So who are you now when you are alone?

I live one mile from the hospital where I was born, but nearly 500 miles from the city where I was raised. My parents, siblings and I moved to Jacksonville, Fla., in 1988, leaving behind the city where my parents grew up. When we got to Florida and didn’t have a palm tree in our yard, I was certain it meant we should turn around and head back to Alabama.

It took 15 years, but I returned to Alabama in 2003. And in the nearly decade since, I’ve found that my family history is still all over this city. I’ve had Vulcan Park and Museum on the mind a lot lately, and whenever I think of that most visible landmark, I think of my namesake. When my Pepaw, Carl Eugene Vann, died, the family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to either Vulcan or TEARS Animal Rescue. (Pepaw would love my cat Mac, and I’m sure she would be obsessed with him as well. He always had a way with animals.)

When Birmingham magazine ran its annual cutest pet contest last summer, one of the staff favorites was a litter of kittens from a momma cat who was rescued at South Highland Presbyterian Church. It wasn’t a surprise when I realized the owner of those cats knew my Uncle Joe, who was there the night momma was found.

One of my best buddies at work is a fellow animal lover who has known my Aunt Laura for about as long as I’ve been alive. Joey and Veronica Kennedy have long ties to Birmingham magazine and my family, and I feel like they’ve become extended family. (They’re also particularly adept at adopting people.)

This summer, a friend of the Kennedys and mine realized that my Pepaw’s brother, who we call Uncle Andy, is her Papaw’s best friend. When she asked her Papaw if he knew Andy’s brother Carl, his response was, “You mean Sorghum?” If he knew my Pepaw’s nickname, then I’m betting he knew Pepaw fairly well.

Although I haven’t yet lured my parents or siblings back to Birmingham, this city is where the roots of my family tree are concentrated. I can’t put my finger on what makes Birmingham my home, but perhaps it’s just that my DNA is tied up in this town.

This #bloglikecrazy topic was to write about family. With the holidays upon us, it’s often on our minds, and I’m glad I got to see my parents and brother over Thanksgiving. Today’s subject line is from the Sandra McCracken song “Family Name.” 

7 Comments

Filed under #bloglikecrazy, Autobiography

7 Responses to So who are you now when you are alone?

  1. Didn’t know most of those facts about our family. When I remember most about Pepaw’s funeral was the abundance of Stargazer Lilies (though they didn’t ask for flowers). Whenever people have them at their weddings, I always have to fight the feeling that it is a personal assault against me. Pepaw was the best. 🙂

    • I don’t remember that! Next time you’re here, I’ll take you to pepaw’s brick. I’ll also email you a cool grandmother Perkins story. It was too long and complicated to fit here, but I suppose I could and should have mentioned GP and Mimi’s involvement in the Fern Society.

  2. I wish my family had deeper roots, but in the 1950s the different parts of my family dispersed. My mom’s side is more concentrated, but the closest tie I have to my roots in Galax is a 1970s Galax Fiddlers Convention t-shirt that my mom passed down to me.

  3. My roots run deep in this city as well. It seems everyone I meet older than 50 that grew up in Birmingham was taught English by either my grandmother or great-grandmother. I love the ties that bind in this big town.

  4. Laura Gallitz

    My family has lived in Birmingham for over 100 years. From my UAB office, I can walk past my brother’s apartment, and I can walk past the apartment where my great grandmother lived, drive past the office space where my great grandfather had a realty office, across from where my grandmother had a booth in an antique shop, on the street where my other great grandfather drove the streetcar, down the road from the hospital where my parents and grandparents were born and where my office used to be. We have deep roots here on Southside. I could post every day about a connection to my past and never get bored.

    • So, so cool! If my memory serves me correctly, my family moved to the metropolitan area long before there was such a thing. We have roots in the Trussville area dating back to the early 1800s. My family even has long ties to my employer; my aunt worked at Birmingham magazine around the time I was born. I’m fascinated by Birmingham’s history, partly because it is so tied up in my family’s history.

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