Over lunch the other day with friends - all in the newspaper business - I mentioned I occasionally speak at writers' conferences.
Around the corner, out in the country where we live, is a hardware store owned by a guy I have known since the day I was born. Our bassinets were next to each other in the hospital nursery.
It happened in Memphis. A lot of history and interesting stuff occurs in that magical city that sits grandly next to the Mississippi River. Elvis held court there, the blues grew up there and barbecue is queen. Elvis, of course, is still king.
The waitress set down the cup of coffee and I poured cream into the hot, black liquid while quietly reflecting, pondering something.
My parents told great stories.
Just as Tink started up the stairs, stepping slowly and carefully as he balanced a bowl and a cup of coffee to keep them from sloshing, I appeared around the corner. I paused, watched and debated silently as to whether to speak.
When Peggy Sue went away, just fell off the face of the earth with no warning or even a holler, we all wondered where she had gone.
Recently, I was in a bookstore with a friend. We stopped at a table near the front of the store and it was loaded with different books that had such obscene titles that many of the words were expressed as "@?*#."
Mama was stubborn. "Set in her ways," is what country folks call it and boy, was she. When she made up her mind, nothing stopped her. Especially when she set her jaw and punctuated her declaration with a firm nod of her head. If she also threw that crooked forefinger in your direction, you knew it was set in stone. Destined to be.
One day over lunch, my new-to-the-South-but-thoroughly-loving-it husband commented on the choir singing at our church, which is led by my brother-in-law, Rodney.
It seems too many loved ones recently have said goodbye to this vale of grief and sorrow and said hello to sweet eternity. Heaven is blessed, but I am distressed.
In the past several years, I have had as much luck visiting the historically preserved home of iconic Southern writer Eudora Welty as I would have had when she was alive. The front door is always shut to me.
To be downright honest, I never expected to miss him this much. And, if the deeper truth be told, perhaps it isn't just the loss of a singular man, though great and admirable he was.
A major New York publisher sent a review copy of a much-touted novel called "If Jack's In Love." Because I write about the South, and because this book had won the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction, the book's publicist followed up with an email.
If Tink had any hesitation about coming into a traditional Southern family, there was only one: our happy, colorful Easter parade. The one we have every year - rain or shine - when we return to Louise's and Rodney's house after church and before the ridiculously big meal we have.
One afternoon, I had a hankering, a primal-like craving, for a supper of pinto beans and cornbread with a tall glass of cold, rich buttermilk thrown in for good measure and extra filling.
Over the years, I've crossed paths with many people who were extremely successful as well as some who were such miserable failures that, as Mama liked to say, "ain't worth the breath they draw."
That apple tree. Oh my goodness. Something told me it wouldn't turn out well.
This happened years ago. Mama was alive then, so it's been seven or eight years. I hadn't thought about it in almost that many years, but when it came to mind the other day, I took to studying on it and how the circumstances and opportunities of life's journey can be so fascinating.
Yes, I know that I am, occasionally, prone to embellishment. But trust me when I say this is the law and the gospel: I have a longtime friend who only calls me when someone dies. Most times I know the person, but sometimes I don't have a clue the person ever existed.
A friend of mine, long embroiled in upsets, distractions, problems and tribulations, called one day to announce happily she was learning to "let things roll right off my back."
It's a funny thing. That's what Mama used to say when something baffled her.
When Miss Ondia Mae died at 75, those of us who knew her marveled that she had managed to make it to the end of her life without winding up in the poorhouse.
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