A Valentine to our home state:
Dear Mississippi, you lovable goof,
Our relationship status has been Complicated, like you. Nobody makes me laugh and cry like you. We're hot and cold on the same day, and your mood swings are all four seasons before brunch. But there ain't no Landmass I'd rather weather the storm with than you.
Sure we've had our quarrels: every time you leave another pothole in the road, I utter unladylike things unbecoming of a Southern belle. Every time you give me another Dollar General instead of a grocery store, every buggy maze outside Walmart, every pollen coat on the car, every mosquito swatted in February-- take 'em back. Your gifts are the worst.
Your love language is your momma's food; *that* I'll take 'til the cows come home. The brisket and biscuits and black eyed peas that greet each new year together. The crawfish boil that beckons the neighbors we know and the ones we don't.
Your moonshine is strong, your tea is sweet, and nobody makes grits like you.
Not everyone understood my crush on you at first. I told them what you lack in dashing good looks, you make up for in hospitality and Southern charm. You're a unique beauty, those tall pines and flat farmland stretching from Delta to Coast (and ooh those sunsets). You're hot barefoot or in boots, and make me sweat like no state ever has.
I confess to flirting with other states sometimes: their skylines are sexy, and opportunities abundant. But no place has community like yours. Your traffic jam is 4 cars at the 1 stoplight in town, and your security system is yo momma an'em hearing what you did, with whom & where -- before you even get home.
We share passions that matter: family, football, faith, and country. Your daddy named you for the Great River once paddled by Huck Finn and Proud Mary, a backbone that bears the freight of American industry today.
Children round the world grow up learning to spell and count your name (1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi...). Somehow that's fitting for a place that teaches people to slow down and take our time.
No one clocks time like your farmers, from plantin' to huntin' seasons. They grow the South's sweet potatoes and the country's catfish and cotton; beans and rice; and the corn that feeds the chickens that feed us.
Yes you're small but mighty. And bless your heart, sometimes messy. Maddening with your injustices, inspiring with your generosity. Your per capita charitable giving is our country's best, and your poverty is the worst.
You've birthed children who make us proud: not only Oprah, Jim Henson, and Morgan Freeman, but also Jerry Rice, Brett Favre & the Mannings; Britney and Elvis and Muddy and every bluesman who sparked rock n' roll; John Grisham, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, James Baldwin, Anne Moody, Eudora Welty; Vera Mae Pigee, Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron E. Henry, Medgar Evers... Mississippi Goddamn indeed.
I still miss the children you drove away, the half-empty towns they left behind... and hold hope that if opportunity beckons them back, they'll see you've changed.
One day they'll return to raise a new generation on our front porch, under the magnolia's shade.
Sho' nuff darlin, we might could adventure over yonder if the creek don't rise... but there's no state I'd rather come home to.
I'm fin'na love you for life, Mississippi -- potholes and all.
P.S. Whose love for their state ain't complicated sometimes? Shared Experiences is proudly headquartered in the Mississippi Delta.