Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Guest Blogger Keetha DePriest Reed

I live in Winona, Mississippi, a small town in north central Mississippi. I’ve lived here for three years and I love it; crepe myrtles line the main street that leads downtown, there’s a Christmas parade, and the whole town turns out for the Homecoming game each year. I love it, understand.

Yet when anyone asks where I live, I answer – without thinking – “I live in Winona, but I grew up in the Delta.”

I’m not sure why I feel it necessary to qualify a simple answer with that detail. Where I live now is a whole thirty miles from the Delta; the two places are hardly worlds apart.

Yet the Mississippi Delta is storied and legend, for both good and bad reasons. Some stories are exaggerated, others aren’t. I relate to and associate with it fundamentally. It’s a part of me in ways I don’t fully understand.

I doubt I’m unique in feeling this way. Belzoni, Mississippi, where I was raised, is home. It brings to mind those things that home means: ice tinkling in glasses on a weeknight at twilight as my mother gets dinner on the table, the way the elementary school classrooms smelled when the heat came on for the first time each year, windy afternoons in early spring in the backyard, playing kickball and looking for four leaf clovers, seeing the carved pumpkin on our front porch, Saturday drives to Greenville, the nearest town with a shopping mall, the school gym during pep rallies, long chlorine-soaked days in a swimming pool, discovering dried locust husks on the oak tree in the front yard, coming out the front door and walking to the church half a block away, roller skating on the front porch, chicken and dumplings for Sunday dinner, every Christmas morning, every first day of school.

The town where I grew up in the 80s is typical of many small towns of its day; cars left unlocked, children rode bikes all over town until the streetlights came on, scandalous gossip among the Baptist ladies would scarcely raise an eyebrow now, and a department store downtown and drug stores on two corners.

When I think of my hometown, I picture the downtown street, the Western Auto store where I bought jump ropes in elementary school, the newspaper office where I had cards printed for the Homecoming mums the Student Council sold, Miss Minnie’s Dance School, where I took lessons for more than ten years.

In many ways, my adopted hometown reminds of my childhood one. Some of the streets here are wide and lined with tall old oak trees. People are friendly and interested, as is typical of most small towns.

I’m raising a son here and it feels like home. Yet when I dream, they are often dreams filled with a weird mélange childhood and high school, of the yellow clapboard house on Pecan Street in that small Delta town. Those dreams make me happy and sad at the same time and they seem to give me plenty of material for writing.

Born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, Keetha DePriest Reed grew upin a family big on get-togethers, reunions, and food. She is theauthor of Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing UpSouthern and More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from GrowingUp Southern. Keetha is a founding member of the Mississippi WritersGuild and is working on a novel.http://writekudzu.blogspot.com/http://kudzukitchen.blogspot.com/http://www.pecanst.com/


kacey@doodlebugspaper.com said...

I had to comment for several reasons:

1. Congrats on being a guest writer!! What a great honor!

2. I am a Belzoni girl and love reading anything you write about our little town!

3. I am a huge fan of Karin Gillespie and I am now just amazed that you are buddies with her :o) (Hi Karin!!). The Dollar Girl books are some of my all time favorites!!

Great job Keetha!

Camellia said...

You have the details right. On this hot summer afternoon you took me home...miles and years away. I'm there right now.

Susan Cushman said...

Loved the post, Keetha. Since I grew up in Jackson (Mississippi) I could never claim anything as cool sounding as "the Delta"... but I did live around the corner from Eudora Welta for a few years. Now that I've lived in Memphis for twenty years, I'm finally writing my memoir... which begins back in Mississippi, of course! It took me almost six decades to embrace my roots. Keep on writing, girl!

Kerry Madden said...

What beautiful stories and descriptions of your hometown, Keetha. I loved it.

All best

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kacey. So glad you like the books.


viagra online said...

I love to hear the histoirs of the people that live in small towns like you lived, are always interesting and with true life.

pharmacy said...

I hope that in my next job I can find something good because there are some places that I lived that they are actually awful.

Viagra Canada said...

I would love to visit that place, I've been hearing to many stories about Winona. Most of them are positive. I am an artist (natural painter) so I just want to draw those sceneries (particularly the Christmas parade and the Delta). I know it's going to be the nicest art-work in my life.