After I left California, things seemed to change back there for everyone. Places weren't visited. People didn't see each other as much. Routines changed. I was saddened by this and didn't understand why but slowly I realized that the one constant in all these observations is that I wasn't there anymore. Instead of viewing myself as someone on the outside of things, I started to realize that in reality, I was the glue that held certain things together. As I stepped back from my old life, I arrived at a clear understanding of just how I really did fit into that former life. And, I arrived at a whole new view of who I was then and who I am becoming.
Living here, I'm discovering new possibilities of what can fill my life. No one was more surprised than me when I agreed to teach 2nd graders Sunday school. Never in my life have I EVER wanted to work with little kids and yet here I am. And, it's fun. Someone apparently saw something in me that I didn't know was there.
I started going to city council meetings, forming relationships with a waitress and a grocery clerk. People at church were so welcoming and interested in Don and me. We felt included and part of a small but very active Catholic community. I joined the ladies group that handles fundraising activities and endeavors. And in three months, there have been three big events
In the midst of all this, my friend Jane really took me under her wing. Southern views and ways are not California view and ways. How people interact with each other, how people are related to each other, the importance of the generations, going way back, and the feeling that these people are still alive and with us today is like nothing I've experienced before. And, of course, people talk about everybody, but seriously, I haven't heard any trash talking. People can be blunt, especially if a behavior is deemed unseemly, but people are also very forgiving and very kind. There is a connectedness here that I found very unfamiliar and Jane showed me the road map.
I've been a source of amusement to many. Lots of laughter has happened at my expense but none of it mean-spirited. Cotton. - I want to grow a plant. Sweet tea - OMG, I'm choking. That River - yes, the Mississippi, it's sandbars, its barges, its river dikes, its CURRENTS. Pecans - my endless questions of how they are gathered and processed. And, explain to me the cotton picking and corn harvesting machines, and, don't forget about soy beans either.. The accents - and all the forms of English I have heard since arriving here. Mice and snakes and the fact that I don't mind either but they do have their place and that is out-of-doors. Oh, and bugs and cicadas and squirrels (tree rats to the locals). And finally, my total inability to figure out what direction I'm going. It's so bloody FLAT out here.
Everyone belongs to something here. First off there is your church. It's just about the first thing people want to know about you. Lions - a free meal every Thursday night. American Legion and the VFW - another free meal. Covered dish suppers at church. Tons of food and left overs given away. MORE free food. Rotary meets too. I don't know what night they meet but I'm sure it includes a meal.
The local library is the heart of the community. Book club, historical society, movies on Sunday afternoon (there is no cinema in town), rental of fishing rods and bicycles, an Eclipse party, and a crew of staff and volunteers ready to help with whatever you need and knowledgeable in the extreme.
The thing that surprised me the most, outside of teaching catechism to 2nd graders, of course, was my willingness to get involved in - wait for it - football. I WILL confess that I skipped the first game but Don went. We won It was 64-14 at half time and Don walked home Winning was a foregone conclusion. But feeding the team brought it all to a whole different level. For one afternoon, I became a football mom!
Go Caruthersville Tigers. The football team will be here in a couple of hours. Lots of hungry footballers, cheerleaders, coaches, etc. to feed before they get on the road to Maldon for their away game. C'ville has lost to Maldon 4 year in a row. We have great hopes for this year, according to those who follow these sorts of things. After all, there are 22 seniors on the team. That is a lot of combined experience.
By 3:30, the hall had filled and the kids ate like it was their last supper. Many of them came by before they left thanking us for the sandwich spread, shaking hands and giving the occasional hug to one of the ladies they knew well. They took all the leftovers for after the game. They are going to be a really hungry group, win or lose.
And finally - This is the awesome Coach Jimmy Jackson. When we moved to C'ville he recruited several young men to help move us in. He graduated from the same high school he now coaches. Big shout out to Jimmy Jackson and the terrific young men of his athletic program.
My life is very different. I find I have a greater sense of inner peace. There are friends in abundance and a solid understanding of my value that comes from the warm welcome we received. I was never a stranger, just a new someone who needed to be explored and, in a very particular Southern way, approved. Little kids like me. The community fascinates me, the land confuses the heck out of me, crops and farming ways interest me, crawly and/or flying critters unhinged me but I don't mind a mouse or a snake. In fact, I wouldn't mind a snake outside for mouse control. And football. Well, I'm going to learn all about Friday Night Lights at the next home game.