Last month, Stephanie and I took the kids to North Carolina for a long weekend. After a long summer, we were all on the mend emotionally and physically, so it was critical for us to take the children away for a weekend of fun and frivolity. So Stephanie and I decided that our anniversary gift to each other was a family trip back to Raleigh, North Carolina to have dinner once again at the Melting Pot restaurant.
As we planned our trip, the hotel we wanted to stay at was close to full and had very few non-smoking rooms left. As we perused other hotels in the area, I went back to the original hotel and realized that for an extra four dollars per person, per day that we could upgrade our reservations to the executive level. The cost was irrelevant at the time because it was still a better deal than all of the other hotels we had been considering.
When we arrived at our hotel on Columbus Day weekend, we realized that there was a conference being held in our hotel. As it turns out, the conference was the reason we had to elevate our reservations to the executive level and I am glad that Stephanie and I chose this option.
Our floor had an executive lounge that came with many amenities that ultimately lowered the cost of our stay and gave us another place to unwind besides our hotel room. The executive lounge hosted a free breakfast each morning, free snacks and soft drinks all day long and an evening “cocktail reception.” For me, the large screen television and the couch were a great benefit. After the children went to bed, I was able to leave the room and watch television elsewhere so I didn’t keep the kids up all night. And, as luck would have it, I was in the executive lounge when I inevitably met the “Mississippi Girls.”
I was watching the second game of the AL Championship game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays when a group of women came into the executive lounge and sat at the tables behind the couch. They were laughing about the week they had just had and about the stories of their youth.
I muted the television so they could spend time together without the baseball game interfering with their conversations. As they were getting ready to pose for various group pictures, I offered to take the portraits so that they could all be in the pictures together. After I took several pictures for them, the group included me in the rest of their conversations. I had fun as we swapped stories from all around the country and I learned about the philosophy of their group. And for a brief moment in time, I was included in the camaraderie of the group that they themselves had dubbed the “Mississippi Girls.”
In order to be respectful to the “Mississippi Girls,” I will not share the stories, memories or the backgrounds of any member of the group. It isn’t important to the story and besides, what happens between the “Mississippi Girls” stays with the “Mississippi Girls.” The stories belong to them; it is their history, their memories and their vacation.
What is important in this piece is what the “Mississippi Girls” represent. We all live in a global society which, for the most part, is a foreign concept to our parents and our grandparents. When our relatives grew up and it was time for them to start their own lives, they bought a house in the neighborhood, continued life long friendships, had large family gatherings on weekends and holidays, and they wore the “born and raised here” or “lifelong resident” badge of honor with pride. But as generations have changed hands and the world has technologically evolved, more and more of us find ourselves moving further away from our birthplaces in pursuit of a better job, a better life or in search of something new. And ultimately, for so many of us, that means losing touch with our past friendships and traditions.
The “Mississippi Girls,” on the other hand, have kept their youth and their home town alive in their hearts. They stay in touch. They continue to hold “home” dear to them and they make their past an important part of their lives. And once a year, they plan a trip to a new destination and for one week, they leave their husbands, children, work and their community friends behind and return to a home that has held a special place for them in their lives; Mississippi.
Although they may not physically go home to Mississippi, they have found truth in a statement that so many of us believe in; “home is where the heart is.” The idea of spending a week with the people they love, grew up with, learned from and in many respects, were responsible in helping shape who they all have become in their lives has the same meaning as physically going home again. Through their lifelong relationships, they are able to reaffirm a bond between them that started many years ago in the great state of Mississippi.
The “Mississippi Girls” have not lost touch with their own personal history. They may have moved on in the world and they may have all ended up on different types of personal journeys. But whether it was a spouse, a career, or just a vivacious need to explore the world outside what seemed like the confines of the hometown borders, the “Mississippi Girls” have left their home town and taken up residence elsewhere in the country. But every year, for one important week, they all get to go home again and spend quality time with their sisters; and in every sense of the phrase, they keep home alive in their hearts.
I envy the “Mississippi Girls.” I have told stories about the adventures of some of my friends, or how a friend or two has helped us out, but I am a product of a global society. I have lost touch with my home town. I don’t see or even communicate with any of the people I grew up with in Roxbury, Ct. I don’t know what they do for work, if they are single or married, if they have children or most importantly, if they are happy with how their lives have turned out. Roxbury has become a place where I lived and a place where I knew so many good people with whom I have lost touch over the years as life has taken me on my own personal expedition. My past, along with Roxbury, has become a distant memory. A place that I can visit physically but it will never be a place where I can “go home again.”
To the “Mississippi Girls,” I am thankful for having met all of you. You taught me so much about myself and the connections I have made in my life. You taught me about many aspects of my life that I might not ever know again. Home is where the heart is but more importantly than that, families are given but friends are chosen; and true friends become our family. The “Mississippi Girls” have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that if you work hard at the relationships that are important in your life, then yes; you can go home again!