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North Dakota Accent

April 14, 2009

Sometimes it’s not what a person says but the way they say it that makes you feel totally at home.

Until Sunday, I’d never spent a single holiday away from at least some member of my family.  My holidays have not always been spent with my parents, but I have at least been able to find a grandmother or an aunt and uncle to hang out with during those special days that are always more enjoyable in direct relation to the number of family members you get to see in the shortest amount of time.

But I’d also never lived 900 miles away from my closest family either.

Fiddler, who I mention here on occasion, is originally from North Dakota.  It’s where we met, actually, in college, as members of the jazz band.  I was working on an audition and our director approached me after a practice to loan me some music, and Fiddler asked what it was for.  I told him about the school I was auditioning for and his eyes immediately lit up and he said, “You’re moving to Nashville?”

“I hope so,” I replied.
“I’m going too! … Someday.”

And that is when I knew the two of us were going to become very good friends.

And we have been very good friends for a long time, but since my move, he and his roommate and me and mine have become a little bit of a family.  We’ve celebrated together and hung out for no reason.  We’ve had big plans and have sat around with each other doing nothing at all.

So when Easter rolled around, it only made sense that we’d all spend it together.

But here’s the best part:
Fiddler’s parents flew down for the weekend.

Like I said, Fiddler is from North Dakota, and you all know that I’m also very much a Northerner.  Even so, we are surrounded by the sounds of the south every day, and being the musicians that we are, we listen.  Still, I’m reminded often that I do not speak like I am a native, that I sound like I am from The North, so what I heard on Sunday surprised me.

Roomie and I drove out to the house and let ourselves in the kitchen door.  There were two, beautiful familiar faces smiling at us, and as Papa Fiddler hugged me, he said,

“Happy Easter!”

And in my head, I went, “Whoa.”

Hello, North Dakota accent.

Fiddler and I don’t speak like we’re from the South, but we sure don’t speak like that anymore either.

Roomie had to hold back tickled laughter every time Papa Fiddler transitioned into one of his long, bright-eyed stories, and he had many of them.  Me though?  I missed most of the stories.  I couldn’t tell you what on earth he was talking about– I was just listening to those beautifully long “O”s and “E”s.

Growing up in Montana, I hated what we called the North Dakota Accent.  My brother and I routinely made fun of my mother for being from North Dakota just because of that accent.  She didn’t have it because she’d been in Montana for so long, but much of her family still did and she denied up and down that such a thing even existed.  When we moved to Minnesota, we discovered that the North Dakota Accent was just a watered down, less intense Minnesota Accent, and lamented the fact that we’d soon sound that way.  I tried my very hardest not to pick it up, but it happened.  Every now and then I’d listen to myself say something and cringe.  And then I’d say it to myself again and again, trying to correct it, but couldn’t remember how it was supposed to feel in my mouth or how it was supposed to sound at all, and I’d give up and remind myself that I wouldn’t be in Minnesota forever.

And I’m glad I don’t speak like that anymore.

But all day Sunday I sat listening to Mama and Papa Fiddler, and I realized I really didn’t hate the way it sounded anymore.

I kind of loved it.

It made the holiday feel a little more like home.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 14, 2009 1:32 am

    horray for a little piece of home.

    I hope your Easter was delicious, my friend.

  2. April 14, 2009 7:32 am

    You’re so good at these familial, home-related topics.

  3. Shelley permalink
    April 14, 2009 9:13 am

    I’m glad you don’t hate the accent anymore. I’m afraid I’m going to lose my small Minnesotan accent when I move away from the Midwest. I’m sure I’ll still emphasize my a’s that will draw weird looks and the occasional “what did you say?”

  4. April 14, 2009 9:19 am

    oh man, i LOVE the minnesota accent. i worked in ely, mn for a summer, and i tried picking up as much as i could, and i do a decent job, but i love listening to people talk that are from that part of the country.

  5. April 14, 2009 1:37 pm

    Such a sweet story! I love Louisiana accents — I don’t hear them where I am much — but they make me SO happy. Especially the New Orleans ones.

    Happy belated Easter!

  6. Just Playing Pretend permalink
    April 14, 2009 11:13 pm

    I’ve been told that in Utah we sound like uneducated hillbillies. To me it sounds like home. I completely understand this one. I love you as always.

  7. April 15, 2009 10:29 am

    I absolutely loved reading this post. I’m a wannabe linguist at heart (I mean, my favorite part of college was learning the International Phonetic Alphabet and I’d write letters to my roommates in IPA…). But I’m from California. And in California we TOTALLY don’t have accents. ;-) I dream of moving somewhere completely different and acquiring bits and pieces of a new accent.

    Anyway, great post!

  8. April 16, 2009 2:59 pm

    oh man, accents. i love them so much. i’m glad you had a cozy easter :)

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