Monday, May 10, 2010

Leaving Mississippi

Dear Mississippi,
I wouldn't exactly say I was a world traveler.
I've been to several states in this country, many just passing through on my way to somewhere else, and others where I intended to be awhile for one reason or another. But I never intended to visit you, let alone stay with you for quite this long. There were times when I felt you were holding us prisoner, but there were times when I was grateful for your generosity and warmth.
After all, you gave us this wonderful child to take into our hearts and to keep as ours forever.
You gave us mornings of lyrical birdsong. We got to see you at your worst when your thunderstorms forced us to buy umbrellas. We also saw you at your best, when the sun was so bright, we searched out the shade of your magnolia trees, some still carrying the last remnants of faded spring blooms. We inhaled the strong fragrance of your mountain laurel that even as the final stages of spring pollen fell on our faces, arms and in our hair, the bees continued their quest to get drunk on the last of the season's sweet nectar.
We met your people, who never hesitated to meet our eyes, smile and say, "hello, how y'all doin'?" Many even stopped to have short conversations in their deep southern dialect that left us wishing we'd brought along an interpreter.
Nothing moves quickly here. No one is rushing to meet deadlines, checking their watches to make sure they aren't late for something, or hurrying off as if there was still too much to do before they could finish their day. Do they know something we northerners don't.
You've given us so much that I wonder if we can ever repay your hospitality.
While we were anxious to gather our possessions and run back to our real lives, we will always remember the things you gave us.
You gave us your heart, and we can only hope that we left a little of ours with you as well.
You introduced us to the maintenance man painting the hotel laundry room who advised us that "goin' fishin' is the best way to see what our creator gave us."

You introduced us to nurse Linda who with her gentle hands, handed us a gift that is sure to change our lives forever.

We interacted with Trisha, who not only reset our Internet connection on numerous occasions, but always offered us a friendly smile and an "of course," when we asked to send and receive more faxes than a normal person should be expected to handle.

You showed us some of your secrets, historic houses along a meandering roadway, a bustling city that still offers a downtown movie theater as well as furniture and clothing stores. Coming from northern towns and cities where the landscape constantly changes, we worry about what you could be losing when we saw new construction moving out of the city, once rural areas where now box stores and chain restaurants lined streets so new, our GPS thought we were driving through fields when we were clearly on pavement.

We saw empty storefronts in your city, vacant city lots and buildings in such disrepair, their bricks and mortar could no longer hold up what once were sturdy walls.

Just like us, your people wear the latest fashions, designer clothes and funky accessories. They listen to the latest music on their iPods and carry cell phones everywhere they go, but unlike us they also wear smiles they are always more than willing to share.

Your strange configuration of roadways, two way access roads that suddenly turn into one way streets forcing us to find creative ways to get from point A to point B, only reinforced your laid-back attitude. How else would we have found a way to make the Jimmie Rodgers museum an inside joke or express our own styles with purchases we made at The Spotted Pony boutique?

Although we were anxious to leave, please don't take it personally. We only wanted to take our newest, most prized possession and return to our real lives - lives that will forever be changed by your generosity and kindness.

The souvenirs we take home will only temporarily remind us of the time we spent together, but what you gave to our hearts will be with us forever.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

Beautifully said Kathy!