Naked Reflections Poetry: Shameless and Unapologetic

Lessons I Learned in July: Prompt 9 “No Summers in the South”

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My friends’ family reunion brought me to Gulfport, Mississippi. Heat and humidity, clouds in the sky heavy with rain in the middle of July.

Day One. Meet and greet strangers with warm hugs at a local breakfast and lunch buffet. Everything fried or boiled or stuck like clogged arteries. Beige, brown, and white meat, withered salad greens and unlabeled specialties I feared would kill me.

Late evening events began. Get to know one another, but how? Sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Brothers, mothers, and significant others. Unfamiliar groups sat like isolated islands. A pushy cousin forced teens to dance. They didn’t want to dance and neither did we.

Day Two. The schedule looked dreadful. Family Feud and more fried food. We sat in stiff chairs under cool air, then crowded outside in stifling heat to eat rationed crawfish and watch children play. A stinging welt appeared on my arm. I prayed it wasn’t West Nile or Ebola. I didn’t spray my forearms like I sprayed my legs. By nightfall, the bump grew to the size of a baby bird’s egg.

Part two of Day Two. Biloxi Beach. Soft mushy sand. Dark brown water almost too warm to swim in. Women in panties and camisoles instead of swimsuits. Fish carcasses washed up on shore. One man was fishing for fun because he said they were too muddy to eat.

Early dinner at a popular restaurant with a beautiful ocean view. The kids were the only ones happy with their food. I guess you can’t go wrong with chicken tenders and french fries.

Day Three. Sunday worship at the little church down the road. The same families, same hugs, same heat on a different day. Music, scriptures, praise, and gratitude for the air-conditioned room, but nothing soothed my tired and hungry attitude. I had not eaten anything satisfying in 3 days. I wondered if we would survive until the end of this trip. All I knew was I wouldn’t die out on the Mississippi roads. I must die in the church.

After service, everyone gathered for barbeque at one family’s home. Light rain, thunder, tall grass and bushes and trees amidst two table tents shading outdoor seating. Inside the tiny house, the family members packed in like jammed feet in plastic shoes. We sat outside and finally ate a delicious meal. I craved a tall Mai Tai or even a Margarita. But they served water, kiddie fruit drinks, and beer. I had to remember where I was. I needed to hydrate. Period.

I listened to the eldest aunt tell stories of her childhood, almost 90 years ago. Her struggles of living in the south with little money and an unfinished education. She raised more children than most and she was healthier than many of her daughters. She entertained us with memories of being hit by her husband and how she bit him so hard he never hit her again. I wondered if maybe that’s why her teeth were missing. Well worth the loss.

Day Four. Our one-day trip to New Orleans finally arrived. My friends and their children were as excited as I was to be out of Mississippi. When you’ve never been somewhere before and all you know is how it looks in your mind, you can be easily deceived. Our first stop was Cafe du Monde for beignets. Each powdery bite completely satisfied my appetite and erased my worry that I would hate beignets. Not too sweet, not too thick. Just perfect with a cup of coffee that actually gave me a morning jolt.

Next. Time to shop and explore the French Quarters. I don’t have much to critique about the merchandise or the stores or the service because I was so hot and sweaty that I believe I lost ability to sort my thoughts. I bought souvenirs, walked until my ankles and toes hurt, and sweat poured from my skin. It ran down my legs and made me think my bladder was failing. Who would say this kind of humidity was bearable. It was dreadful and I needed to sit down.

Last stop in New Orleans. Deanie’s Seafood Restaurant. Yummy, delicious, and relaxing but the walk to and from almost killed us. All I could think about was getting in the car. My wet clothes, souvenirs, tired aching body, and sticky everything said good-bye to The Big Easy. That was fun. I think.

Lessons Learned. I am not a summer southern girl. Humidity is harmful to my health. Some family reunions are more like strange gatherings. When I alter my eating habits for a week, I suffer the consequences for twice as long. Layovers should never be longer than 90 minutes. Someone should have told me to keep baby powder in my purse. My thighs suffered more than my appetite.







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