MONIQUE BATSON — Sometimes small towns turn out to be much better than big dreams

Published 12:05 am Friday, February 25, 2022

As a teenager, I remember how often I would use the cliché line of, “I can’t wait to leave this area.”

At 18, I pictured myself working in New York City, hailing a taxi with a cup of coffee in one hand and cell phone in the other, as if I were in a movie scene.

Granted, at 18 I had never been to New York, so movies were all I had as a guideline.

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But four years into my career, it became a very different movie — the one where she meets someone, marries, has a family and never leaves the area she was born.

Still, I’m constantly amazed by the benefits that come from living and working in a small community.

For instance, Wednesday I was doing a phone interview for our Health and Wellness edition this weekend, when the woman and I realized we had gone to school together. And now, we each had a freshman at the same high school.

We began talking about our high school days and what our kids do for fun, and instantly it felt like finding a long lost friend I never knew I had.

While browsing the Museum of the Gulf Coast Hall of Fame recently, I came across the name of someone I graduated with.

My first grade teacher was my oldest son’s first grade teacher.

I now know the young adults working in the restaurants and stores around me because I either knew their parents, coached them in softball or they are friends with my kids.

I sit in on school board meetings and hear about the campuses my children and I attended. I take pictures on the football field where I got my high school diploma.

I had to visit the Nederland Heritage Festival office Wednesday for work but also picked up passports because I’ve bought them every year for as long as I’ve had kids.

I expect Wayne Toups to be on the live music lineup anytime there’s a festival within 50 miles.

Often times those of us in the office who have always lived in the area start reminiscing about unique stories, crazy crimes and other events that have happened over the years.

And just about every day, I have what we call “The Mary Meaux Moment.” It’s something we’ve all experienced — except Mary.

Like me, Mary also works in the area in which she was born.

But while I grew up in Mid County, Mary was born in Port Arthur. And every time I go to an unfamiliar place for work, I’ll instantly be asked, “What happened to Mary Meaux?”

For whatever reason, people think I’ve replaced her and start to panic. Or, they’ll ask if I know Mary. Some will ask how Mary is doing. And almost everyone that comes into the office says “bye, Mary” on their way out the door.

The two may have not exchanged one word until that moment, but it’s almost a guarantee that everyone knows Mary.

A couple of weeks ago she was proofreading the next day’s obituaries when she recognized someone’s name had been misspelled. It wasn’t an obvious mistake; she knew the family.

And anytime someone comes in to grab something and leaves without speaking, one of us will ask Mary who it was.

She always knows.

In a few years, all of my children will be grown. And after that, I might pick up where I started and decide to relocate.

But there’s nothing like walking into a grocery store and running into 10 people you know. Learning your relative or high school friend is now your child’s teacher.

And, my most favorite, asking Mary Meaux the phone number of any Port Arthur official and having her recite it by memory.


Mary Meaux is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at