don't think she heard me totally. It was a year basically of one catastrophic (at least in my mind) event after another. Every once in while, I met some new friends and neighbors who embraced my diversity as much as I embraced theirs. In fact, we are still friends through Christmas cards and Face Book.
Then, the one most beautiful thing in the whole world did arrive. A beautiful baby girl came and helped to take everything else away, sort of like the Calgon commercial. I was focused on being a good Mom to a precious adorable little girl. So in fairness, at least for the time being, Jennifer did arrive "to take me away." Just so the story does not leave you dangling with wonder of what next? Eighteen months later a handsome baby boy arrived. Douglas stole our hearts and by now with two infants, I most definitely did not have time to focus totally on me. There were two cherished children that kept my attention totally. No longer was it about me. Children have a way of doing that to a Mom. So my years in Pennsylvania was not so much of an exile, as it was a journey in exploring an entirely different culture.