My cursor says “Happys” is not a word, but what does it know? Sixteen years ago today we drove into Hattiesburg having chosen it as our home. To tell the truth, this was not my idea. I was perfectly happy where we were in Leesville, Louisiana, but Al had always wanted to return to his home state for retirement. Since he picked the state, I picked the city – not that we actually reasoned it out.
I’m listing sixteen things I’ve found to like in honor of the anniversary.
1. We start with a 70s ranch house with enough windows that I feel like I’m outside even when I’m inside taking advantage of the air-conditioning.
2. The yard has something blooming year-round.
3. The population of that yard includes rabbits, turtles, a fox, armadillos, lizards, scads of butterflies, bumblebees, and birds. (The snakes aren’t happys.)
The de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection comes in for several items:
4. I found a story to write for Highlights Magazine for Children there.
5. They selected me as the researcher for the 50th anniversary edition of The Snowy Day.
6. I wrote the script and selected the pictures to be used for the video on the 100th anniversary of Ezra Jack Keats’s birth at the book festival’s Keats Awards Day.
Likewise, I have several items from the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival:
7. The pure joy of attending for sixteen years counts for one, especially when I can be the volunteer driver for book people guests who come.
8. I wrote the script for the formation of the story-telling event named for Colleen Salley, chuckling often as I wrote. How could you do otherwise if you knew Colleen?
The community has many other offerings:
9. OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) has classes to take and teach, field trips, and friendships.
10. I’ve taught creative writing to elementary and middle school students at the Frances Karnes Center for Gifted Studies.
11. In less than two hours, my writer friends and I can be in New Orleans for the monthly critique meetings of the LA/MS branch of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
12. I am a friend of two libraries and can check out books in either!
13. The music department at the University of Southern Mississippi has more excellent symphony, faculty, and student performances than one can take in – many free!
14. The Carey Dinner Theatre hosts a couple of light-hearted performances every summer with home-cooked meals.
15. There’s University Baptist Church that welcomes everybody and has given us opportunities to worship, serve, and form fast friendships.
16. Our newest happy in Hattiesburg is our youngest son’s family with two preschoolers who pop in and out and three big kids who come to visit from college.
Truthfully, I could go on, but I will just say the promising portent I saw as we drove into town sixteen years ago with a triple rainbow ahead of us was an accurate omen. Should you be looking for a good place to live, come on down!