For us, the Fourth of July brings a double celebration. Fifteen years ago in the late afternoon on July 3, we reached the city limits on our drive into Hattiesburg and saw a phenomenon that I’ve seen only once in my lifetime. With the sun behind us as we headed into a rain shower, a triple rainbow appeared against the blackness of a thundercloud.
For the first time, we were moving to a place that we had chosen. After parent home choices ruled the first part of our lives, the Army had determined our location. We’d bought into the cliché, “Home is where the Army sends you.” Except for the two years that Allen was on assignment in Korea and Viet Nam with me left to keep the home fires burning, the Army had made excellent choices. Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, one of the nation’s most historic and beautiful cities was home for our children’s younger years. We followed with a wonderful three-year tour in Germany when they were in the middle grades and high school, and ended in Fort Polk/Leesville, LA – in reach for the oldest to return for visits from Baylor and a small town community for the junior high/high school years of the younger two. Each seemed right for the age our children were at the time.
An ultimate return to our home state of Mississippi had been in Al’s mind since he was drafted. The Army had placed a square peg in a square hole, and he’d had a good career, but coming back had never left his mind. He chose the state. I chose the city. With two universities providing ongoing activities, the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, the Faye B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, and the Frances Karnes Center for Gifted Education – I thought I could live in Hattiesburg!
We found a 70s ranch house with a woods out back that reminded me of the homes I knew growing up. For several weeks, we camped out to remodel and paint. Now after a day of watching the movers pack and load our stuff, doing a last sweep out of the old house, and traveling almost 300 miles, we were nearing our chosen home.
I looked at the sight ahead of me and wondered if this was an omen. Did the black cloud forebode a bad selection or was the wonder of three rainbows a sign that we had nailed the finest choice? With my cup perpetually half-full, I quickly – and correctly – chose the latter.
On our first full day in our new home, we celebrated the fourth with friendly next door neighbors who invited us to join them. Al has found an appreciative audience here for his woodworking and baking, and I have spent a lot of time hanging out with book people. And every Fourth of July, we celebrate a three rainbow home selection as well as our country’s independence.