Something Special About the South: Making Mississippi My Own

Here’s another in our periodic series about making a home in Mississippi, and feeling that there’s something special about the South!

Summer in Mississippi has a certain stasis. A blanket of humidity covers everything; moving is difficult, energy elusive. I’ve spent a good share of weekend afternoons sleeping, my body unable to cope with the heat in any other way. Yet this stillness brings its blessings; I’ve never fully appreciated a Sunday until I was forced to spend it on my porch, reluctantly reveling in a lazy afternoon because every business in my neighborhood was closed. Life is slower paced here. And as I become used to this slower speed, I’m beginning to feel more at home in Jackson.

A college friend recently came to visit and teased me for the slightly changed cadences of my speech. After a lifetime of being told to speak more slowly, Jackson has finally succeeded in doing what teachers and parents could not. My neighbor joked when I first moved here that she understood why southern accents had developed: it’s too hot in Mississippi to move your mouth as quickly as a New Yorker, so a drawl is natural. My accent is far from southern, but my slowing speech makes me wonder if she was right.

When I returned to the town I grew up in for a recent visit, I drove around with my mouth agape. In just a month and a half, I’ve become accustomed to Jackson, with its porches and potholes. As I drove down smooth roads, past houses that seemed like mansions, it struck me how quickly this adjustment had happened. The town I grew up in felt like a foreign place with its manicured lawns and smooth-driving roads It’s funny how two places, so different, can both feel like home.

To me, home is the small things. It’s getting to know the neighbor’s cat who likes to sit on my porch. It’s learning the running routes in my neighborhood: Oak Ridge, Hawthorn, Crane. It’s pickling watermelon rinds and making popsicles in an attempt to survive the summer heat. It’s the box of fresh Mississippi produce, dirt still on the carrots, that I get every Tuesday. This summer, so many everyday pleasures have blossomed for me here already, from a weekly routine to an earlier bedtime.

I woke up one morning to realize that I felt settled.

Of course, I know this small routine of home is about to change. My job as an ISJL Education Fellow requires a lot of travel, which will interrupt my patterns of being home here in Jackson. I’ve been anticipating these visits for months, wondering even before I moved to Jackson where my travels would take me – what corners of the country, previously unbeknownst to me, I would come to love. My weekly routine is about to be broken up by a string of new states, sights, and experiences. My neighbor’s cat will be replaced by gracious home hospitality, and learning the streets of my neighborhood will be put on hold while I learn the freeways of the South.

When I think about the possibilities this brings, I can’t wait to hit the road… and then come home, to my house here in Jackson. (Check out my porch in the photo above.) My sense of home will expand in new ways that I cannot imagine now, just as two months ago I could not imagine what my life in Jackson would be.

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