Where are you from? – Someone grasps for an item to start a conversation. My answer gets tricky.
Home was wherever Mama installed what we called her “wedding present vase.” With a country preacher for a father, home turned up in many places.
The vase wasn’t that pretty and had no monetary value. Mama remembered who gave it to her but in case she forgot, the vase held the cards and notes from her wedding presents all squished in together. From time to time, Mama took them out, read the notes and names, and told stories of the people behind them. We didn’t pay much attention. The people were before our time.
I’m not sure when I began associating the placement of the vase with being home. It graced a variety of houses in rural Northeast Mississippi. When our youthful Daddy was pastor of “the mill church,” properly known as West End Baptist Church in West Point, it stood on the mantle in our half of a rambling house with tall ceilings.
In Hardy Station, it sat in an old six room house the congregation had moved behind the church, both on top of the hill that had been cut right through the middle for the railroad track. The house was close to the church for the convenience of the pastor. It was even more handy for the children who rode the school bus to church and bought candy in the little store at the foot of the hill with their Sunday school money. They brought the candy to our house to share with three preschool preacher’s daughters already dressed for church. Mama often emerged from finishing her own preparations to find three sweetly sticky girls in need of redressing, but that is a digression.
The next stop, where we gained a fourth and final sister, was a white dog trot house at Black Zion in Pontotoc County, a temporary dwelling before the church built a six room parsonage complete with indoor plumbing! The vase signaled home in both houses.
Calhoun County gave the greatest challenge to the home vase when we lived in half of a duplex, the other half inhabited by two elderly spinsters. They probably were no happier with the antics of four active girls than we were with their restrictions. The vase found its place on the dresser in a cavernous room shared by the sisters. And so it went.
My best answer to where I’m from is “Put your finger down on a map anywhere in northeast Mississippi, and I have lived somewhere near there.”
When Mama broke up housekeeping, my sisters and I recalled memories and divided up things of no value except sentimental. I was glad no one else had a hankering for Mama’s wedding present vase.
Now, it anchors the spot on the corner of my mantle, the squished up notes replaced with dried grasses. When I sit in my favorite chair to read, write, sew, or watch TV, I look up and know that I am home.