Home for me is no longer Tallahassee, Florida and it hasn't been for quite a long time, though it took a while for me to really feel at home in Ottawa after I moved here. Even so, I still refer to Tally as "home" - after all, that is where I spent the majority of my first 23 years of life. In November, I celebrate my tenth anniversary of living in the Great White North and after all this time there are still a lot of things I miss from my hometown apart from the family and friends still there. In no particular order:
Sonny's BBQ - Many BBQ connoisseurs would say that Sonny's isn't "real" BBQ. That's fine with me; I'm not as picky as the BBQ connoisseurs (Paul!). The thing is, it's really good! It's not all that healthy - most "southern" food isn't. Everyone who goes to Sonny's knows which sauce they prefer. For me, it's original (now called mild). I love the sauce so much that I've thought about ordering it to be shipped up here. They charge way too much, so I have to settle for buying a few jars when I'm in town.
Azalea bushes - In Ottawa, many people line their yards with cedar hedges, which is nice. But, in my humble opinion, they simply don't hold a candle to the yards in Tallahassee that are lined with Azaleas. Every March/April as springtime brings everything back to life, these bushes bloom in brilliant shades of pink, white and magenta - all over town (white is my personal favorite). When I'm in Tallahassee, springtime is my favorite season.
Springtime Tallahassee - Since spring is my favorite season in Florida, I love the Springtime Tallahassee festival. My family went to the parade together every year. My older brother was in marching band, so we would watch for him and enjoy the floats and other parade features. When I was in high school, I got to march in the parade too and I loved it. Once we finished the parade route, we'd rush to see the rest of the parade and then check out what was going on in the downtown market that was set up.
Andrew's - My first restaurant job was in 1996/1997 working at Andrew's North - a restaurant that the owner opened during extensive renovations to the downtown location. Working at Andrew's North, I developed a taste for good food. Seriously, I ate at that place all the time. I try to go back at least once every time I'm in Tallahassee to get a Haight Ashbury - my favorite sandwich ever, which (last time I was there a few years ago) was still being served at Andrew's Bar & Grille.
All things FSU - I attended Florida State University, as did both my parents and my Grandma C went there in the days when it was Florida State College for Women (FSCW). Our family are all fans of the football and baseball teams, so I suppose it's a family tradition. Go Seminoles!
Grits - Many people in the north have never had grits, a few have and like them, a few have and don't like them. If you've never seen them, think about Cream of Wheat, but larger grains because it's made from ground up corn, instead of wheat. You also don't sweeten them - they're usually a salted side dish. Mostly, grits are a breakfast staple, served with bacon, eggs and toast. But cheese grits are a favorite when we have fish fries. Fried catfish with cole slaw, cheese grits and hush puppies is a winning combination! One of these days I'll actually remember to bring a box back across the border with me.
Good ol' Southern hospitality - What I think of first when people talk about Southern hospitality is food. Southerners have food at just about every event - minor, major and everything in between. When you're invited to someone's house, the automatic response is typically, "what can I bring?" The big joke at church was that it wasn't a real church function unless food was served. We had donuts Sunday mornings, dinner Sunday evenings, Wednesday night church supper and many potlucks at varying times. Food is central to the culture of Southerners and their hospitality, so it's been an adjustment for me to invite people over to my house and NOT put out food because it isn't generally expected here during non-mealtimes. (Actually, I still do it most of the time anyway. I can't help it.)
Canopy Roads - They're beautiful and a great source of pride in Florida's capital city. I haven't noticed any in and around the areas of Ottawa that I frequent - yet. I used to drive to work every day on canopy roads. It was a great way to start the day and a great way to end it. I even liked driving them at night, even though some sections can be spooky, as pointed out by this Tallahassee blogger/photographer.
The Beach - I'm about as pale a person as you can find, so I don't attempt to tan and I don't swim in the ocean after an unfortunate incident with a jellyfish 18 years ago (I got stung pretty bad). But I LOVE sitting on the beach. If you're an early riser, you can walk to the beach and sit in perfect peace with turquoise water and white sand all around - and practically no people. One of our favorite beaches to visit was St. George Island, just two hours away.
Independence Day/Fourth of July - The happenin' place to be in Tallahassee (at least if you wanted to see the legal fireworks) was Tom Brown Park. There were musical acts, entertainment for kids and sometimes we'd sneak to the old drive-in theatre stage area to play. (We weren't supposed to be near there most years because of its proximity to the fireworks setup.) We ate hot dogs, cotton candy, listened to renditions of "God Bless the USA". When the Star Spangled Banner was sung, the entire crowd would stand with their hands on their hearts, united in support for a country we loved.
Hopefully, as the years go by, I'll get the chance to share each of these things with my son so that he'll come to know this piece of his roots and maybe even feel at "home" there.