Two weeks in the South…

Two weeks in the South…

If you’ve been reading my blogs for any length of time at all, then you know I’m Southern.  I was born in the Delta of Mississippi and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee.  My roots are there.  I fell in love and got married there many years ago.  My children were born there.  I have a long list of family and friends there.  And, yes, I still have a Southern accent…
 
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It was the first day of October and a Wednesday I’d been looking forward to.  I was flying home to the South.  It had been three long years since I had flown into Memphis…and that had been on the sad occasion of my beloved sister Gerry’s funeral after she had lost her courageous battle with ALS.  As the plane circled and descended into Memphis, I picked out a few familiar landmarks:  the winding Mississippi River, the Memphis-Arkansas bridge, the “Pyramid” and LeBonheur Children’s Hospital.  Soon the plane was landing.

Memphis_skyline_from_the_air

Memphis skyline from the air. (Wikipedia)

Penny and Mike picked me up at the airport and we headed back to their home.  They were headed south to Gulf Shores the following morning for a few days, so this gave us some time together until the following week.  Penny fixed a delicious meal (including one of my favorites – Southern Fried Okra!) and we enjoyed time together before they drove me 45 minutes out to Sharon and Tommy’s home.  I call Sharon “my baby niece” but she’s actually only two and a half years younger than I.  She is my beloved late sister Dot’s only child.  After the death of her father when she was four months old, we all lived together and Sharon and I grew up like sisters.

I had flown with painful “fluid behind my eardrums” diagnosed by my doctor on Monday and once I arrived in Memphis, it proceeded to get much worse.  Unfortunately, I was sick!  My long-time Memphis allergies had hit with a vengeance.   Sadly, I missed my dinner with my dear friends from Lakeside Hospital where I had worked as a Registered Nurse with emotionally disturbed children for ten years.  I hope to make it up to them in the Spring!  Sharon took me to her doctor on Thursday where I got a shot and a CBC which verified it was allergies.  I was a sick puppy nonetheless.  The shot was a big boost and I felt much better the next day.  Sharon and I made it to the luncheon at Grisanti’s with my high school friends I had not seen in so many years!  It was wonderful to see everyone and, somehow, the years just melted away.

Below:  My KHS buddy David and I.  David is the youngest member of our graduating class and I am the next-to-the-youngest member!  We had not seen each other for 51 years!!  He is the same wonderful guy as always.  He has a PhD and is a well-loved professor at a local university!

 

Below:  Kathy is my best friend since the ninth-grade at KHS and I’m amazed to say that’s 55 years!  She is as beautiful as ever!  We see each other after any length of time and just pick right up where we left off.  We had a “sleep-over” one night during my visit and her sweet husband patiently put up with us pretending we were sixteen all over again.  We had the 60’s music playing in the background and reminiscing over days gone by.  Before we knew it, it was 1:00 a.m.!   Her sweet husband Bill treated us to a delicious dinner at Houston’s, a Memphis landmark for the past 31 years.   I enjoyed meeting one of their three sons, a very handsome young man.  I also introduced her and her sweet grandson and granddaughter to ancestry.com and we began a search for their family tree.  Her grandchildren thought that was cool and will be a big help with it!

 Below:  I was so happy to see my cousin, Joy, and fellow KHS graduate at the luncheon as well (although she’s 6 years younger than I).  You can tell by looking at us that we come from the same strong McGregor stock!  Her grandmother was my father’s sister and one of my favorite aunts!  We took one look at one another and marveled at how much we favored one another!

 

I loved my time with Sharon and Tommy.  Sharon is a wonderful cook and made several terrific Southern meals – including delicious homemade meatloaf, her amazing mashed potatoes, Southern vegetables and hot cornbread.  Another night she made delicious homemade chicken noodle soup and salad.  I was getting a bit spoiled!

The following Tuesday, we headed to the “hills” of Mississippi for a visit with my precious sister Eunice and her dear husband Eddie.  We had so much fun with them!  They live on 5 beautiful, treed acres with a barn and a beautiful horse named Cherokee.  Eddie is the “horse whisperer” and can make a horse do anything!  Unfortunately, since his hip replacement, he can no longer ride but still enjoys Cherokee.  Eunice is a great Southern cook and made a delicious dinner of pork chops, mashed potatoes, squash, green beans and hot cornbread.  Sharon made the dessert which was one of my favorites – banana pudding.  Another day, Eddie took us all out to dinner for another Southern feast.  They have a wide front porch all the way across the front of their home and each morning would find us out there sitting in the rockers or porch swing, enjoying our coffee and visiting.  Eddie recently turned 83 but doesn’t look a day over 70 and gets told all the time that he looks like George W. Bush!

While we were there, we all drove to Pontotoc, Mississippi, to visit the cemetery where my parents, grandparents and other ancestors are born.  The old white church has been taken down but, other than that, it looks the same.  I took photos of a lot of the tombstones to use with my family history research.  After the Guinn Cemetery, we drove over to the Springville Cemetery where my maternal grandparents and other maternal ancestors are born.  Again, I took photos for the family history book I intend to finish when I’m snowbound this Iowa winter!

 Below:  my beautiful sister Eunice at Guinn Cemetery.  She is 11 years older than I am.  We are the remaining two of the four McGregor daughters.  I promised her I would be back in the Spring.  We cannot wait so long to see each other again!

euniceatthecemetery

We left Pontotoc and headed for New Albany, Mississippi, where we visited their very neat town square…complete with several quaint antique shops and my favorite bakery:  Sugaree’s!  I can’t begin to describe how delicious everything they bake is!  We bought one slice of their amazing white cake with homemade caramel frosting and two chocolate cupcakes to share four ways!  I would love to have bought the whole caramel cake!  They ship frozen by the way, so check it out.  It’s unbelievable!

On Thursday afternoon, we said a sad goodbye to Eunice and Eddie and headed north to visit my niece Cindy.  We ate dinner out together that night at McAlister’s (although I skipped my favorite sweet tea since it was so late!) and enjoyed our visit and laughter.  Cindy teaches music history at the local college and could easily have been a concert pianist.  She entertained us later with a few numbers which I loved.  I videotaped it but I’m under strict instructions not to share it!  But I will say she’s amazing!

Below:  Cindy, Sharon and I attempted a “selfie” with my iPad (an iPad photo isn’t too flattering) but I think it turned out cute!  

 

On Friday, we drove over to Greenwood, Mississippi, to eat lunch at the Crystal Grill.  I had a Southern vegetable plate with cornbread muffins and a slice of their famous chocolate pie with mile-high-meringue!  It was so good!  After lunch, we trekked around downtown in the rain, enjoying the well-known Mississippi shops.  I purchased a small pottery candle holder and a ceramic cross.  Sharon bought me a beautiful robin egg blue/green ceramic soap dish which I love.  (Thankfully, I made it home safely with everything!).  That night, Cindy prepared a delicious tortilla chicken casserole, fresh green beans and salad.  She had also made a wonderful apple spice cake!

Below:  In the Delta of Mississippi, Greenwood is “the cotton capital of the world”.  We saw field after field of beautiful snow-white cotton.

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On Saturday, we said another sad goodbye and headed back to Memphis…to Penny and Mike’s home.  We enjoyed hanging out together, having a delicious Southern dinner and watching a few favorite shows on television.  Penny and I did some shopping the day before I flew back.  I did manage to get it all in my suitcase and it wasn’t over the limit!  On Wednesday morning, Mike and Penny drove me to the airport – in the midst of Memphis rush hour traffic – but we made it with time to spare.

It was a wonderful two weeks filled with lots of memories and I’m looking forward to returning in the early Spring!

Music and memories…

Music and memories…

When I was growing up, my older sisters (11, 15 and 18 years older) were playing the music of the fifties. I grew up listening to the sounds featured on the first “youtube” video below. My sisters were wonderful dancers. By the time I was ten and Sharon was eight, we could dance. I don’t know…maybe we had watched my sisters enough. I don’t remember that part. Neither Mama nor Daddy ever owned up to where (from which one of them) we all got the rhythm we had, but we could dance.

On the weekends, my sisters would occasionally go dancing. They would get all dressed up in the wonderful 1950’s fashions with high heels and go dancing with their boyfriend/husband/fiance. Sharon and I were, of course, much too young, so we’d get in the hallway of the house on Victor Drive with the polished hardwood floors, turn the music up and “bop” (the swing music or boogie-woogie today). I don’t remember Mama ever complaining that the music was too loud or that we were under foot. Most of the time, she and Daddy would be laughing at us.  Eventually, we would get tired.

I was listening to some great fifties music this afternoon. Those mellow sounds of the wonderful saxophone of Ace Cannon were coming across the built-in speakers all throughout the house. I was dancing to Alley Cat as I cooked supper. I couldn’t help it. The memories were tumbling in and I was a very young teenager again…dancing in the hallway of a little house in Memphis.

Dianne 1963

Of course, the music of the sixties brings back a whole new “set” of memories: high school, college, falling in love, being a young newlywed and, later, having two small children fifteen and a half months apart. Amazing, isn’t it…?

This is a neat “youtube” video.  If you remember this time, you’ll enjoy it.

If you don’t remember it, you should enjoy it anyway!  

After all these years, this is still fun…
I don’t remember doing all the acrobatics (but some). I tried teaching my granddaughters in Montana a few of these steps and they thought it was fun!  Of course, I must admit that I don’t remember being so out of breath in the sixties!  😉

 

Dancing with two of my granddaughters at my younger son’s wedding reception…October 2006.

This post was originally published in my blog, My Southern Heart…the Memories.

“I’ll go to my grave loving you”…

“I’ll go to my grave loving you”…

The year was 1975.  My sweet, gentle Dad had heard this song on the radio and asked me if I could find the record for him.  He loved my Mama dearly and he loved this song.  At the time, I was not a fan of country music – and definitely not a fan of the Statler Brothers – but I bought a tape player and the song for him (and a few others).

I watched as he listened to the sweet harmony and the words of the song…and his eyes teared up.  The next thing I knew, there was a tear trailing down my cheek.

He did go to his grave loving Mama and his four daughters and all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren…four years before Mama.

I think about this song from time to time…and about Daddy’s love for and commitment to his family.  I’m thankful for that legacy.

MAMAANDDADDY1968

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 The preview photo at top was taken about 1952 at the Memorial Gardens Cemetery.  

I wrote a post entitled “All Too Soon” about the photo and the years on Mamie Road here.

Miss Glorioso…

Miss Glorioso…

Have you noticed that the older you get, the sharper your long-term memory becomes?  (We won’t talk about the short-term memory!)  A few of my classmates and I have been together since the 6th grade at Kingsbury Elementary School.  That is a very long time.  All the way through graduation at Kingsbury High School.

Memories are amazing when you think about it.  I can remember my sixth grade teacher, Miss Glorioso, like it was yesterday.  She was beautiful.  Italian with coal black hair and big, dark brown eyes.  I believe we were her first class to teach after graduating from a university in Mississippi.

Miss Glorioso actually made learning fun and I think that is about the highest compliment one could bestow upon a teacher.  She smiled a lot and loved teaching.  If she couldn’t get a point across, she’d act it out in front of the class – like action verbs.  I think she is the one to thank for my strong grasp of grammar.  I remember once,  much like the American Girl movie, Molly – An American Girl on the Home Front, her handsome fiance came for a visit to the classroom.  The rest of the girls and I were in love with the romance of it all!

My classmates and I have been wondering what happened to Miss Glorioso.  Using our sleuthing skills, a few online sites and the help of a classmate’s 6th grade report card, we determined that her given names were Jennie Marie.  Through Ancestry.com, I found that she grew up in Mississippi.  We just don’t know her married name.   We don’t know if she’s still alive.  I’m guessing she was about 11-12 years older than we were at the time, so she would be 79-80 now.  I have no idea how long she taught or if she would remember her class from 1956-57…but the class remembers her quite fondly.  It would be wonderful to know if she is still alive and how she is doing.  We would love to tell her how much she meant to each of us all these years later.

If you know Miss Glorioso, would you email me at the contact link above?  There are a bunch of us “sixth-graders” who would like to say Hello and Thank You!

Diannepreteen

 Speaking of long-term memory, I believe the dress I was wearing in the photo above was lavender.  I was wearing the “crinolines” beneath to make the dress stand out!  Such was the style way back then…

GREAT NEWS:  I found Miss Glorioso!!!  

We just had a nice telephone conversation,

and she was so happy to learn that we remembered her! 

Memories and prayers…

Memories and prayers…

It was May 24, 1971.  All these years later, I still remember that it had begun as a beautiful Spring day.  At that time, we were a young couple and parents to an almost three year old and a one year old.  We were living in the first home of our own, a small two bedroom cottage in an older treed neighborhood.  A neighborhood where you knew your neighbors and everyone cared about their homes and one another.  We had spent months restoring and redecorating…learning as we went.  We were proud of what we had accomplished.  As I recall, my parents were spending time with our children at their house that morning, one mile away.  That gave us some rare free time together, but I don’t remember where we had been that morning.

While we were out, the rains had started and the winds had picked up.  I don’t remember if there were sirens back then or if we heard about the tornado on the radio but, at one point, we could actually see the dark gray funnel as it swirled furiously about!  It was behind us, in the vicinity of our home, as we raced away from it and toward my parents’ home.  The winds were so strong and fierce that, at one scary point, our little VW bug was lifted up on to the sidewalk!  My husband managed to get back on the road as we made our way to our children.  We waited out the storm at my parents’ home with our children safe in our arms.  Later, when it was all over, we ventured back home.

Thankfully, our home was intact.  There were some limbs and debris in the yard but everything was fine.  As we began walking about the neighborhood, we realized that the tornado had touched down on every other street!  There was unbelievable damage on every other street!  According to Memphis records, it was a Force 2 which covered 24 miles and injured 22 people.  Somewhere, within my boxes of photographs, there are pictures of the damage that day…but I don’t need a photograph.  I still remember.

In the early 1990’s, we were living in a small town in Kentucky.   On that particular Summer day, my husband and I were at work, our daughter was at home from college for the summer, our younger son was at the church playing basketball with friends of his and our older son was away at medical school.  A typical, busy Summer day.

Early that afternoon, the skies turned an unusual, deep shade of green and it began to rain in torrents and fierce horizontal sheets.  The winds began to literally howl – roaring loudly.  We lived in a large 1940’s Cape Cod house not far from the hospital where I worked.  Something told me that I needed to get home but it was impossible at that point to even leave the building.  I called to check on my daughter and young son.  She was at home alone and scared.  We determined the safest place in the house for her to wait.  My young son was in the basement of the church with the youth director and several other children.  They were safe.  Later, my daughter called to say that we needed to come home and that we wouldn’t believe what we were going to see.

After the storm was over, we made our way home.  Much of Elizabethtown looked like a battle zone.  Our historical street was one of the worst hit.  The elderly gentleman across the steet from us lost his house entirely as an immense oak tree fell through the middle of the house – literally splitting it in two.  His daughter had called seconds before the tree fell.  He got up to answer the phone and his life was spared as the tree fell exactly where he had been sitting.  Many others lost their homes.

A very large tree limb fell into the roof of my daughter’s upstairs room, protruding several feet into the room!  Another large tree took our back porch off.  There was other damage to our home but nothing compared to what others had lost.  There were trees that had lived for two hundred years sprawled across our yard and across the road all the way down our street.  It was a sad picture.  But we were safe.  My husband was interviewed in our front yard by national news networks about the storm and the damage to our home.  I then reminded him that he needed to call his Mom to let her know before she saw the news!  Our parents and our son needed to know we were safe.

Again, somewhere in my photo files, there are pictures of that day…but I don’t need them.  I remember.

These memories pale in comparison to the horrific scenes in Moore, Oklahoma.  As I viewed the literal devastation and heard the stories, my heart broke for those who have lost their loved ones, their homes, their everything.  As I watched people climbing over the rubble and through the debris, I wished that I had a search and rescue dog and could be there helping.  That was what they needed at that time – search and rescue dogs – before it was too late.

It will take years to rebuild everything and many years before the pain subsides for those who have lost so much.  They won’t need pictures either…they will remember.  There are several ways or avenues through which we can help at this point – regardless of where we are located.  Most of us don’t have a search and rescue dog or the means to rebuild a home, however we can still help with a small donation

The following is according to MSNBC:

  • The Salvation Army is currently organizing disaster response units to serve the hard-hit areas in Oklahoma. Supporters are encouraged to give online or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769).You can also text the word “STORM” to 80888 to make a $10 donation through your mobile phone; to confirm your gift, respond with the word “Yes.”  Donate to the Oklahoma Tornado Relief by mailing a check to: The Salvation Army, PO Box 12600, Oklahoma City, OK 73157.

  • The Red Cross – Donations may be made by calling 1-800 RED CROSS (733-276-2767), or by visiting  redcross.org.   Send $10 to the Disaster Relief fund by texting “REDCROSS” to 90999 or by visiting the website at RedCross.org.
  • Samaritan’s Purse – The international Christian relief organization will provide emergency assistance as well as cleaning and repairing damaged homes.  Donations to help victims can be made at samaritanspurse.org.
  • United Way of Central Oklahoma – The organization advises that monetary donations are the best way to help. Fund dollars will be distributed without administrative fees to United Way Partner Agencies working on the tornado relief efforts.  Donations may be made online at www.unitedwayokc.org or by mail to: United Way of Central Oklahoma, P.O. Box 837, Oklahoma City, OK  73101 with notation for May Tornado Relief.

But probably the single most important thing any of us can do at this moment is pray.  Pray for the families who have lost so much.  Pray for strength, endurance, peace and comfort that only God can give.  Pray for those still missing that they may be found safe and alive if at all possible.  Just pray…

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