We left New Orleans on interstate 10, traveling across Lake Ponchatrain through Eden Isle, Slidell and to Pearl River where we merged onto I-59 north heading for the Mississippi state line. I love the names given to places in the south. Picayune, Mississippi might be a wide spot in the road, but I love saying the name. In all fairness to Picayune, the interstate just rushes us right past it so I don’t really know what can be found there. But I want to find out. Just like I want to see Carriere, McNeill, Poplarville, Hillsdale, Lumberton, Talowah, and Purvis. All these small towns lining state highway 11 from the Mississippi border up to Hattiesburg. In fact, I want to know more about Hattiesburg, Oxford, Meridian, Columbus and Eutaw, as well. There is something intoxicating about the small towns of Mississippi. I call it the William Faulkner affect.
I’m sure the same can be said for small towns everywhere, but I am mesmerized by the soft drawl and the kind hearts of the folks in Mississippi. Maybe all these years living in proximity to the fourth largest city in the United States has made me long for the life that they have. A life where people matter more than things, families stay together and neighbors are friends to the point of being like family.
These unassuming folks are completely welcoming to a stranger in their midst. I’ve visited many small towns nearer to home where I don’t get that feeling. Laurel draws you in and makes you want to be a part of what they have. I want that for my life. My only question is can I give up what I have to get what I think I want?
The rain had finally stopped, the skies were clear and the air had a hint of spring coolness to it. We had the full range of weather during our three days in New Orleans: warm & humid, cool, rain, wind, and finally clear skies. It was truly a moment to rejoice when the skies cleared and cool temperatures prevailed.
Spring is a fleeting season in the south. We cherish each moment of it because once summer weather – not to be confused with the season of summer – begins we know it won’t end until October, if we are lucky.
The drive to Laurel was uneventful. We took the interstate instead of the scenic route because we were on a time schedule and Laurel was our desired destination. No time for dilly-dallying. We had twenty four hours and wanted to make the most of it.
We stayed in the Guay House. This unassuming little cottage was featured on season three, episode three of the HGTV show Home Town. Erin and Ben Napier found this craftsman cottage and restored it for a couple who currently live in Canada but plan on retiring to Laurel. It is this episode that sparked all kinds of plans for Mr. Means and myself. Until they move, the house is available on Air BnB. There was one night in March available and I snatched it up! For twenty four hours we lived the dream.
But First Caffeine
Our first stop was Lee’s for a cup of coffee or tea. I couldn’t decide. This is one of two coffee shops in town. Next time I will visit Pause.
Lee’s is in an old building in downtown Laurel. When you walk in, you are greeted with a variety of sights, sounds, and smells.
I don’t know what this building used to be, but it is fabulous. Along the wall on the left there is a room behind the glass and then farther on down is small gift store! Immediately my mind went to – this would be an amazing space to house a yarn spinning, weaving, and fiber art studio! There are board games, food, coffee, and yes, tea. I had the most delicious cup of Earl Grey. There is something to do there every Friday night – open mic night , board game night, live music night, vinyl night, and movie night.
Eat At Pearl’s
Lunch had to be at Pearl’s We ate here last year and there was no doubt we had to come back. It feels like Pearl’s has been a part of the community for generations, when in fact, it only opened in 2017. This is a family run restaurant with food that typifies great southern cooking. If I could choose my last supper – this would be it! Pearl’s macaroni and cheese is absolutely the best I have ever had; and that is saying something because I have eaten my share of mac and cheese, and someone else’s portion as well.
Time To Shop
We visited the General Store. This was not open when we visited last June. Part of the space is Ben’s wood shop and the rest they have turned into an old fashioned general store stocked with many things not readily found today. Fun things from our past brought together for a unique shopping (and visiting) experience.
One of the coolest things is that when they are filming in the wood-shop, there is a huge window where you can watch the process. One day I hope we are lucky enough to make there while filming is going on.
From here we drove across the street to The Laurel Mercantile. We had shopped here last year, but when in Laurel…the Mercantile is a must see. Of course I did not leave empty handed and on the way out, the loveliest lady said “Thank you for coming” and then asked, “Where are y’all from?” That simple question sparked the most delightful conversation.
This Aunt Mae…or MaeMae as she told me she is called. Aunt Mae is Erin Napier’s maternal aunt and official Laurel Mercantile greeter and cheerleader for the town. She told me about herself and where she’s from as well as tidbits about Laurel. She made me laugh. Her accent and her story telling ability reminded me so much of my sweet mother-in-law that I got emotional telling her it was like having Bernice right here with me. Who knows…maybe Bernice was there watching over us. Before we left Mae made sure she saw where we had signed the guest book and gave me a business card just in case we want to move there and be on season four of Home Town. She is quite the ambassador. And yet, everyone we meet in Laurel is like this.
Time To Go “Home”
What I really wanted for this brief stay was to pretend that I lived in Laurel. To do the regular life stuff, only in my dream style of home in small town America. For me, this is living the dream.
I am really a very simple person. I don’t dream of a mansion or any kind of fancy house. I dream of a cozy home, preferably built in the 1920’s, filled with charm and character. This home has it all. I adore the kitchen, small yet functional and the design is pure Sheryl. I love the black cabinets on the bottom with natural wood knobs and white on top with the same knobs. These are details that I missed during the television show. As much as I adore Ben’s butcher block counter tops, I know myself. I need something that doesn’t require maintenance. I would love a white marble looking quartz product with gray veins running through it.
The floors are original and amazing. All the imperfections that result from decades of life lived in the house were not repaired or covered up. No, there were simply kept as a part of the history of this house. I love that. Walking on these wood floors felt solid and secure. They have stood the test of time and have so many stories they could tell.
Somehow I managed to not take a picture of the claw foot bathtub! Of course I had to take a bath and it was perfect! Most tubs are too long for me so I slide down and am most uncomfortable. I was able to comfortably recline and my feet touched the other end. Cold cast iron means the water doesn’t stay hot long. This was a short but delicious bath.
The mirror is a tad high for this less than five foot person, but that would be easily remedied if I lived here.
I want this sink! No storage you say? Behind me is a wall of open shelves and the little metal shelf about the sink can house the necessities. I absolutely adore this.
Erin does a watercolor painting of every house for the new homeowner. This is the one she did for the Guay’s as well as another original painting on the right. Little artist touches that make this house a home.
I fell in love with these prints. They are reproductions of pressed botanicals. The completely neutral colors and an entire wall of them made for a stunning visual impact.
The Rest of Laurel
We spent much time driving and dreaming. So I’ll leave you with a few other sights from our twenty four hours in Laurel.
This is the guest journal. The cover message really hit home. What do we, as a couple, want for the next phase of our lives? We have lived for thirty years making most of our decisions based on the needs, or anticipated needs, of others. We have done precious little just for ourselves. Life on earth is short and getting shorter everyday. I used to think that unless I had “God’s permission” I couldn’t take action to make things happen. I no longer think that way.
I now believe that God equips us to serve Him no matter where we go or what we do. If He puts a desire on our hearts then it is something to pay attention to. There is something that we will only receive if we follow through and not let fear stop us from taking the necessary steps. Like most things in life, we will never know if we don’t try.
I didn’t want to leave Laurel. I want to make it my hometown. But we currently have a life here that needs our attention. We left, driving west, and with each mile anxiety began to creep back into my heart. The “what ifs” took the place of the peace. As we got close to Houston, all sense of calm was gone. Traffic, noise, and worst of all, a fire burning at a distant chemical plant all made me question where we live. What if God really has a plan for us and the only way we will know is to step out in faith? My family and friends have heard all this before. I have spent years dreaming of moving to a small town. But, somehow, this is different. This is nothing we would do on our own. This is scary. It is leaving everything we have known and trusting fully in God to provide a new life. I don’t know. Am I daydreaming again? Am I rationalizing? Only time will tell.
I encourage you to find a small town to visit. If you have lost faith in humanity, go visit a small town. They are everywhere and are just begging for life to be restored to them. Go visit. Stay a while. Spend some money in the town. Everyone will benefit from the experience.
Until next time…keep looking up, embrace today, and go find some fun!