My nine year old son is "touring" the southeastern United States for Social Studies in third grade this year. I had the opportunity to present the first lesson of this unit as I substituted for his teacher last week. It's funny how so simple a thing as learning to spell Mississippi can transport me to childhood.
My mind takes creative license with the past so that all of the memories of a particular person, place, or time are rolled together into an beautiful collage - edges muted, corners softly turned. So it is, in the Tennessee summers of my childhood, that I learned to spell Mississippi from my paternal grandmother on the front porch of a cabin, while simultaneously shucking corn and snapping beans. "M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I, hump back-hump back-I," Mamaw voiced the rhyme she had learned in her own Alabama childhood, as we enjoyed the easy breeze that characterizes the "down home" vacations of my memory. I`m pretty sure we took turns twisting the handle on the old ice cream maker, right after dinner, as we chewed sassafras leaves like chewing gum, and my Papaw called me Pumpkin Head (as he called my siblings and cousins too.) In my memory anyway, it all runs together that way.
I'm sure those third grade students last week believed I was thinking of how to spell the other states in the southeast region as we proceeded, but in my mind, I was on a front porch many miles south of our northern classroom... and many years ago.
Photo by Aisling, March 2010