If you are from Alabama, you know “the look.”
If you are out of town, especially in a metropolitan area, and someone asks where you are from, when you answer you get a look of bewilderment mixed with pity. People who have never lived here or have never even ventured below the Mason-Dixon line just don’t get it.
Why would one choose to live in a third-world country, which is what they envision our state as being. You can just see them picturing miles and miles of dirt and people running around with bare feet, chewing on pieces of straw and playing the “Deliverance” song on banjos.
And sure, we have our problems, ranking near the top or bottom of almost every list you don’t want your state to rank 2nd or 49th in. God bless you, Mississippi.
And our state politicians have certainly done their parts to provide comedians in New York City as well as the national media with plenty of material guaranteed to keep “our sweet home” the laughing stock of the country.
OK, so maybe that look of pity is somewhat understandable.
But it is usually the summertime that always makes me think the joke’s on them because they just don’t know how great we have it down here.
Being able to zip down to Dauphin Island or Gulf Shores or Orange Beach or even just for a Sunday afternoon on the Causeway is something my soul needs.
We are so lucky to have this amazing playground for a backyard and there is no place I would rather live or raise my children than this perfect “third world” coast.
Just this summer, I have enjoyed watching my children have hermit crab races with their friends on the West End, jumping “perfect waves” in Orange Beach and pulling up crab traps and fishing lines.
I have chatted with different girlfriends while sitting in the same beach chair about topics ranging from caring for their toddlers to their ailing parents or from planning weddings to arranging funerals, while our husbands probably talked about more important things like, you know, football and boats.
Just this past weekend, I was once again reminded of the coastal magnificence that surrounds us.
Friends invited us across the bay and our “captain” took us and all of our assorted rugrats ages 2-6 out for a little boat ride over to the “Cold Hole” in Magnolia Springs, which should definitely be a trip on every coastal Alabamian’s bucket list.
It’s like cruising back in time. On the way down the Magnolia River to the “hole,” you see mailboxes on the docks, as it is the only year-round USPS water delivery route in the country. Next to many of the mailboxes, there were signs to watch out for manatees. Though we didn’t see any that day, we did see a few goats helping to “clear the land” on an empty lot.
And the coolness didn’t end there.
One of the homes on the river sits atop a piece of land that is at a higher elevation than many of the others. A lush green lawn runs down from the house on “the hill” all the way to the riverbank. Horses were grazing the land under beautiful old trees. The kids named them Spot and Blacky, for reasons that would be obvious if you saw them.
We finally made it all the way back near the spring and took our turns jumping into the frigid water to escape the heat the last day of July brings.
It literally takes your breath away when you first hit the chilly waters. Being an idiot about such things, I probably would have told you the water was like 40 or 50 degrees because that is just how cold it felt compared to the air, but our captain and another boater who were discussing it speculated it to be somewhere in the high 60s or low 70s. That really doesn’t sound all that cold until you learn that water between 50 and 60 degrees can cause you to stop breathing.
OK, whatever the actual temperature, it was gloriously frigid but didn’t kill us. In fact, once you got used to it, you could feel pockets of hot and cold water and move back and forth between the two. And we all agreed we thought the waters were definitely healing. Sore necks and knees felt better. But maybe we are just crazy.
After we were thoroughly cooled off, we hopped back into the boat and made our way back up the river alongside kayakers and other small boats, as cardinals flew from tree to tree. Everyone had a smile on their face and waved hello. Spot and Blacky were taking a dip themselves next to the bank. I have never seen giant horses roll around in the water like that before.
As we entered Weeks Bay, bottlenose dolphins escorted us back for a bit until they found something better to do.
It really was a perfect day and one I know my kids — at least the oldest one — will never forget. Glimpses of the dolphins and the horses and the feeling of that water as he first jumped in will stay with him forever — even if he finds himself living in a sea of concrete one day. And if his hipster friends (or whatever they are called 20-something years from now) make fun of him for being from Alabama (which I assume will still be a national pastime), he will be able to think of all these wonderful memories and shake his head and say, “Y’all just don’t get it.”
And who knows, maybe, just maybe, all of these memories will lead him back one day to raise his own kids here in this secret, magical land we know as sweet home Alabama.