July 29, 2005

Charleston and Me...

Lee has put Charleston on my mind. Lee dislikes it but Charleston doesn't necessarily hit me the same way. You see, long before I visited Charleston as an adult...I felt like I had been there, had lived there. Because of my indiscriminate reading habits I had read more than my fair share of books with Charleston. My mind was filled with the rattle of carriages, women as proper as they were wicked, snippets of Gullah, the rhythm of words, the taste of the food.

Aside from the books, there was my love. Especially during the early getting to know you portion of our lives together, long conversations were begun about her Charleston upbringing. Through her words I filled in a more modern Charleston. The carriages gave way to cars, the rambler that braved the Grace Bridge, and the disputed car from grandma. Malls, schools, skating rings (never rinks but rings) joined the slave market and milliner. Bars no longer were the home of gentlemen and scallywags but of a young woman learning of beach volleyball and choices.

My Christmas gift a couple years back was a childfree trip to her hometown. We did the tourist thing - carriage ride, ghost tour, wandering the streets of the historic district. We also roamed to see her childhood neighborhood and haunts of a more modern sort than the ones on the ghost tour.

Charleston isn't perfect, it isn't even honest about its imperfections. The subtext of the carriage tours and what the docents say is clear to those who have spent many a year in the thrall of docents and historians. It is a southern city, with a people who are bittersweet about its past. Charleston is The Holy City that tries to buy its indulgences (of the type bought in the 1500s) but not really changing. The slums are near the mansions. The color lines are drawn. Life in Charleston goes on as it has for hundreds of years. It is a town where "everybody knows" but no one says. It is a town where they know there is a lot to be proud of and a town where they work to make new things that even their grandchildren can be proud of without the whitewash. It is a southern city reinventing while trying to retain its heritage.

I suppose that is why even before I went to Charleston as an adult, it felt like home. I am glad it felt like home even when I arrived. I like to think that like Charleston, I have some of my past to be proud of, some that I whitewash, some that I turn into something good, some of my past still shows and probably always will, but like Charleston it doesn't keep me from going forward, building something my children and grandchildren look on with pride.


Denise said...

HMPH! You beat me to it! You did it nicely but darn it that is just not fair. ;-)

TW said...

Nicely? Really?

I was going to go back and say that in me like in Charleston, those parts I may not advertise in the glossies are also things that people who know me and people who really care to look, see anyway.