It is an 8 and 1/2 hour drive from my exile on the Florida gulf coast back to the place where my heart says I belong. Somewhere just north of Highway 82 my eyes told my heart we were home. North Mississippi is not exactly picture post card stuff--hilly, covered in loblolly pines, covered in kudzu--but of all the lands on this big blue marble on which my eyes have rested, it is the most compelling to me. I call it home and yet my ocassional returns are as a stranger with an inexplicable knowledge of the back roads. Out of my fifty years on the planet I only spent a little over a total of five in Mississippi. But in that five years, particularly the four spent in the most inappropriately named city in America--Oxford--I lived a lifetime, and have spent the rest of my life reliving it.
My oldest son and I drove up to visit his little brother, who lives in the second most inappropriately named city in America (Grenada), this weekend, and inaugurated the first annual Gregory Men Weekend. It was a "no girls allowed" event and proceeded more tamely than one would have guessed. Don't get me wrong, it had it's moments of high hilarity sparked by gross anatomically-based slap-stick, as is required by the code of men. But, it also had a majority of surprisingly quiet conversational time, in which we reflected and reconnected. My sons are grown men, with jobs and lives of their own, but for three days they were my boys again.
The weekend included attendance at an Ole Miss football game, preceded by the time-honored pre-game visit to the Grove, and capped by a gridiron collapse reminiscent of other post-Manning teams' efforts during my matriculation 3 decades ago. Yep, it was good to be home again.