I have climbed the highest mountain: I have run through the fields only to be with you. U2
THIS PAST SUMMER, I embarked on a two-week journey into the South to visit my home-town. While Corinth, Miss. is not exactly my birthplace, it is the town where I grew up, established roots and have come to regard as home.
One day 10 years ago, however, I found that I no longer had a place I could call home. We moved away from Corinth, from town to town, until we ended up in Trenton, N.J. I had become thouroughly withdrawn, lonely, and friendless by that time. Mostly though, I was fearful--especially of the high crime rate.
I've changed over the past decade. My mother says I've developed more "Yankee-land" characteristics, breaking out of my cloistered Southern background and becoming a city boy.
But this isn't an achievement. I've missed the slower, simpler life of the South. I liked living in a place where everybody knew everybody. I wanted clean air, trees, Grape Nehi, and tadpoles. Looking for the simple life, I'd visit my sister in Maine. But it wasn't the same.
I HAD wanted to visit Mississippi for a long time before this summer--not just to reminisce, but also because my memories were slipping away.
I used to know a young girl named Hess Worsham who lived across the street at home. I heard on the national news that Hess one of the sorority sisters killed by a reckless driver during a walk-a-thon for the University of Mississippi. And I simply couldn't remember her.
So, I headed South, straight towards a reunion with my childhood self. I hoped some things I remembered remained.
After a few days in Tennessee, my mother and I took the final leg of the journey 10 years in the making. I was driving the car down Route 64 toward the Tennessee border, but missed the first turn into Corinth. But the back roads were somewhere in my memory, and I found myself near the public library.
THE FIRST day I visited some people, and learned about elementary school classmates. My first-grade homeroom has produced a certified color consultant, a PGA golf-tour hopeful, two or three nursing-school students, a future doctor, the homecoming queen and king, the captain of the high school varsity basketball team, and the president of the Future Homemakers of America (who happens to be male).
Later that day I visited a tremendous first-grade dancer. She has parlayed her talents into a place on the baton-twirling squad on the University of Mississippi marching band.
While making the rounds, I took in the atmosphere. In many respects, time hadn't touched my little towm. Many things were just as I had remembered them from childhood. There were some changes, sure, but not many.
Maybe just a few more than I was willing to admit. The business district had deteriorated and business--followed by residents--had left the town's center.
I had remembered Corinth as an ideal place, which it wasn't and isn't. But 10-year-old images weren't really ravaged when I returned.