March 20, 2017 10:18:23 AM
Growing up in a small town in Arkansas, one far too small for even a Walmart to sniff its borders, the idea of seeing a college basketball game in person was a pipe dream.
We watched games on TV, religiously, and as a child of the 1990s who cheered for the Arkansas Razorbacks, there were far more good days than bad. But Fayetteville was a five-hour drive from my home, and the idea we would drive -- or even fly -- to watch an NCAA Tournament game was even more out of the question.
So Sunday, when my wife and I loaded up in the Chevy with our three daughters to go watch an NCAA women's tournament game two miles from the house, it didn't strike me as just a normal thing. And as many times as my family and I have been to The Hump, Dudy Noble, Nusz Park, Davis Wade, etc., it occurred to me that for my children, it's kind of become just a part of their culture.
That certainly didn't stop us from cheering our voices away during Sunday's game, recognizing the gravity of the moment for the Bulldogs or how special it was for them to advance. But it showed me once again, as living in Starkville often does, how much different my daughters' childhoods will be than my own.
Starkville, and really the Golden Triangle as a whole, maintains a strong measure of the "small-town feel" I knew from back home -- something I'm quite pleased will also be a part of my children's upbringing. We don't go very many places around here without seeing somebody we know. The kids have ridden on Christmas parade floats and get to see their pictures in the newspapers when they achieve something cool at school. But that combines with such an array of opportunities and access that small-town living so often precludes.
In just the past year or so, my oldest two daughters, ages 10 and 8, have witnessed history from firsthand sources. It hasn't all been in the sports world either. They've met a Holocaust survivor and enjoyed orchestra performances, plays and musicals. If one of them hadn't been sick the evening Buzz Aldrin spoke at Mississippi State last year, they would have met a man who once walked on the moon. And they did -- or in the case of the latter, could have done -- these things while never traveling more than 20 miles. Sometimes, we could even walk there from our front door.
I certainly don't knock my raising or my hometown. It's where my parents still live along with some others among my favorite people, and I look forward to every time we can load up that same Chevy to go spend time there. But it feels good to know that by the time my girls are teenagers, they will have experienced so many positive things that I didn't until I was grown. It's also cool that many times, we're all experiencing them for the first time together.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.
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