Tonight, in Washington DC, E and I went to the rehearsal dinner for a longtime childhood friend of his.
Historically, the south has felt glutinous, but not like home.
E always said I was raised to be a southerner's wife. And, I never knew what he meant. But tonight, I got it. Everything felt comfortable.
The strangers (and long-time between last visit people), they followed polite patterns that put me at ease (which involved presenting their names in case I had forgotten them, which, of *course* I had, if I had even had the pleasure of meeting them, previously).
Everyone agreed upon topics of conversation and the sarcasm was limited to a point where you could count upon the people with whom you were interacting to be either (i) sincere; (ii) slightly, cleverly, and amusingly sardonic; or (iii) obviously out for something like blood that had nothing to do with you that you could sidestep.
I liked the categorical distinctions. I knew where I belonged. Oddly, I found myself feeling more at home in this huge social event full of strangers than I had 3 nights prior at a law-firm summer associate dinner at a partner's house, where the rules were not so rigid, I was surrounded by my coworkers and should have been comfortable. There, based on social cues, I couldn't always guess where people were coming from or headed.
Now there's nothing left but tons of leftover work, a somewhat formal wedding ceremony in a big catholic church (which, also, oddly, is likely to make me feel comfortable, due to my Lutheran upbringing), and of course, interacting with a bunch of people I don't know in the high temperatures while E's family waits in the wings for some time with us.
There is no reason I can think of that explains why I should feel comfortable here. And yet, finally, after years of feeling lost when we visit the South, I do. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I am grateful for E's mom's appreciation and social graces towards us today. We started planning a big international vacation with E's sister this afternoon, so obviously, it's amazing to see her.
After all the struggle and frustration about how much the California girl didn't fit in the South, it finally plays out that, at least this time, she fits here, among strangers, better than she does at home. Who knew?