Life in Mississippi has been compared to many things: a quilt, a gumbo, fabric. I think of it as a cobbler.
One cannot find it anywhere else in the world. To the unacquainted it looks messy. The right mix of ingredients cannot be found anywhere else on Earth, and life in Mississippi is delicious.
1. Food: Shrimp and cheese grits. Lemon ice box pie, BBQ, turnip greens and black-eyed peas with hot pepper sauce. Catfish and hush puppies. Crawfish. Cobbler. Yeast rolls. Fried okra. Cole slaw. Sweet tea. Mississippi mud pie. Biscuits and gravy. Chicken-fried steak. Dammit. I should have listed food last – I’m starving.
2. Mississippi accents and colloquialisms. Bless your heart. Don’t be ugly to your (sister, brother cousin). Carry me to (school, church, Piggly Wiggly). Act like you’re somebody. Hear tell. Full of beans. Come sit a spell. Be there directly. Ice box. Catawampus, Yes, ma’am and no, sir. And, drum roll please — y’all.
3. College football Saturdays. Explaining the myriad delights of a football Saturday in the South to anyone who has not enjoyed them may be impossible – like trying to describe the ocean to a blind man. If I ever could enlighten Yankees to the charms of a football Saturday in the south, it would be my Pulitzer Prize.
4. Magnolia grandiflora. This grand old tree — the scented flowers of which the Indians claimed would lull a soul into perpetual sleep — grows nowhere else but the Deep South.
5. Natural chivalry, manners, hospitality and respect. Opening doors and standing when ladies enter a room. Helping others at all times. Thank-you notes. Entertaining often and informally. Engaging elderly folk. Southern etiquette is bone-deep instinct.
6. History. Inescapable and heavy as a wet blanket: Old country roads, barns and gins, Indian mounds, Ole Man River, ruined mansions, town squares with benches, shade trees, and ancient, heaving sidewalks.
7. Neighbors. In the South you know about their families, you ask about their families. You listen. You take their hand. Then you get invited over for tea, then cocktails, then dinner. Next thing you know it’s midnight. Just like that.
8. Architecture. Grand old mansions, sharecropper shacks, country churches, courthouses, and wrought iron fences. Columns, balconies, winding staircases, plantation shutters, tin roofs, and red clay bricks.
9. Gardeners. Ladies tending garden in white dresses, aprons, gloves, banded wide-rimmed straw hats, and wicker baskets with lots of clippings.
10. The air. To paraphrase Tom Robbins: “Mississippi in spring is an obscene phone call from nature. Honeysuckle, gardenia, magnolia, azalea. Moist, sultry and secretive.”
As with all things, there is a price to pay. If you are far from home and confess your love for Mississippi, your companions will not understand — and this will be the loneliest moment in your life.
Tim Heaton is a HottyToddy.com contributor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.