During my visit to the US I had a chance to sit with my Dad and two uncles. An impromptu meeting in a gas station deli with the best oyster poboys in Biloxi. A table full of Byrds is a dangerous place to be.
When I started typing this I got off onto a bit of a tangent which led me to describe my Comfort Bubble. Eleven hundred words later I still finished it up with "that's my bubble in a nutshell." I'm reading a book of essays by and about Southern Writers and one essay I read said that we Southerners tell stories. It's just what we do. To illustrate the point the author, Joe Formichella, told a story about his older brother visiting Myrtle Beach and attempting to order a piece of pie. Describing the encounter he said that after listening to the ". . . history of its origin, a cautionary tale about its proper pronunciation, a dissertation about the preferred method of eating it, 'When all I wanted was a goddamned piece of pecan pie!'" Seems right.
Back to your piece rather than my whole pie, I grew up in Biloxi with my paternal grandparents two blocks east and maternal grandparents six miles west. My Dad was the middle of seven and my Mom the middle of six and most all of them still lived in Biloxi. Across the street was my Uncle Jimmy, whose wife was Daddy Byrd's sister. We're Southern, we know what Great Uncles and third cousins are, we just don't mention the details unless we have to. I knew four of my great grandparents, and lived in a house that was another set of great grandparent's house before they passed. I didn't know everyone in the town, but there could not have been more than four degrees of separation from knowing any of them. The way I describe it is that there were 50,000 people in Biloxi and my Dad knew all 70,000 of them.
The Biloxi of my youth was not a huge town, even though it was the second largest in the state. It had not only a hometown feel but a welcoming home town touch. It was easy, especially with my familial connections, to think the whole world knew itself. As a fifth generation Biloxian, I never imagined living anywhere but Biloxi. Once I left I've never imagined moving back.
No matter how far away I've been I always have to go home and recharge my Biloxi Battery. It was more frequent at first, and never takes real long, but it's a must. Several years back it finally struck Ginger who said, "No matter where we live, no matter how long we've lived there, you will always call Biloxi home." She knows me better than I do. I've taken to telling people I'm from Missibama because I've lived in Alabama about 4 months less than I lived in Mississippi. More accurately I'm from the whole Mississippi Territory. But Biloxi is my home.
We once traveled 350 miles for a pizza. A Hugo's Pizza, the establishment that brought french dressing to pizza, ask any old school Biloxi resident they'll tell you. I can still taste that 18" shrimp pizza even though I think they closed before Katrina wiped out the building. Traveling 5000 miles for an oyster poboy doesn't seem that far fetched to me. I try not to tell Ginger that's the point of the trip and she acts like it isn't so we're all good. But part of the reason I can travel intercontinentally for a meal is that I know I'll get to recharge my battery and see at least some of my huge family.
This trip was no exception. Of course Dad was there, and Bea who had traveled with him to Germany for 2 weeks in May. Then Uncle Doughnut showed up. Things were going great when Uncle Pat called so he headed over too. Now we're having an impromptu family gathering in a gas station. Bea and her granddaughter left, then Faith and Ginger went out to the car leaving two generations of Byrd Boys shooting the breeze around the table.
It comes as no surprise, but I talk. I talk a lot. It surprises people when I tell them I want to kiss the Blarney Stone because they can't believe I haven't already. But I also listen. I listen more than anyone who talks as much as me can. Listening to two conversations at the same time is easy. The problem is that at some point you will be drawn into one conversation over the other and you can't tell when (or where) that happens. In Afghanistan I had one 12 second interval where I was listening to one conversation in my right ear, one in my left, and talking to a guy in front of me. After 12 seconds I told everyone to quit because I will never be able to top that.
Part of the listening is paying attention. In the midst of our conversation I noticed that my Dad was more quiet than he normally is. Not sure what's going on there yet. I think we all kind of deferred to Uncle Pat a bit. My Dad wasn't the youngest, but he did seem to have the least to say. I suspect he was recharging his battery, too.
The interesting point that started this whole post was something Uncle Pat said. He talked about some of the things he's lived through, especially the civil rights movement, and said that everything is a circle. It all comes back around. And now, even that is coming back around.
The first instinct may be to say that no, the civil rights movement is not coming back around, but before you say that think in terms of parallels and equals. In many ways there are similar situations happening. And it's uncomfortable. The world of political correctness and offense over words taken out of context is immensely uncomfortable. The words taken in context are often poorly formed. And with the age of instant notification a misspoken word can be sent around the world in a hundred different ways before the smell of expulsion of words has dissipated.
I'm reminded of a line from one of my favorite poems. I don't like much poetry, I don't read much poetry. Taking it out of the whole could mean taking it out of context but the line is "Success in Circuit lie."
Life outside the comfort bubble is by definition uncomfortable. No matter how one defines the bubble. Sometimes the bubble defines you no matter how hard you try to avoid it.
Tell all the truth but tell it slant--
Success in Circuit Lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind--
Emily Dickinson (1263)