Friday, March 13, 2009

Mississippi Magic

Growing up with my dad in the military we didn't get to visit my grandparents in Mississippi very often. Usually it was either a week in the summer or a week at Christmastime.

I can remember as we would be driving in, closer and closer to the marvelous house I knew so well. The highway would wind through tall trees that dripped with kudzu vines. My sister and I called it our Mississippi jungle. We'd pass the little church where our parents were married (and at least 3 pairs of aunts and uncles) then more woods. There on the right was the road to our aunt's house. Up on that hill, that white house was our mother's cousin's home. Then the road would bend and there is was, down off the highway, a gravel drive, magnolia tree, vegetable garden, and a small, little house that never felt small to us.

My family was not wealthy, generally more the opposite.

My grandparents did not have a switch to turn their dining room light on and off. We, or rather, an adult, had to reach up and give the bulb a twist, making sure to cover their hand with a wash rag if the bulb had been on a while. I have no idea how they came to be without a light switch back then. In the years since then that problem has been fixed.

The only interior room to have a door was the combination bathroom/laundry room. All of the bedrooms had old quilts nailed up in the doorways.

That was probably wise. The floor was so warped that the bathroom door had the tendency to jam after opening only a few feet.

My mother's stepmother always had a parakeet. I don't think it was ever the same bird from one visit to the next, but there was always a bird in the dining room.

The front door was never used, too many old refrigerators or freezers or hub caps to be convenient. The side door was more easily reached anyway, and safer. There were wasps on the porch, so we never played there, even if old hub caps and freezers did seem cool.

Those visits were a chance for three kids from the suburbs to be free for a while from The Brady Bunch and The Jetsons and just see what there was to be seen. We could build our own fun from there.

Sometimes there were chickens we weren't allowed to chase, sometimes not. There were often beagles in the wooden pen that my grandfather used to hunt. We weren't allowed near the pen either.

I don't know what that pen was built for originally, but my earliest memory of it was it housing pigs. I guess dogs was a step up. We didn't really want to mess with the pen.

Our imaginations could turn the woods behind the house (woefully void of kudzu) into a jungle or wilderness. We would search down the hill for treasure amongst 40 years of junk that had been tossed down there out of view of the house before the county started collecting. (Left over food went to the dogs (or pigs) and junk was tossed down the hill. Broken sewing machines, kitchen chairs, stereo speakers, old boots, 20 year old empty soda bottles, broken eyeglass frames, old broom handles, it was a gold mine.

We were not supposed to play down there.

I love living in Mississippi, even if living somewhere is very different from visiting for a week, and 2009 is very different from 1982. I still love kudzu vines, even though I am not supposed to. I love looking through junk to see wondrous possibilities for fun. I love exploring and learning about the past.

I want to capture some of the magic Mississippi had for me as a kid, for myself as well as for my own children. I am just not sure how. (Tossing all of our broken junk into the backyard not really being where I want to take this.)

Here are DD8 and DD10 trying to roller skate.

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