Saturday, June 25, 2005

My Visit Home

I didn’t think I would write that much in this thing, but 1) I enjoy writing, and 2) I can write about things like this and just express myself,

Everyone called him Deacon Jack, I called him Uncle Jack, actually he was my Great Uncle. Been married 72, yes that’s seventy-two, three score and 12 years, to my great Aunt Willie Mae. He passed away on Sunday, the funeral was Friday. So I got up Friday morning to drive with my Mom up Highway 61 through the woods of Mississippi up into the North Louisiana Delta and those wavy cotton fields to the rural town of Delhi. The drive was calm and peaceful; generally it is always this way, though much more so than it seemed when I was younger, it is also a much better drive now since most of the roads are four lane highways now. I’ve always liked going home as we would call it. Although I was raised in the suburbs of a city, I’ve always enjoyed the feel and scene of country life.

So anyway went by my Aunt’s house in town, changed, then headed out to the church a little after noon on a hot, humid, summer day. The church was reminiscence of the image some would perceive as a consummate country church. Off a two line highway, turn onto a dirt road, go down a bit, to the church with the cemetery on the side. Even the name just has a certain ring to me – Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church. I hadn’t been in that particular church in 10 years, in those parts many of the rural churches don’t have service every Sunday, they rotate. I think Mt. Zion is 1st Sunday, Bellview is 3rd, Mt. Pleasant is 4th, St. John maybe 2nd, that’s how it goes. When it’s not your Sunday you can go visit someplace else. It doesn’t matter too much because everyone knows everyone and all the pastors too. By the way did I mention it was hot (mid 90’s) and dusty? I need to digress here again, as a kid I would always wonder how the old folks could wear suites in the middle of summer and go to church all day, go to like 4 different services, eat lunch outside, and still not be drenched in sweat. I have since learned the power of the white cotton undershirt and the sleeveless cotton undershirt. Those things do wonders. Getting back, it was a full house, first few rows marked off for the immediately family, we could have sat up there but we decided to sit in the back. The scene was just what I would expect, organ playing softly, a few preachers up front, the church mothers wearing white, a lot of the ladies wearing hats, men in their good suits. Digressing again, I was always amazed about this; one of the settings Hollywood seems to be able to get right is the traditional country black church setting. I don’t mean the paradoxical backdrops seen in comedies like Blues Brothers and Which Way is Up (oh ya’ll don’t know about that one), but more so what is seen in dramas and such. For some reason Hollywood seems to get that down pretty well. So you go in, sit down, talk to people you know, try to figure out who in the church you are related to which is almost everyone in some way or another. Of course this is not unusual in small rural southern towns. The funeral service, wait let me say what it really was, a Homegoing Celebration, was long but excellent. The church was packed, the choir sang many of those old hymns and songs I grew up on, “Pass Me Not”, “I’ll Fly Away”, “Soon and Very Soon”, “God Has Smiled on Me”, “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah”, and some others. I’m not trying to sound all holy but this I what I grew up on, I could sing those songs before I knew the music of artist like Tupac, Snoop Dog, or R Kelly. And those songs will stay with me, as long as I live (I digressed again, gotta stop). I like the way older people handle Homegoing Celebrations, there is always some crying, but also a lot of laughing, shouting, and singing. And even though you still maybe sad you leave uplifted.

I don’t want to sound self-righteous and but my family heritage is special to me. Those people who grew up in that time period with Uncle Jack were hard-working people. Most of them were farmers, well to be truly honest they were sharecroppers. They had big families and the kids grew up working in the fields also. In fact my parents both told me stories of missing school at times to go the fields to pick cotton (and to think of all the classes in skipped in college for no reason at all). Most of them we’re not very well educated, but they saved and worked hard to send some of their children to college, in fact my parents were among the first to attended integrated colleges in Louisiana while others attended the great institutions of Southern and Grambling. A number of the men fought for their country in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, even when they didn’t have equal rights at home. I’ve always considered myself a hard-worker, but I can’t compare to how my people worked. And I’m blessed I don’t have too. I’m the recipient of the fruits of their hard labor. A lot have lived long and fulfilled lives. My grandparents and many others of their generation lived or continue to live into their 80’s and 90’s. And they all went to church and made their kids go even if they were running around the rest of the time. I said all that to say this, I had a good time, it always feels good going home no matter what the circumstance maybe, even If I only stay for a few hours.

1 comment:

elleshoo said...

this is a great post. i wish you would write more like it. i especially enjoy the digressions :) also, take a picture next time.