I have nothing but good memories of Mississippi. Unlike Kristen, I grew up there, so I suppose that helps. As I look back on a childhood filled with characters and character, I have fond memories and can do nothing but smile as they fade into the background of my life.
One memory was brought to the forefront this afternoon when we returned home from the hospital. Every year at Christmastime, the ladies of the church would gather together in the fellowship hall for their annual ministry to the children of the church away at college. Each would bring dozens and dozens of home-baked cookies to the party, on platters and in tupperware, piled high and ready to ship. Each would bring their sturdiest cookie, the one least likely to crumb (yes, in those times and in that place, crumb was used as a verb) on the way to its recipient. Then they would gather in that mystical place (or so it seemed to the children left at home that night) to talk, to laugh, and to pack care packages for the college students studying for exams so far from home.
The packaging was always the same — cheese boxes from the Mississippi State dairy. Now, I didn’t go to State, so perhaps I don’t appreciate what ever came inside those boxes originally, but I do know that the families of the church saved those boxes all year long because they made the sturdiest shipping containers for the precious cookie cargo at Christmastime. They would arrive at the church with the cookies and miles of saran wrap and ziploc bags, and the ladies would package them up — half-a-dozen cookies from Mrs. G here, half-a-dozen cookies from Mrs. M there, half-a-dozen of the other kind from Mrs. C, and so on and so forth until those little boxes were ready to burst with love and sugar from the ladies of the church.
Then they would be sent on their way to the college students, bringing warmth and love and memories of home with them to the small cold dorm rooms “up north” in Starkville and Oxford.
I was lucky enough to get those cookies when I was in college, and, although some of them did indeed “crumb” on the way even farther north to me, I loved each and every one of those crumbs, treasuring them as the gift of love that they were.
Today, a package arrived in the mail for me while I was at the hospital. Inside was a beautiful gift of beads from a friend — a friend’s mother, I should say, as she was once one of those ladies of the church who packaged cookies and love for faraway children — but now a friend, with instructions on how to pray a protestant rosary and notes of laughter and hope. And a hat, knitted by the knitting ministry at her Alabama church. And love. Lots and lots of love. And you know how I know that for sure?
It arrived in a Mississippi State cheese box.
Today at the hospital did not go well. I am okay — no neurological damage — but I wasn’t allowed to get chemo because of the condition my body is in right now. More tomorrow, after I’ve had time to process it and talk more to my family.