Swallow and Smile | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Swallow and Smile

It was hazy outside. The rainstorm the night before had colored the sky a beautifully awful gray, and the dense humidity was palpable. The northbound lanes of Interstate 55 were congested, slowing to a standstill near the Terry Road exit. Luckily, the Mississippi Department of Transportation had finally begun to put those black traffic screens to good use, warning commuters that a wreck near Gallatin Street would cause delays. I saw this message, and decided to get off the interstate near Highway 80 in favor of traveling through the city to work.

As I drove down Highway 80, I remembered I was close to Scurlock's Doughnuts. "Hmm. I can take a slight detour," I said, smiling to myself.

When I entered the shop, the smell of sweet, sugary dough and bacon greeted my senses. An elderly couple, 20-somethings and families—black and white—were talking with each other as they sat at the tiny tables. As I stood in line waiting to make it to the counter, I watched them. Many would take a bite from their doughnut, pause, close their eyes as the sugar made a stamp on their tongues and then chew. Finishing with a smile.

It's days like this I love.

"Hey, what can I get for you?" My thoughts were interrupted by Mark Scurlock, who was slightly leaning over the counter, smiling.

I ordered a dozen glazed doughnuts and another dozen doughnut holes, which Mr. Scurlock retrieved quickly, and continued down Highway 80 toward work.

By the time I hit John R. Lynch Street I had scarfed down five doughnut holes—bite, pause, close eyes, swallow, smile. As I approached the Jackson State University campus, I thought fondly of my trips to the university: debates, performances, stories for the JFP and picking up JFP intern Kawkab al-Thaibani. Kawkab was an extraordinary young woman from Yemen who, despite a language barrier, had an affinity for words and the passion to stand up against injustices.

Winding through the Metro Parkway turnarounds, a silly sense of accomplishment overcame me. I used to get lost every time I encountered the turnarounds, but now I could navigate them without even paying attention.

As I crossed the threshold under the train tracks and into downtown Jackson, I spotted the Standard Life building far off in the distance. It looked so pristine despite undergoing construction. The sun had just begun to shone, and the Jackson Convention Center reflected its light, bouncing sunbeams in every direction. At first annoyed by the holdups on the interstate, I felt grateful at this moment to actually see the city, my home.

I turned on State Street, and the clouds covered the sun again. Drops of rain spattered my windshield, and as I passed Hal & Mal's, my heart sank.

I would be leaving this city to move to Chattanooga soon. I wouldn't be able to enjoy a cider from Kononia Coffee House or eat a meal at Mayflower Café or go to another spoken-word night. At least, not when I wanted to. I wouldn't pick up a JFP or go fishing in a little nook along the reservoir. I wouldn't drink Abita on Sal & Mookie's patio or complain about how hot and humid it is outside.

"What if there are no black people in Chattanooga!?" I whined.

I laughed out loud at myself at this, but that didn't stop the tears. I felt ridiculous as I wiped my eyes at the Fortification Street light and tried not to make contact with the people stopped to my left and right.

In between muffled breaths and shouts of "stop it, Maggie!", I sobbed all the way to Old Canton Road, where I turned into the JFP parking lot and sat in my car gazing out toward Cups and Rainbow Co-op. For the first time, I think, I noticed the steeple of Woodland Hills Baptist Church.

In my first editor's note, I wrote about the many facets of the jewel that is Jackson, Miss.—the City With Soul. I told readers about my childhood and teenage years growing up in the city that I loved and grew to appreciate more as I became an adult. I think I appreciate it more than I ever have today.

Jackson has been my home for all my life, and although I am very excited for the new things and people that await my husband and me in Chattanooga, I will miss this city. Just in the last few years, I have seen Jackson grow with new, innovative development and revitalization projects: Duling School and Fondren Place, Fondren 3000, the Jackson Convention Complex and others. I have seen many new businesses open and discovered some older ones. I've seen the people of Jackson really step up and forge ties to act as more of a community—in groups like the Jackson Progressives, the Jackson Arts Collective, Wake Up Jackson, and as individuals. We've gone from having one or two farmers' markets to six or seven community gardens and/or markets.

One of the more personal growths I've witnessed is that of the Jackson Free Press. We've doubled our space, added a few positions, launched a daily e-blast and have seen several talented interns come in and out of our doors. I've grown professionally and personally at this newsweekly, and have learned what true journalism is. I've honed my craft and learned some hard lessons, which have made me a better writer.

Two years ago, Donna Ladd saw potential in me that I didn't necessarily see in myself. She mentored me and brought me into a wonderful family of hard-working, honorable, funny professionals whom I sincerely love. Thank you, Donna and Todd, for the opportunity to learn from you. Thanks, Adam, for being the best damn reporter in the city, followed in a close second by Ward Schaefer. Ronni Mott has backed me up, taking me under her wing and showing me the ropes early on. I thank you all.

My time with the JFP isn't over, yet. I will leave for good ole Rocky Top country Aug. 19 and will hopefully continue to write every now and then from afar.

Thank you, Jackson, for your awesomeness. Take advantage of what you have here. Get involved in movements, support local businesses and events, hold City Hall accountable.

When I am gone, I will savor memories of Jackson the same way I do Scurlock's doughnuts: bite, pause, close eyes, swallow, smile.

I hope you'll do the same.

Previous Comments

ID
150596
Comment

Man, we're going to miss Maggie! I can't read this without crying. Maggie, you are amazing. All I can say.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-08-05T19:01:30-06:00
ID
150600
Comment

What a beautiful piece. Maggie, Jackson will miss you right back!!!! Thanks for all you did to make it a great place - you are a great writer. Have fun on your journey. Peace and blessing to you for your new adventure.

Author
Izzy
Date
2009-08-05T19:42:35-06:00
ID
150603
Comment

Agreed, Laurel: Whatever Maggie does next up in Tennessee, she's got to keep writing! Sniff!

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-08-05T20:13:29-06:00
ID
150608
Comment

Ok, I'm officially hacked off. Miss Maggie, nobody asked my permission for you to leave the holy land! I can't believe that you're really leaving Jackson. And, we poor Jacksonians didn't get a chance to vote on it!!! Alas, the wretched brain drain continues. I think there ought to be a law against it, dammit! Dear Maggie, we'll all miss you; your passion, your talent and integrity speak volumes about your character and your family. I wish you success in happiness in Rocky Top country, but pray that someday you and your hubby will find a way to migrate back home (where you belong!). Godspeed.

Author
Pops
Date
2009-08-05T20:51:06-06:00
ID
150610
Comment

You're a good one, Mags! I hope and pray that everything works out for you in Chattanooga. BTW, enough with the Rocky Top references! I'm a Florida Gators fan and we hate Rocky Top!

Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-08-05T21:32:05-06:00
ID
150612
Comment

Maggie, our loss is Chatanooga's gain. I still have not really digested that you will be moving away and when I walk in the JFP and pass that door that you sit behind in the dark, you won't be in there silently glued to the screen and hitched to your keyboard. And you won't be there to look up and flash that wonderful smile. But I will always remember everything that you have done for me, what you taught me the month I interned at JFP, how you have always treated all our interactions with such professionalism and kindness. thank you. Maggie, I will really miss you.

Author
J.T.
Date
2009-08-05T21:43:13-06:00
ID
150613
Comment

I'm going to miss reading articles with this particular angle, with this particular voice and style, in the JFP. Maggie, I second Donna: Please keep writing, because you have a gift. And good luck!

Author
Tom Head
Date
2009-08-06T05:15:26-06:00
ID
150622
Comment

Thanks so much for the swell wishes. I will dearly miss this city and the JFP. I'll always be a Jacksonian!

Author
maggie
Date
2009-08-06T10:00:49-06:00
ID
150624
Comment

Chattanooga is a nice city, but I know Jackson is home for you so I'm just sure y'all will be back someday! I have really enjoyed working with you these past couple of years, Maggie, and I'm gonna miss you a lot! You must keep writing, you're too talented not to!

Author
andi
Date
2009-08-06T10:17:47-06:00
ID
150634
Comment

Dangitall, you made me cry. And that's not an easy feat. Best of luck, Maggie. We sure will miss you. You're good people. :)

Author
Lady Havoc
Date
2009-08-06T12:20:59-06:00
ID
150650
Comment

Now we really know why Paula Abdul isn't returning. In case you go to Tennessee instead of LA, I wish you the best. Oh yes there are some black folks there. TO (aka Terrell owens) is from there. So too is Samuel Jackson and a whole lot more black folks. I understand your concern about seeing some more of us. Many people don't though. To share this uneasiness, a friend of mines and I took 2 white friends to an all black club in Dallas in 1986 or 1987. When we walked in everyone stopped and just starred at us. They especially looked at the white men with hate and suspicion and as a result they (the two white guys)tried to hang very close to Roger and me. We said get away from us and mingle as if you don't see or notice race, and they said, "Do you see how everyone is looking at us?" We said "yes, but pretend you don't see it, and go ask some of those fine sisters to dance." They said, "Hell, nall", and we said "stop acting like punks and get with it." Eventually, they gained some nerves and started dancing with sisters and mingling with brothers. I later even saw one slowdragging and holding a sister real tight, as if he had discoverd the sun and moon. After leaving they told Roger and me that they finally see what we have to go through as a few brothers around many whites. I'm getting more comfortable being alone or one of the few where I hang around, but I'm always glad to see more of us.

Author
Walt
Date
2009-08-06T16:50:48-06:00
ID
150672
Comment

Words cannot express how much I will miss you 'round these parts...and the cool party dresses you wear. :) Keep it real, and keep rockin' the 'fro. If I see a picture of you on Facebook with a 6-foot weave, I will hunt you down and gut you like a fish. LOL Take care...

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2009-08-07T07:30:23-06:00
ID
150707
Comment

Sorry you are leaving, but glad to have known you and worked with you. I wish you every deep and lasting satisfaction in your future endeavors. I hope to continue to see your name and hear your voice from time to time, even if it in the press of some foreign (smile) land.

Author
gwilly
Date
2009-08-10T11:25:12-06:00
ID
150709
Comment

Maggie, Maggie, Maggie. This piece is awsome. I could almost taste the glaze on Scurlock's donut holes. When people say that there is nothing in Jackson to do, this will be a refreshing article to jog the memories of those who complain. I will be among those who will follow your directives: "Take advantage of what you have here. Get involved in movements, support local businesses and events, hold City Hall Accountable." In holding City Hall accountable, I will recognize my role and the role of all citizens to do what we can, with what we have and from where we are. This is my request for you. C., Tennessee is only a hop skip and a jump from MS. Please visit and join our blog. Please continue to stand up for Jackson and don't let anyone dog us who have not had your experiences. You will be missed!

Author
justjess
Date
2009-08-10T12:08:18-06:00

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