At Play in Mississippi

    I don’t want to give the wrong impression about myself.  Although I may often enjoy fine cuisine and elegant surroundings, as displayed in my recent blog post about our trip to Charleston, there is a large part of me that enjoys no such formalities.  I liken it in a couple of ways. I believe in trying to maintain a sense of composure about me in public, but amongst my family and close friends, there is nothing that I love more than to be totally at ease and a little bit wild.  The Kennedys have Hyannis Port, the Bushes have Kennebunkport, and the Streets have the compound at Darbun.  I am not sure if it is a compound. I don’t know what makes a family dwelling a “compound.” However, probably the wildness that occurs at the Street compound in Darbun does not result in someone having to have their stomach pumped nor does it result in possible felonies.  We are wild a bit more on a PG level. 

I can also explain it in this way.  On most days, I can judge my authenticity and comfort level by the number of times that I feel the need to brush my hair.  The more I feel the need to brush my hair that day, the less comfortable I am in my own skin.  This tells you something about how I felt about myself in high school when I would have a friend of mine brush my hair through most of my debate class.  In calculating this measure, there are a couple of shortcuts that may keep me from feeling the need to brush my hair – pulling my hair back into a ponytail, or using a styling product.  Both of those shortcuts negatively affect my brushing the hair/authenticity spectrum.  If I am doing that, then it is a shortcut.  However, on days like the one that I am about to describe in Mississippi, I only recall brushing my hair once when I woke up that morning.  All day long, I didn’t pull my hair back.  At the end of the day, my hair was a tangled, authentic mess.

On Christmas Eve, my cousin Danielle, her husband Trin, and their three children, as well as an old friend from childhood, Rebecca, her husband Ernie, and their four children, came out to spend the day with us.  It was just an incredibly fun, laid-back, comfortable day.

First off, the multitude of cars in my parents’ driveway (my parents now have five cars, plus the cars of all of their visitors) caused my sister to remark, “With all of these cars here, people are going to think that we are starting a church.”  Hilarious comment if you are in Mississippi and understand that camp meetings and revival movements start just this way.

Then there was the fun.  First, there was a cook-out for lunch.  The best part about these cook-outs is that they are exactly like the way we ate holiday meals and other meals at large family gatherings at Ma-maw and Pa-Paw’s house growing up.  There is no such thing as a table setting, place cards, or any orders about who is to sit where.  You eat your meal wherever you want, more likely than not, sitting in a random spot in the sunlight.

Like on the trailer full of hay attached to the tractor:

Or sitting in the John Deere Gator that you hope to be riding later in the day (As you can see, the overflow of cars continues into the backyard as well:

Of course, the hay indicates that my Dad was going to take us all on a family hayride with one of his tractors.  Cue the holiday carols to sing along the way:

Of course, one of the common themes that reemerges again and again at these gatherings is time for target practice using a variety of different weapons. We believe in safety first, as children are supervised and protective earplugs are used.  No, we are not forming a militia and do not take these photos as any sort of political statement other than sometimes target practice can be fun.

Then, there is the endless gator riding (and four-wheel riding too). This is where we blatantly disregard the manufacturer’s safety instructions to not allow drivers under the age of 16 and to not have passengers sit in the back.We have some safety rules, though. If a kid wants to drive, then an adult must ride shotgun. It was during one of these Gator rounds, that I had a moment of eternal childhood while sitting in the passenger seat to a nine-year old driver. I was holding a kid on my lap, listening to the four kids behind me sing some silly, nonsense song, and I thought, this is a moment taken directly from my childhood. I can remember being the kid in the back, singing a nonsense song and making jokes with my cousins.  That is what Mississippi feels like, the eternal perpetuation of childhood.  My dad and his siblings probably did the exact same thing on a tractor instead of a Gator.  One day, the children of these children will be doing the same thing.

One day, Harry too will move from off his Daddy’s lap and into the driver seat.

Most of this great day I didn’t record with my camera, because I was enjoying too much just being in the moment and didn’t want to step out of being in the moment by grabbing my camera. For example, the day began by riding down to one of the ponds that was a muddy mess. While Knightley decided to wade in and become a muddy mess himself, the kids located a large dirt pile from which they could gather large dirt clods.  They then would throw these dirt clods into the mud to create mini-mud explosions.  Of course, once Sarah became involved in throwing the dirt clods into the mud, the explosions became much more massive as the dirt clods grew larger in size.  It was disgusting and incredibly cathartic. We all couldn’t stop laughing. Within the first ten minutes of being at the house, the kids’ shoes were already caked in mud.

I love it. It is authentic fun that I get to engage in with people who I get to be myself around.

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