Place Where You Live:

Diamondhead, Mississippi

My hometown has a country club, but no McDonald’s. Diamondhead lacks popular staples of corporate America, so kids are more likely to be seen outdoors. I ran into a friend every time I went to the only grocery store or gas station in town. The close-knit community was carefully designed and named after the Hawaiian volcano. The streets include a golf cart path and are named after Hawaiian cities. The island influence was intended to appeal to couples retiring from the nearby cities of Gulfport and Biloxi, but it became home to families of all ages. The yacht club in town and the beaches twenty minutes away from Diamondhead would never be confused for Hawaii, but provide more than enough entertainment for Mississippians.

Four empty lots surrounded my family’s house on Hanalei Circle. My sister and I explored “the woods.” We waded through and sometimes swam in the retention pond in our backyard. Daring each other to crawl through the pipes under the street was a common activity for us. Our parents never worried about pain being inflicted on us by dire-intentioned people.

Driving around Diamondhead, “Pray for Jennifer” bumper stickers, signs and T-shirts can be seen honoring the 18-year-old girl permanently handicapped from a traumatic brain injury received in a car accident four years ago. In the summer, people will be jet skiing on the Jourdan River or swimming in one of the four public pools. While taking a walk, there is a risk of being chased by a neighbor’s aggressive dog. When my best friend and I had this experience, her uncle heard our screams and fired his shotgun towards the dog until we could get into his house.

My sister and I were heartbroken when our parents informed us we were moving to Houston. On the first day at my new school, I realized that schoolwork could actually be challenging and I was no longer the star student in my classes. I joined choir that year, an option not offered at my old school. Houston gave my family opportunities we never realized we were missing in Mississippi. We all ended up being glad we moved, yet I wouldn’t trade my time in Diamondhead for anything.