For the past two months I've sat on my new front porch overlooking part of downtown Jackson, and tried to quell the automatic self-doubt that arose in my gut every time I reminded myself that I left the veritable "safety" of Madison County for a town so blighted with rumors of crime that it inspired a bumper sticker espousing the only way to save it: "pray for it."
Most people I've told about my relocation have displayed the same drastic response—a sharp intake of breath, an incredulous look and inevitable statements alluding to my lack of sanity. It seemed everyone else had come to the opposite conclusion regarding their living situation and they've decided I must be slap out of my damn mind. Unbelievably, this assertion didn't just come from Madison residents.
On one of the last winter afternoons spent at my house in Madison, a lovely cable guy who lives in Jackson dropped by to do the final disconnect of my High Dollar Cable so it could be transferred to my new address. During the course of polite conversation, he inquired where I would be living after I left this lovely home in Madison County. I smiled up at him on the ladder and answered, "to Jackson." He slowly placed his pliers back in his tool belt, took the deep breath of a man over 50 intimately acquainted with hubristic women and asked, "Why do you want to leave all this peace and quiet for Jackson?"
I thought about this question for a bit. After a 10-second silence waiting for my reply, the cable guy got bored and went back to his task. I never answered. I kept silent in order to preserve whatever assumption of sanity that he still held regarding the woman currently standing in front of him with all her material possessions in a U-Haul truck bound for Jackson.
Why would I want to leave all that peace and quiet for Jackson? Well, why do all people do seemingly foolish things? For love. And, no, not just for love of people, but for love of places, as well. One day, while sitting on my Madison County deck listening to my Madison County crickets creating symphonic Madison County peace and quiet, I realized why I always felt like something was missing. It wasn't my kind of peace and quiet.
I don't know where my unwavering love for this town originated. If I had to pinpoint it, I might talk about how I felt when traveling here as a child. Trips to Jackson meant coming to a "real town" with "real stores" and real things to do. After all, if this town was good enough for Eudora, who am I to disagree, right?
As the first weeks ensued in my new home, I became used to a new rhythm of life in Jackson. Neighbors popped in to say "hello"—a feat only actually braved by my best friend a handful of times in the seven years I lived in Madison simply due to the long commute. I began walking to the grocery store and saving over a $100 each month in gas simply due to the new one-mile commute. I became used to the steady stream of traffic moving down the streets and its oddly comforting and peaceful sound. I have found my peace and quiet here—inside the city limits, something most people outside this town think cannot be done.
While I will admit the idea of moving was probably more about a man than the great marketing campaign the City of Jackson is currently running, I continue to be excited every day by the possibilities and progress being created around me—despite its omission in most reported news.
I'm remaining hopeful for this town's future. For all of my "life lessons" learned, the most important one involved remaining hopeful and optimistic in the face of overwhelming cynicism. This one I learned from my Mamaw. She's like the Candy Man. I'm pretty sure that when she passes away, gumdrops and rainbows will burst out of her corpse. I'm hoping to carry this inherited optimism into more community involvement and furthering Jackson's leap into the future.
One of the first pictures we hung in our new home in Jackson was a black-and-white picture The Boyfriend took while facing downtown standing alongside West Capital Street. It has the Standard Life building lit up in the background. And even with the rest of West Capital's blight around it, it still looks beautiful. We are saving the rest of this wall for pictures of Jackson's future, pictures we hope will include less of the blight and more of the lights we've been promised.
I was acutely reminded of this the other night when the lights went out in downtown. As I stood on the porch and surveyed the darkened streets, the pure "wrongness" of it hit me, and I realized that without what some people refer to as "this insignificant strip of lights"… well, all the things surrounding it are nothing. Maybe that's what I felt as a child when I came here, the pure necessity of it. Hopefully, others will start remembering this feeling again as well.
Good to see you're enjoying your new home. I'm casually hunting for an apartment in Jackson. It won't be until late spring or summer when I actually take action, but I'm am looking forward to coming back to the city. Given that my job is in Ridgeland, most likely I will live in north Jackson rather than downtown (since the price of gas these days?) unless someone offers free rent.
BTW, are any of your Madison friends afraid to come to the city and visit you?
- golden eagle
GE97- Nah, most of the people I know in Madison are related to me. ;)
I was actually the one playing "catch up" with my friends as all of them now currently live within four blocks of me. So, I actually get MORE visitors living here than in Madison. I even get unexpected "pop ins". This is something I'm not used to as I used to live five miles out from the town of Madison. "Pop ins" did not exist. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've figured out that I don't like "pop ins".
But, I am trying to walk around the house nekkid LESS. :)
I guess you always give up some things and gain others when you move.
- Lori G
Lori, I'm not good with "pop-ins" either. I need a chance to spot clean first. :-P