Friday, August 21, 2015

Normalcy in Milledgeville, and a Word of Welcome

In my almost 10 years in Milledgeville, I can say with relative certainty that normalcy isn’t our strongest suit here. From our first days as the literal “wild west” of Georgia, the arrival of the first politicians, and the long service of Central State Hospital, the townspeople have seen a steady stream of Misfits. They could be outright charlatans, ill, or just plain eccentric. They could be a doctor, professor, politician, or have no job at all. Such characters are the charm of most any small Southern town, and Milledgeville has fortunately seen its share during its 200+ years. In her own characteristically sardonic way, Flannery herself said that she “attracted the lunatic fringe.” I am fortunate to be in such close proximity to these figures, and some may put even me in the Misfit ranks, though I’d like to point out that I tend to treat little old ladies—even cantankerous ones like the Grandmother from “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”—better than Flannery’s Misfit did.

Since 1879 and the opening of Georgia Military College (then Middle Georgia Military and Agricultural College), Milledgeville has rung in each Autumn by welcoming a new crop of students to its places of higher learning. Flannery, of course, was one of these students, coming onto the campus of Georgia State College for Women for the first time as a student at the Peabody School as a teenager and staying through the completion of a Bachelor’s degree. I think it’s fitting that, each year, our “normal” way of life resumes in this town by welcoming in hundreds of new students—complete strangers—who are still themselves figuring out who they are; they’re Misfits too, after their fashion. A mess of Misfits, at that: better than 1400, according to an unofficial accounting. Those first few weeks away from home are a wonderfully transformative time. As a teacher I invariably share in their enthusiasm. It’s Spring in the dog days of Summer: life returns to the historic district, and the town is alive once more with bright-eyed, eager young people and those who will educate them. The newcomers will learn the ropes of the town: the best places to eat, the best local music acts, the best spots to rest a while. The lucky ones, of course, end up becoming locals themselves eventually.

1400 complete strangers’ coming into one’s own backyard is an O’Connor sort of normal, very fit for someone who, in spite of her illness, welcomed all manner of visitors to her home. We’re proud to carry on that tradition. Indeed, the Flannery and Fashion exhibit on display right now has pictures of Katharine Anne Porter and other travelers to Andalusia. In that spirit, we here at Andalusia invite all the newcomers to our little slice of Milledgeville. Our front porch makes for a wonderful reading room, and the hiking trails and other outdoor activities can be a welcome respite from the rigors of academics. Get acquainted with not only Milledgeville’s most famous resident, but also her (and our) way of life.

-- Daniel Wilkinson, a Freshman himself in the above photo, is an Instructor of English at Georgia College and a Visitor Services Bon Vivant at Andalusia Farm. When not maintaining the Brown-Stetson-Sanford House for Georgia's Old Capital Museum, he can be found at the nearest trivia contest or rehearsing with the First United Methodist Church Choir and the Milledgeville Players. When not with the choirs and tourists, Daniel enjoys Southern literature, handwritten letters, good barbecue, and the Oxford comma.

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