Updated: Jun 30, 2020
The process has been ever so gradual that I rarely paid attention. It’s as if it happened in a blink of an eye, without any influence from his parents. Clearly, we do not know that much about Southern ways, with the exception of what we’ve seen these past six years. We grew up in the Northeast – New York and Connecticut, respectively. Our perceptions of how things should be, based on what we know and ingrained in our psyche, are what we consider the way things are. Slowly, the tough exterior and hardened reactions as well as all the baggage we brought with us to North Carolina are being chipped away. These preconceived notions are evaporating before us, and more quickly with our offspring (with the exception of driving as he has developed a truck driver mouth just like his mother!). Please don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing, in fact, it is quite good and most enjoyable to watch him flourish (with the exception of truck driver mouth!).
More importantly, he is growing up, much too quickly for my liking. Junior year of High School, Track A &B, Honors, AP classes, leaving school during lunch, an after school job, and driving past 9:00 PM?! I’m not sure I am cut out for all the dramatic changes happening in my little boy’s life. The day he left for kindergarten was only yesterday. If I close my eyes, I can see him as he was, energetic and excited and feel his little arms around me, hugging me goodbye at the bus stop. Just last week, I sent him to roam around NYC for an entire week – by himself. With the start of school happening in a few weeks, I often get sentimental around this time of year.
There was a seismic shift the day I really realized how he was pronouncing words with a slight intonation that is unlike my own. As words freely roll off my tongue, he mocks me when I order ‘cawfee’ or when I mention that I am from ‘Lawngilin’. And people, let me tell you something, I don’t think I have a strong accent. A few summers ago, we visited our New York friends over the summer break and his childhood friends told him he sounded different. That he was the one with the accent.
Recently, I took him shopping to buy clothes, since he has outgrown everything and low and behold, he opened the door for me, and let me go ahead of him, even without asking! I was well beyond surprised and then it dawned on me that he was growing well beyond his frame. Mind you, this happened once. I’ll take it!
As I have previously written, my son attended sleep away camp in Cleveland, GA. If we didn’t think Raleigh was south, we sent him further down I-95 to get the full experience. It is approximately 5-6 hours south of Raleigh and considered right outside of Atlanta, GA. (https://lspostyn.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/as-the-bus-pulls-away/ and https://lspostyn.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/before-the-bus-pulls-away-part-2/) After each summer, we noticed slight changes within him. When he said “Pardon me” I nearly stopped in my tracks. What I would expect from a 16 year old is to say “wha?” without the t, or a “ugghhh” spread out over a few seconds spewing from his mouth while he shrugged his shoulders. That still does happen a little too frequently in my book, and one cannot change their habits all that much at 16. This summer though, he decided not to go back to camp, and while I loved him being home, I missed the excitement of waiting to see what changes were in store for us.
More and more though, his manner, his speech, his taste in clothing and now….wait for it – his taste in music.
Last summer, when he asked ‘Mom, can I to go to a Luke Bryan concert?’ I knew the transformation was complete. I wasn’t sure who Luke Bryan was given that my musical tastes are clearly stuck in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Life has come full circle. I seem to recall my reaction was quite similar my parents’ who asked me the same questions I did with suspicion and a raised brow. My first concert was at Madison Square Garden seeing the Kinks and my parents’ perplexed brow said it all.
I know that a lot of what has transpired over these few years has been a collective influence, our present environment, and the warm and loving people around us. I am confident my son would still be a polite young man even if we were still living in New York, however, the slight changes have had a profound effect on me. Thank you Ma’am, now goes a long way and I’ve accepted this as my way of life and clearly so has he.
As I observe this young man grow into the person he is supposed to be and continue on his journey, I am thrilled that he has embraced the cultural shift yet, I do not want him to forget where he came from, and more importantly where I came from – Long Island, Baby! Watching from the sidelines, enjoying the growth of this man-child develop as an individual, with influences from other places, not just the North East has been one of the highlights of my life. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.
If he starts calling me Big Mama (or for that matter Little Mama – since he now towers over me), Moo Moo, or Mama L, I think I may have a bigger problem than just cultural ones.