Mississippi in Me

Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s home in Oxford, Mississippi.

With Shelter in Place going on, I’ve been reading more than I have in a long time, and if I’m honest, I’m loving every minute of it! It’s been a really nice change of pace for me. Since there’s no events for work, no baseball on TV, and no restaurants to go dine in, I’ve really settled into a slower pace of life. And interestingly enough, I really want to create a new normal when all of this is over. Don’t get me wrong, this is very hard for so many. I know friends who have had their lives turned upside down, and I’m really blessed to be able to do what I do. But, this whole experience has me wondering if this lifestyle is more of who we are created to be. Instead of going 100 mph, full steam ahead, what if life was more like this every day—more good books being read, more home cooked dinners on the porch, more time with the people we love? Anyway, I digress! That’s not what this post is about. This post is about Mississippi.

I’ve been reading Make Something Good Today by Erin and Ben Napier. It’s a book we’ve had since it was released when we picked up our signed copy at Square Books while visiting Oxford, but I’ve never said down to read it cover to cover, until now. And y’all, it’s making this dude remember what he loves most about his home state. Mississippi has a disputable reputation in many ways, but so many call it a hidden gem, and I’d have to agree with them! Reading through Erin and Ben’s book has reminded me of what Mississippi means to me.

To me, Mississippi is my MawMaw’s house, cooking hamburgers and French fries on a Friday night, or maybe club sandwiches and chips. It’s the way the house feels during a thunderstorm, warm and inviting, yet slightly drafty—cozy. It’s the way the smells from Sunday dinner permeate the entire house. It’s the Easter egg hunts and family get-togethers, and spending the night there on weekends growing up. It’s the forts I built behind the house, the hand-me-down treehouse that was first my uncles, and then became mine. It’s the pecan trees that surround the home and the azaleas that bloom in the spring.

To me, Mississippi is my Mom making homemade biscuits on Saturday morning. It’s waking up to the smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen and enjoying a cup…or two with my Mom in the stillness of the morning. It’s the game nights my parents had with their friends. It’s watching Ole Miss on TV eating sausage dogs (from Wilson’s Meat House) and French fries.

Speaking of fried, to me, Mississippi is fried catfish and hush puppies on a Friday night. My parents owned a catfish and seafood restaurant years ago and while I didn’t always appreciate it then, I look back on it as some of my fondest memories!

To me, Mississippi is our community. It’s the pound cakes that show up on your door unexpectedly. It’s the church fundraisers to raise money for the youth group to go on summer mission trips. It’s the potlucks on Sundays after church. It’s the group of boys that are helping others clean up their yard for spring.

To me, Mississippi is Ole Miss! I love Ole Miss and Oxford so much, and to me, Ole Miss personifies all of it, every bit of what is best about Mississippi.

To me, Mississippi is perfectly located. I used to disagree completely, but if you think about it, New Orleans is just to the south, Memphis is just to the north, and the beach is only a few hours away depending on where you live.

To me, Mississippi is seeing the good. It’s choosing to see the good in people and places. It’s the desire to make things better for our friends and for generations to come.

To me, Mississippi is the day I met my wife. It’s also the day she showed up to my parents restaurant in her Nike tennis shoes, shorts and pullover, with that gorgeous hair falling on her shoulders. That was the day I knew I’d spend the rest of my life with her.

To me, Mississippi is our first date, in Natchez, where I took her to a Thai restaurant that she hated. Then we took a tour on a horse-drawn carriage, and I drove her home and held her hand for the first time.

Reading Erin and Ben’s book has made me realize that no matter where I end up, there will always be a little bit of Mississippi inside of me. And no matter where you’re from, I hope there’s a little inside of you too.

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