Well, hello there. It’s been a while, but I thought I’d drop in again to say hello.
I’ve been awfully busy these past few months, finishing a Master’s degree, revamping our live streaming capabilities at the high school, creating a journalism curriculum (if you can call it that), and living out my version of being an SID for a pretty good high school athletic department. Needless to say, I’ve neglected you, but I’m glad I’m back, even if it is just for a second.
In much the same manner adults get carried away with Netflix binges, certain Disney movies take my kids away on a magical, cyclical ride. Instead of going start to finish from first meeting Jack Bauer to eventually saying farewell to the man, my two watch Bambi first learn about his terrain, revere his father, lose his mother, and take his place in the circle of life (I’ve seen too many of these to actually keep them separated). Our latest tour has been with none other than Princess Tiana, Prince Naveen, Mama Odie, and my personal favorite, Ray the firefly.
After my wife tore our two kids away from the third bout with the evil Dr. Facilier, I sluggishly lingered in front of the TV not really paying attention to the story, but rather the detail and accuracy of Disney’s depiction of the Crescent City. And, believe it or not, that spurred on one of my random wonderings.
Go to Bed. Y’all from Shreveport?
I kept looking at the rendering of Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral, and I half expected to see Café du Monde in the corner and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the background (had to make sure I included that new sponsorship from the Germans). That got me even further down my rabbit trail of thoughts, and I landed on this nugget:
No matter where we are in the country, or in the world for that matter, we are surrounded by an immeasurable amount of culture, and we take it for granted.
Worse than that, we take the fact that we take things for granted for granted. I know. Let me explain.
New Orleans is not that far from Jackson. It’s the pinnacle of Olde South cuisine, art, music, and history. But if I were to go to the Southern Cultural Mecca from Mississippi’s capital city, there is so much I would need to digest before actually getting to the origin of Jazz. I’d need to about face and go visit Yazoo City, Jackson itself (particularly establishments like The Big Apple Inn or the Mayflower to name a couple), Port Gibson, Tchoula, Vicksburg, Natchez, and the list goes on and on.
I’ve been surrounded by these places for (as of this up-and-coming Thursday) 32 years of my life. Have I once truly appreciated Willie Morris’s Natchez or the riverside ports of Vicksburg? Have I internalized the utter beauty and pain in the soil of Natchez? What about appreciating little “po-dunk” towns like Learned or Utica?
The answer is no.
Whatchya Done, Then?
Sure, I’ve visited historical landmarks like the Battle of Raymond. Last summer, my then 14-month-old son and I wandered around the little walking trail off of Hwy. 18. John even climbed up on the cannons we weren’t supposed to touch. The Wifelet and I even took the kids…well, “kid” (the youngest had yet to be born) to see the Windsor Ruins outside of Port Gibson. We walked around the place. Looked up at the tall pillars of what remained of a glorious estate. Got back in our Explorer, and headed home.
We’ve wandered New Orleans. Glanced through Natchez. Gawked at Vicksburg. And we did every bit of this while taking it 100% for granted. And for that, I truly and very thankful.
Hold up. How can you be so thankful of taking things for granted? Because by recognizing how much I actually take for granted, I appreciate what I have and the fact that this is my everyday life.
I’ve been to New York City. I’ve been to London and Oxford, Paris and Marseille. I’ve visited the Bahamas, Key West, Cozumel, and even Billings (that’s Billings, Montana, y’all.) Not one of these places (including Billings) is anywhere close to my degree of normal. But the culture of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and “parts” of Florida are my normal.
I get to take these places for granted not because I’m a spoiled kid who just can’t grasp the significance of his geographical boundaries, but because my world is the same world of Elvis, B.B. King, Willie Morris, Dr. John. William Faulkner, Robert Johnson, Tennessee Williams, Muddy Waters, Eudora Welty, R.L. Burnside, and Junior Kimbrough. It’s the same world as William Winters, Ross Barnett, George Wallace, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, the Little Rock Nine, Emmett Till, and everyone else who fought for and against civil rights.
From the Inside Looking ‘Round
To everyone else—to the outsiders—this place I get to take for granted is a place to observe. To me and “my people” (which includes people of all colors) this is a place where good food is served by people of all colors, and all our backgrounds are a little bruised.
Is this world perfect? No. But are we making strides at bettering our social existence? Most of us, yes. I could do without the humidity, but I think the heat has a magical power that either makes us come alive or simply drives us crazy.
And I’m not blind to the fact that there is still hate and anger lingering through generations, but neither am I blind to the fact that forgiveness and healing go hand-in-hand.
It’s plain to see that I do take this place for granted. And for that, I’m truly grateful.
(Also, maybe we should start making the kids alternate their movies every once in while.)