My Own Mississippi

I inherited my Mississippi from my mother at the age of 14.  My mother had been making a pilgrimage from Southern California to her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi since her childhood and now I was deemed old enough to join her. Being a teenager, I did not yet have the appreciation for the great state of Mississippi, but I did know that we had family roots in Mississippi and I wanted to meet my Southern relatives. 

 That first trip back to Mississippi in the summer of 1990 left an imprint on my heart.  I was so excited to arrive and meet the family members I had heard so many stories about, all the while taking in the beauty of the lush and vibrant topography surrounding Jackson. The air was thick and there was a constant humming of insects, but I was in Heaven. During that first trip back, my mother taught me to drive a stick shift in a nearby vacant parking lot, I ate the best homemade fried potatoes in my Aunt Sally’s kitchen, and studied over family photo albums.  And then one night during the most wonderful thunderstorm, my mother and I stood under the aluminum carport cover watching the sky light up with pink lightning while listening to the deep roars of thunder when my newly introduced Cousin Frank yelled from the front door, “Y’all know that lightning can hit that aluminum cover!”  We hightailed it into the house and found my cousin doubled over laughing.

Several years later, my mother and I made the trip back to Jackson, which now looking back was I’m sure a financial hardship on my mother.  I realized how important this place was to my mother and now to myself.  This was her place of peace, a place that held precious memories of her past and future.  During this visit, we met new relatives, enjoyed card games around the dining table, and took long drives throughout Hinds County, narrated with insightful trivia of who lived where and such.

 When the time came for me to pick a college to transfer to, I knew that I was being called back to Mississippi.  I had such faith in my decision that I only applied to one college, Mississippi College.  When I received my acceptance letter, I felt such excitement to start college life in Clinton.  I packed up my car and once again mom and I made the trip back to Mississippi.  Within minutes of driving into Clinton that August of 1997, a sweet couple eating lunch next to us at Wendy’s invited me to their home if ever I got home sick. While the woman gave me directions to her home, I remember thinking that I was definitely in the right place.

I made some wonderful friends during my three years at MC, many of whom I still keep in contact.  I have great memories of sitting with friends on the swing outside of Hederman Hall, sliding down “the bowl” with new friends after a big snow storm my first year, and studying with friends into the wee hours of the morning at the local truck stop in Clinton, which was later torn down shortly after my graduation.

After graduation I returned to Southern California. I missed my mom and I was missing special family events.  However, it wasn’t long before mom and I both felt the call to return to Mississippi.  From then on, we came ready with an agenda. We began seeking out new towns, shops, and restaurants. We also took a drive down memory lane on Longino Street, where my Grandmother grew up in the early 1900’s.  While the grand craftsmen style homes may be gone, life continues through those tall pecan trees that heard the voices of my grandmother and her many siblings playing up and down Longino long ago.

With our itineraries in hand and quizzical looks from relatives, Mom and I took to the highways to explore the towns of Lena, Brookhaven, Hattiesburg, Canton, and more.  We smile when reminiscing about sipping sweet tea on the patio of the old and new Keifer’s; taking pictures of large rolled hay bales along the highway; having our Jackson relatives ask us time and again why we would take our vacations to Mississippi of all places; and sitting in our parked car to wait out a sudden down pour, loving every minute.  

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