In 1990, my Texas-born and Mississippi-raised grandfather and Italian-born grandmother left Naples, Italy, where they had lived since the mid-1950s, to retire in Mississippi. It was not their first time to live in Mississippi as a couple -- they moved to Meridian for a few years after the war, and they welcomed my father into the world during their time there. Coincidentally, today is his birthday (Happy Birthday, Dad!).
One would imagine that life in rural Mississippi would have been quite the culture shock for my Nonna, as she spent so much time in urban Naples. Instead, she welcomed the change of pace -- quickly making friends, joining a church and building new memories. After my Nonno's death in 2002, she returned in Naples to live next door to her daughter. Now 90 years old, she continues to speak fondly of their years in the South.
Written shortly before her move back to Naples, this poem is her love letter to Mississippi.
You are not there yet But you soon will see The dogwood blossoms And tall magnolia trees.
The grounds are green On the side of the road, With some red clover That with amazing power, Will soon spread all over.
Wide open spaces And white cotton fields Much corn, pines, maples Holly bushes and huge oak trees.
The maple leaves will turn in the fall, To a deep golden yellow Admired by all.
… and finally, the Mansions, That great columns support, But no more their owners, On a long, shady porch.
The homes are so beautiful With all they contain, Antiques, marble, china, And portraits in lovely gold frames, Tell of the “Ole Southern Charm”, A war and the family’s name.
The war is long gone, But its traces still seen, With monuments, cannons, And battleground scenes.
No more slaves, this is good, Yet remember that here Much history was written Not to disappear.
It’s my husband’s country, My second one, too And in this I take pride And love it, I do.
Remembering our past, Corinth, Meridian, And Booneville at last.
I treasure all memories, From far and from near, No matter where I’ll be… Half of my heart Will always be here!
Lucy Cannon Booneville, Mississippi July 2002