August 18, 2015
Living here in Georgia reminds me so much of growing up in Philadelphia, South Philadelphia to be exact. I'll explain in a minute; but, first let me provide a little bit of background.
My maternal grandparents were from Poland and although my mother was born in the United States the house I grew up in exhibited many of the traditions, customs or possibly "the ways" of Eastern Europeans. Also, and this may have been a result of growing up in the 1950s and 60s, but my Philly neighborhood (back in the day) mirrors many of the neighborhood doings here in Georgia that I observe every day.
I'll begin at what I call the "Drop In." I think Seinfeld did an entire episode on this topic and it was really funny; however, it has been a LONG time since I've been a part of when guests drop in unexpectedly/unannounced. Here at my Host Family house lots and lots of people just "Drop In." I can hear people as they are coming up the road toward our house hollering the name of my host mother or grandmother. They holler over and over and over again until someone finally comes out to greet and acknowledge them. They are relentless in their appeal for someone to answer them. Sometimes folks drive up and beep the horn until they are acknowledged. Once inside coffee, fruit and maybe candy is offered and everyone sits around for hours (sometimes) and talks. Sometimes the "Drop In" people end up staying overnight, especially if too much wine has been consumed. In any event, everything you were doing prior to their arrival just gets pushed aside and you are captive to another agenda.
The "Drop in" was really so familiar as this is what happened when I was growing up. However, instead of coming up the road people banged on the screen door and hollered into the house until someone answered. Or sometimes, the "Drop In" folks would just walk in. Heavens forbid if you were sleeping or cleaning or anything else; everything stopped and coffee, pastry and whatever else was available was placed on the table and conversation ensued. This was behavior that was par for the course not only in my neighborhood but also the areas that my friends lived in. I thought possibly this is just the way things were done back then.
In my adult life, in Philadelphia where I live, the "Drop In" does not exist any longer. People call and make appointments to tell you or ask you for a day and time to visit. I don't know how to feel about that, really; but, I think I like it better when I know if my time is going to spent in a way different than I originally thought.
Another familiar aspect from my "Philly Days" here in Georgia is how the neighbors holler to each other across the distance of the garden, road or fence. I remember growing up that my mother would stand in the kitchen or go out back into the yard and call out to one of the neighbors. Or, she would call out my name or my brother's name to get us to come home for dinner. It seemed that hollering was the way to go and it is the same here in Georgia. My Host Mother comes out of the house and instead of going over to the neighbor's house she stands on the porch and hollers out the name of the person she was looking for. This goes on and on until someone answers her. It is all so familiar and honestly sometimes very annoying. When I don't expect it the hollering startles me. On many occasions there is a conversation going back and forth and the entire neighborhood is privy to anything that is said.
At times I think that the "Drop-In" or the hollering across distance was the result of not having access to cell phones (as was the case in Philly back in the day); but, today here in Georgia it seems that everyone has a cell phone so it does not have anything to do with not having prior access. This is the way it is done here as it was also the way it was done when I was growing up. In my adult life back in the States people don't holler for each other as much of the time the hollering implies that a problem of some sort exists. At times here in Georgia I am shaken to the core when I hear hollering as I think something is wrong -- but, that is not the case.
The Supra here in Georgia is very similar to the kinds of events I grew up with. Of course back in Philly we didn't call them Supras. I don't know what we called them other than parties. Just as here in Georgia the parties that I grew up with involved lots of drinking. Here in Georgia wine is usually the staple of the event (with cha-cha supplementing the offerings). In the US it was mostly beer that was consumed. The beer was usually in kegs and whiskey was the supplemental drink.
The events were very similar. Lots of toasting was done at both so that is why Supras here in Georgia seemed very familiar. The events went on and on way into the night at times. The difference here in Georgia is that during Supras most of the participants keep wanting me to say that what is available here in Georgia is better than what was available to me back in the United States. I am always taken-back when I am put on the spot like that; however, I just say that the events are sometimes similar or different. Both have value to the people who participate.
I could go on; for example, some of the food here in Georgia are familiar -- like the meat wrapped in cabbage called by my Polish grandmother - Gwumpkie, red beet soup and the Georgian khinkali is very similar to the pierogi that the polish people claim. The huckster was a staple of life when I was growing up. Lots of folks didn't have cars so the huckster with the fruit and vegetable truck would drive up and down the streets honking the horn so people could come out and buy produce. The same is true here. I hear the horn honking and I see the huckster on the road selling his items. I've noticed that when Georgian fathers are driving their cars and need to have a gate open they honk their horns to alert someone to come and open the gate rather than get out of the car. They press on the horn without having an ounce of patience that someone is coming. That was the same situation when I was growing up. Fathers never got out of their cars to open a garage door or to help load stuff into the car. That was done by other folks; as once the father was behind the wheel that was where he stayed.
All of these examples and so many more take me back many, many decades to when I was growing up. I know that Georgia is a developing country so possibly all of the situations that I've discussed here in Georgia will disappear or evolve just like they did in the areas that I grew up in. Yes, living here in Georgia reminds me of how much of my growing up was overshadowed by the Eastern European culture.