Little Man Big Man

We had to put our heads on our desks and raise our hands to vote. There were no paper ballots, no ballot box, just a simple count of hands. This came after each category called for nominations: secretary, treasurer, reporter, representatives, vice president, and president of the class’s 4-H chapter.

I was at the age where I thought formalities like this mattered, and any positive attention or recognition I could get was automatically a good thing. This was fifth grade, and it’s when… Read More …

If I Seemed too Quiet…

At a time in my life when I hated the world and it seemed to reciprocate beyond all expectation, there was always one bright spot—my silly little brother Kevin. I had been the youngest of three kids for 12 years, but I never really felt the part. It got me no special treatment, and if anything I felt like the quintessential middle child from the beginning—and that made perfect sense when Kevin was born five days after my 12th birthday.

To our delight, Kevin was… Read More …

Brushing Ants

When you’re four, the world is a very big place. Every turn is a potential discovery—or a potential danger. Only adults can really help you tell the difference.

For me, the world barely covered two southwest Mississippi counties, but it seemed expansive. Trips to Mamaw’s seemed like an all day chore, even though she lived about 8 miles away. Visiting my father’s family in Brookhaven seemed like driving to another world, and we didn’t have much use to drive to McComb very often, except for the special trip to Winn-Dixie or Rose’s—until the 1975 tornado destroyed them. So we spent most of our time in that little green house near Summit. And it was like heaven for us kids.

We had the pond just across the barbed wire fence, and every rain created a creek that ran into it. We’d sometimes… Read More …

Breaking Comfort

Leave it to a Google+ discussion about American candy imports in the UK to get me thinking about cultural comfort zones, branching out, and embracing the unfamiliar. It seems that his local Tesco now has an endcap dedicated to “quintessential” American imports like peanut butter Snickers, strawberry Fluff, PopTarts, and Butterfinger bars. The prices were quite ridiculous on some items and the selection was, well, strange. He couldn’t understand why such common and random items were imported at all, especially at those prices. I decided it must be because people like to seek out something familiar when in an unfamiliar place, and Americans make… Read More …

Finding Magic

Christmas used to be that one time of year when magic seemed really possible. Every year we’d all pile into our big American-made car for Christmas Eve at Mamaw’s, and on the way home we’d always gaze out the back window, looking at the star-filled sky for some sign of Santa, as we raced home to beat him. After we were too old for that, we’d watch for the equally elusive southern Mississippi snowflake. There was magic to be seen, even if we never saw it.

Christmas meant a twinkling tree, special food, a few unexpected gifts, and Christmas music. That was about it…and it was enough. I don’t remember commercials telling us to give the “gift of asphalt” to our loved ones by getting them a Cadilac. I certainly don’t remember… Read More …

Sticks and Stones…

I’ve always been the type that showed little emotion. I pretended, often quite well, that nothing bothered me. But I was pretending. As much as we’ve all heard the old saying, words can hurt. Words aren’t just empty sounds floating through the air—they have power and meaning that become impressed in our minds and in our souls, sometimes for life.

When I was entering second grade, we moved to the other side of town, away from our friends and to a new school bus route. I became brunt of about 90% of the joking on that new bus—often by high school kids. Yes, I was 7 or 8, and they were 17 and 18. Life certainly isn’t fair, and I never expect it to be. But come on!?

The torment I endured on that bus certainly…
Read More …

Loss of Simple Joys

This picture is very symbolic for what has happened in Mississippi since Katrina roared ashore. This is what we always called “rainbow barn” on I-55 north of Brookhaven, and one of the “happy spots” we saw on a regular basis.

I have no idea who owns the barn or land. Through their simple act of adding a bit of joy to the side of their barn, they’ve always been a part of my life… Read More …