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It’s Called the Oxford Square, But Saturday It Was “So Delta” To Me

DSC_0150I was born and raised in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Of course, I live and work in Oxford, and it is most certainly my second home, but there is just something about the Delta that makes a person proud to call it his or her own.

My love for Oxford comes close to that of the Delta, but there are two distinctive lifestyles that, despite the proximity in distance, cannot hold a candle to one another.

For a country girl like me, Oxford culture was more comparable to city life, even though Oxford is considered a small town in every sense of the word. I was so blinded by the rich culture in Oxford when I moved here that I thought, “Oxford is huge!” In reality, there’s no more acreage in Oxford than there is in my hometown of Clarksdale. It felt so big because Oxford has about five times the number of restaurants and places to shop, and the university, of course (which has me praying for summer traffic on Jackson Avenue most of the time).

But it was the ambiance that revolved around an artsy culture that caught my attention. It was one that I could relate to. I was no stranger to the artsy way of life. My heart beats to a Blues rhythm 99 percent of the time. What I wasn’t accustomed to were buildings on almost every plot of land on the Square, with no space between them. I was used to empty parking lots and grain bins, if anything. And, after driving up the hill toward the Square on Jefferson Ave., thinking it would use every drop of gas in my gas tank to make it up that hill, I realized how much I really loved the flatlands. After all, the biggest hill I ever saw in the Delta was the manmade levee.

However, despite all of its differences, I found a piece of that culture I loved, a true Delta aura, at the Double Decker Arts Festival in Oxford, Mississippi.

While roaming the Square this past weekend, I caught a familiar scent. Lea Margaret Hamilton of Greenville, Mississippi, sat in her chair, scanning card after card as the line grew outside of her booth. The crowd couldn’t get enough of her So Delta candles. With scents such as “Blues,” “Sweet Tea,” and “Cotton Row,” I could smell home within yards of the booth.

When Hamilton began So Delta Candle Company in 2009, she wanted to produce a Mississippi manufactured product that would capture the Delta in all of its essence: the smell, the sight, the sound. The culture. She used the purest soy wax she could find and voila. People from across seas, celebrities, (everybody and their momma) were ordering these original candles.

Actress Laura Dern’s assistant gave Hamilton a phone call one day, and said, “We want to buy them for ourselves, and we want to buy some to give as gifts.”

She bought some for actresses Mary Steenburgen and Reese Witherspoon and asked to have them sent to her by the next day. She wanted them in California in time to enjoy the sweet smells while getting dressed for The Oscars.

Hamilton hurried to have them sent immediately and said, “When Hollywood calls, you have to answer.”

Sending candles to Dern, Steenburgen and Witherspoon was a memory Hamilton will forever hold onto, but the most rewarding sale to date was the shipment that made its way to Afghanistan. After an order was placed online, Hamilton read the ZIP code and found that an American soldier was ordering candles from her.

“He ordered ‘Mississippi’ and ‘Cotton Row.’” Hamilton said. “I just kind of put everything into perspective and thought, ‘Gosh, this guy really misses home to be ordering candles that are indicative of his homeland.’ That really touched me. What I’m doing, people really love and appreciate. They are so connected.”

That Saturday on the Square, I felt I could relate to that man who missed home. Sure, Oxford is lovely in everything it has to offer, but that one scent that makes you stop dead in your tracks to take another whiff, that one scent that reminds you of where you came from, who you are, and what you’ll be, puts you in a trance where all you can say is, “So Delta.”

Randall Haley is the social media editor and a staff writer for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at randall.haley@hottytoddy.com.

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