I’m an Alabama girl. I was born there, raised there and my roots run deep there. If you give me an hour or two, I can give you a detailed run-down of Auburn football, the best restaurants in Birmingham and the backwoods lingo you need to know to make it in the deep South, especially in towns with names like Wetumpka and Opelika. My state is quirky and blatantly southern, but when I sing “Sweet Home Alabama,” I mean it.
When I moved to Tennessee my freshman year of college, I wasn’t a huge fan of my new home. Jackson wasn’t interesting enough, fun enough or anything enough. The town – and really the entire state – seemed like nothing special. But Tennesseans had pride, a good pride that I wanted to be a part of, so I knew there must be something special there that I hadn’t seen yet. I gave my new state a shot.
It’s now been two years. Two sweet years living in the state I’ve found a deeper love for than any other place on earth (yes, including Alabama). It took some time, some exploring and some eyes-wide-open moments in the cultural, eclectic heart of Memphis, the winding, scenic roads of Chattanooga and Nashville’s concert halls and coffee shops. Out of all of the cities and adventures, however, Jackson has become one of my favorites. The citizens are diverse, hospitable and creative, and when I drive back into the city limits after being away, a sense of relief and comfort overwhelms me, as if I were stepping through the front door of a familiar home, fireplace crackling and coffee pot full.
My sophomore year, I began wearing two bracelets around my left wrist, one with an Alabama charm, the other with a charm of Tennessee dangling from the thin gold bangle. I wore them to remind me of my home. Or rather, my homes. Because what I had found in my first year at Union was that, while I would never lose my Alabama roots, nothing will compare to the belonging I felt and will always feel in Tennessee.
I’ve compiled the sounds of my Tennessee home and experience into a playlist that I have lovingly named, “Ode to Tennessee.” Some of the songs on this playlist remind me of long drives from Alabama back to Tennessee. Others are filled with lyrics written by others who understand why I love the cities, people and culture in this state. And some of these songs take me back to memories made here that I will cherish forever, memories that, even if I move away from my beloved state, will always bring me back home.
You’ll still hear me singing “Sweet Home Alabama” at the top of my lungs, and that will never change. But even louder, you’ll hear, “Rocky Top, you’ll always be home sweet home to me.”