Tara was easily the most original character in my year at our highly conservative Christian high school in New Hampshire. She and her family were originally from the New York City area. They lived in southern Maine when I met her, though, and had for many years. Tara identified with the two regions, and you could tell. She enjoyed flirting with backwoods redneck “Mainah” guys, argued New York Yankees baseball enthusiastically with all the rabid Red Sox fans at our school, wore classy black like a good New Yorker, and used the ever-colorful New England accent, complete with a-h's where r's belong, and r's where they do not belong. In many ways, she was the quintessential Yankee-- a New Yorker and a New Englander, contradictory though those two identifications may sometimes be.
In April of our senior year, Tara told me that she was going to be attending the University of Mississippi for college. I was floored, and so was she. She had never thought that she would want to go to college in the South. When she told me about going, I teased her, saying that her perception of Civil War history would be completely altered, that she'd find her Rhett Butler down there (Tara was a Gone With the Wind fanatic), and that she'd come back home saying, “That's wicked cool, y'all!”
When senior year ended, of course, I came here to American, and Tara went to Ole Miss. We didn't talk too much outside of Facebook for most of the year, but early in January I called her and we chatted for two hours. It turned out that the South had really agreed with her. She loved the lifestyle, the weather, her school-- she had even picked up some of the Southern drawl. Her voice had softened a little, and her use of “a-h”s instead of r's had intensified and softened simultaneously-- for example, she started to say “nevah” instead of “never.” And yes-- as I had predicted, she had started saying that truly cross-regional phrase: “That's wicked cool, y'all.”