Friday, January 30, 2009
Becoming a City Girl
Left: Downtown Jackson as seen from the rooftop of the 308 Electric Building. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Maynor.)
I didn't realize it when it was happening, but I was very much a "country girl" for the first nine years of my life. City life was non-existent in the Mississippi Delta, at least in the town of only 455 people where we lived. It was not until we moved from the Mississippi Delta to Jackson when I was nine years old that I got my first taste of city life.
We initially lived in a rental house in Richland, Mississippi, southeast of Jackson, while my parents looked for a house to buy. Richland is located in a heavily wooded area of tall pine trees, and at that time, the town still had a "rural" feel to it. It was a long way away from becoming a "city." Many years later now, my brother and his wife have raised their family in that same town. Needless to say, it is somewhat larger and more sophisticated today than when we were in elementary school. Ironically, my nieces and nephew graduated from the same school their father and I attended, and before school each morning, so my newphew told me, students continue the tradition of ringing the old school bell, just as we did, that still sits in its original location on the school's front lawn. Traditions, like this one, are among the many things I treasure about my home state.
In September of the year we moved, my brother and I found out just how rural the area was, when we rode on a school bus for the very first time in our lives. Although we were not sophisticated ourselves, we certainly didn't act like some of the other children who rode that bus. The first morning, we received the "new kid" experience, when a boy on the bus shot corn kernels at us, using a homemade slingshot that was popular with young boys back then. Welcome to the neighborhood, and welcome to fourth grade!
I really don't remember much about our house, school, or neighborhood during the few months we lived there, except that my dad was sick with pneumonia that first month, and we had a goldfish pond in the front yard. I also remember that my teacher, Mrs. Haddon, gave each of her 20-odd students, including me, a small framed picture of herself for Christmas. I thought this was slightly odd; it certainly was not the type of Christmas gift I had expected. I haven't seen Mrs. Haddon since that fourth grade Christmas party, but I still have her picture.
The Richland experience lasted only until the Christmas Holidays of fourth grade. During the Christmas break, in early January, my family moved into the house in northwest Jackson that I would call home until I graduated from high school. It was there that I began life as a "city girl."