The “Mississippi Girls”

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!

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21 Responses to The “Mississippi Girls”

  1. N.Cornelius says:

    We have been awaiting this post for some time now. I’ve already spread the word that Doug Veeder has updated his website. At this time I’m not sure if all the “Mississippi Girls” have read your post but they will!

    It was great meeting you and your family during your visit to Raleigh, NC. I’m thrilled that you were able to see the strong bonds of our friendships and how we cherish each other. I’m also sure you may have gotten a good chuckle here and there.

    Just an update a lot of the girls where able to reconnect and actually spend time together in Mississippi over the Thanksgiving holidays. This time it was more of a family event and all the kids were involved.

    Plans are already in the making for the yearly event. This time we are taking it to St. Louis. Maybe we will see you there! Until then…Take Care!

    Signed N. Cornelius “Mississippi Girls”

  2. T. Piggee says:

    I was so excited to hear about the posting on “The Mississippi Girls”. When I read the article, it brought me to tears because these ladies have been by my side through some very difficult times. First, let me say that I am so proud of all of us. We have been friends since our primary years. Now we are business owners, accountants, speech pathologist, mothers etc… We all have a reason for keeping that connection and we all have a story to tell regarding the closeness of our friendship. I would like to share my story with you.

    After graduating from a college in Houston, Texas, I moved to Raleigh in 1997 to be with the love of my life. We got married and started a family and was enjoying life to the fullest. In 2002, I found a lump on my right breast and learned that I had breast cancer. I was 28 years old, with two young children. My life that was so full of energy suddenly stopped. I endured chemo therapy, double masectomy, and radiation. I was told that I was going to have to fight with everything that I had due to an aggressive cancer type. My doctor talked with my husband about the impact that it may have on our marriage. My husband reassured me that he would never leave my side. “The Mississippi Girls” were also great reassuring me that they would be here through it all. Although, some were very far, I never went a day without a phone call, got plenty of flowers, and most of all support and love. I beat breast cancer with the support of my family and friends. My will to live and belief in God grew stronger than ever.

    In Jan 2008, I made so many resolutions. My husband and I had so many plans and wanted so many new opportunities for our family. This was going to be our year!!! However, on Jan 7th 2008, my husband suffered a severe asthma attack while working. I talked with him 10 mins prior to getting a call from EMS. They told me that he wasn’t breathing and did not have a heart beat. I rushed to UNC hospital and was in disbelief. He had mild asthma but never a severe situation. After 2 weeks on life support, I decided that God was calling him home and I had to make a horrible choice of not letting him suffer anymore. He had started to catch infection and I knew what his wishes would be. “The Mississippi Girls” were by my side. One of them spent just as many hours at the hospital as I did and helped me with the details of his funeral. Another, bought my dress to wear at the funeral because I was so numb and depressed. Others came and spent time with me during his burial. My biological sister closed her business for several days to be with me which took income from her home.

    Now, my friends are supporting me as I live out the dream that I had with my husband. I am quitting my job as a social worker and opening a bridal shop in Rolesville, NC. N. Cornelius has spent long hours with me getting everything set up and ready for business. Her family has been so gracious to let her help me until 2 am at times. Junie Luv is ready to open for business thanks to my mom and my dear friend.

    So this article was so right, we have true friendships. The annual trip is so much more than just having a good time. From girl scouts to our adult lives, “The Mississppi Girls” are the perfect example of a life long bond.

    This is my story.

    TP

  3. Doug Veeder says:

    Dear TP,

    Thank you for sharing your powerful story. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your husband. May God Bless you and your family.

    Like I said in my article, the stories of the “Mississippi Girls” are yours and weren’t mine to share. But your personal story is proof of the bond that has been created by all of you throughout your lives. I knew I had been part of something strong and unique when I met you all but your comment really gives all of us a glimpse of the depth of the relationship you all share. I must reiterate that I envy the “Mississippi Girls” because you all have overcome so much and when you look back on who was by your side when you did; it was your sisters, the “Mississippi Girls.”

    On a personal note, my wife lost her mother this past summer. She was involved in a four year fight with Breast Cancer. I know how hard that fight must have been for you to undertake and once again, it is a testament to the strength that you and your friends all possess. It is a hard story to live, I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is for you to tell.

    I wish you the best for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And may God continue to bless your family each and every day!

    Have a great day,
    Doug

  4. T. Piggee says:

    Thank you for the kind words of encouragement!

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