It was kind of a last-minute decision to go to Baton Rouge for spring break. We had been considering it for months, but we just weren’t sure if we could handle the 15-hour drive.
About a week before our break was to begin, we realized the Winter of 2013 had no intention of giving way to warmer weather, and we would do anything to find some sunshine. We were craving some time with our good friends who moved to Baton Rouge a year ago, so Louisiana was the obvious destination.
And CapableDad and I have been promising ourselves for several years that we would one day travel back through Mississippi to retrace the familiar route we used to drive in a WEEKEND to see each other when we were dating. You can click here to find out more about that.
It turned out that driving that 940-mile stretch of I-55 that takes us from our home almost all the way to Baton Rouge would be a fun-filled trip down memory lane. By the time we got to Mississippi, we had plenty of laughs about all the treks we made between Springfield and Mississippi in desperation to see each other.
One stop we just HAD to make was to find this statue in Jackson, Mississippi:
When we happened upon that statue the first time back in 1995, we thought it was hilarious to take a photo of two Yankees posed with the engraved sign over our heads: “The Confederate Dead of Mississippi.”
We assumed the statue would be at the State Capitol building, so we found our way downtown and led the kids to the capitol lawn. To our surprise, we could see the grounds swarming with children and their Easter baskets. Bouncy houses were set up next to the beautiful Statehouse and someone was dressed as the Easter bunny.
The three older kids acted like they would die of embarrassment that we were going to crash an Easter party in search of some silly statue. Jayda and I skipped ahead. She was begging to try out a big bouncy house shaped like a puppy, and after two days in the minvan, I really didn’t see the point in denying her that fun.
We got in line with the young Mississippians dressed in their Sunday best on a Saturday afternoon. The girls were all wearing Easter dresses and the boys donned their pastel oxford shirts and khaki dress shorts. (Looking back, I’m thinking their attire was what WE would consider Sunday best, but was probably not even CLOSE to what they would normally wear to church on Sundays!) They bounced out of each house, with red faces and sweaty hair, as their mamas tried to smooth down their outfits.
Jayda and I kept moving from one bouncy house to the next while the other three kids hid with their father behind a tree. “This HAS to be illegal!” they moaned.
I tried to explain that if they were having an Easter party on the lawn of the State Capitol, it must be a public event. No one seemed to give us a second glance despite our much more casual attire. I didn’t even noticed until later when I was taking a photo of the kids in front of the Capitol that Matthew was wearing a bright orange “Illinois” T-shirt with red sweat shorts.
The more the older kids despised this adventure, the more determined I became to enjoy what Jayda and I saw as our amazing good fortune to happen upon such a fine southern party on a gorgeous spring day. We decided we might as well visit the food tent for some fresh lemonade, perfectly frosted mini cupcakes and cookies shaped like bunnies.
We munched on our snacks before Jayda made a few more rounds in each bouncy house. The other three weren’t sure if they should be jealous or angry.
I encouraged my 3-year-old sidekick to taunt the others with our delicious snacks, telling them they could have a cupcake too, if they would just venture up to the snack tent. One of them couldn’t resist, and at least the female half of our family proved that cupcakes are more important than our pride.
Finally, I asked a police officer about the statue and he directed us about a half mile away to the Old Capitol. We found the monument and tried to pose in the same way we had remembered sitting 18 years earlier. This time, we had a 3-year-old who insisted on being part of the photo and three older children who were anxious to get back on the road.
I think our updated photo is even better than the first time. The statue seems to be much cleaner now. And look at us. We couldn’t possibly imagine ourselves married for 15 years with four awesome children.
I told my kids that if they ever have the good fortune to visit Jackson, Mississippi, at another time in their lives that I will expect them to take a photo in front of the monument to the confederate dead. And if their timing is so perfect that they make it in time for an Easter party? Well, then. I really hope they will have a cupcake for their mama.