Tuesday, December 5, 2006

dixie on my mind

My head is still full of the South, the way it is after I've been anywhere on a trip. Our visit to my old stomping grounds of Mississippi was short but sweet. Very sweet. It was wonderful to see Jo Ann and David again and to be there to celebrate their 50 years of marriage. It's hard to imagine being married 50 years, and I think anyone who accomplishes it is pretty amazing. I'll be 85 when our time rolls around, and I hope I will be lucid enough to enjoy the party. Jo Ann and David are remarkable people. David was an East Coast native who (with his brother) was invited down to farm in the Mississippi Delta by Hodding Carter, the legendary founder and editor of the Delta Democrat Times (where I later worked after the Carter family sold the newspaper to a chain from California). Jo Ann was a local girl, and when they met and married, David stayed and eventually found a career in forestry. I met Jo Ann after she had retired and was working part time as a photographer at the newspaper. I love them so much, and they are one of the main reasons I will return to Greenville again.

So is McCormick Book Inn, the little independent bookstore on Main Street where I used to go to escape from mediocrity and fill myself with the richness of Southern culture or whatever else I was in the mood to savor. Hugh McCormick and his wife, Mary Dayle, keep the shelves stocked with Delta writers and great novels and the walls hung with beautiful photography and art work. The day we stopped in, I think Hugh's eyes popped out of his head when he saw me! They were serving up appetizers in the back room - so yummy that I bought the book the recipes came from. (The author happened to be having a signing that afternoon, so she signed it for me.)

And on Sunday, we drove halfway across the state — past the flat catfish farms and cotton fields, though towns like Leland and Indianola — to Oxford, home of Ole Miss and another great independent bookstore, Square Books, where we met Elizabeth, one of my old friends from when we both worked at the newspaper. We only had time for lunch and a few minutes of holding Daniel, but it was so good to see her, too.

Daniel was a trooper on the airplane and all the long car rides. Sure, he cried a bit, and we were sweating and apologetic, but it didn't last long. And he is a baby, after all, and people understood. At the hotel, we got a portable crib, but he ended up sleeping in between Steve and me in our big king-size bed, which was an unexpected delight. Daniel likes to sleep with his arms spread wide open, so there's not enough room for all three of us in our queen-size bed at home.

As we were driving from Oxford back to Memphis to fly home Sunday night, Steve said he had really gained an appreciation for Mississippi and for what I had loved about it when I lived there. He saw its charm and its beauty, along with the poverty and racial divisions, and that meant a lot to me, for him to be able to share a part of my life that was before him.


Susanne said...

Emilie, what absolutely beautiful pictures! I remember both those people from your wedding. Do JOann and DAvid have children! It's great they hit the big 50!

liz said...

What a fun weekend! I so missed seeing you, but it is wonderful that you could attend this celebration. 50 is an amazing milestone, and I really can't fathom it myself!