Except for four years in Oxford and three months in Great Britain, I have lived in DeSoto County my entire life. I figured I would be another Sexton to live and die there, but God had a different plan for me.
I am now the newest resident of Winona, Miss., and I couldn't be more content. I feel like I have lived here forever. I have yet to meet a stranger, and the small town atmosphere is a welcomed relief to the hustle and bustle of DeSoto County and Memphis. I was beginning to think getting stuck in traffic on a daily basis was a metaphor for my life. That is not the case in Winona with the fresh air and laid-back pace.
But I need to warn you now that a Sexton is living in town, the community will have to accept the eccentricities of my crazy family, and I am the first to admit we are an acquired taste. They will be here often, but you will hear them coming a mile a way. They don't know how to use their inside voice.
Two Sundays ago, we descended upon the unsuspecting community of Winona armed with four dogs and a moving crew of retired Canadian hockey players. Even the dead were alerted by the commotion - barking orders at movers and hollering at a dog who escaped from his kennel.
There is nothing like making a good first impression on the neighbors.
The spectacle started as we left Southaven (my neighbors there had already become accustomed to us). Duncan, my beloved Scottish Terrier, got to ride shotgun while my sister Deana had to ride in the backseat with the three other dogs. We received odd looks from fellow travelers on the interstate, and made quite a scene in the drive through at McDonald's in Batesville. Even my parents, as we sped by on them interstate, had to look twice as Deana waved from the back window.
"Duncan gets carsick," I reminded everyone. "Besides, he always sits in the front."
After we ran into a patch of rain at Coffeeville, my sister Stephanie called on the cell phone to remind us that she had taken the top off her jeep, left it at home, and was now soaked. She could only talk for a second because she feared getting shocked from the phone.
When we arrived finally, our nerves frazzled from barking dogs and stormy weather, we were greeted by friendly neighbors and waves from drivers in passing cars. The hospitality and demeanor of everyone we came in contact was a dose calm after a while even for my chaotic family.
"Friendly town," my father remarked. "Everyone seems really nice."He was right.
I finally have a wave-at-your-neighbor, porch-swing, white-picket-fence community. There is nothing in the world like the smell of fresh figs, lightning bugs in the evening, and children on bicycles without the fear of a semi-truck running them down. I am most definitely content. No, strike that. I am home.