To all my friends, here and afar…
There are those moments in our lives when we come close to those who stand out and above the crowd, those known for outstanding achievements, those who will go down in the history books as one of the “greats.” There are those times when our fingertips barely touch or tap the fringes of fame.
In the literary world, Shelby Foote will go down as one of the great Southern writers. He lived in my neck of the woods — Greenville, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee — and was a novelist and noted Civil War historian. Foote died in Memphis in 2005.
In 2008 the Tennessee Writers Alliance honored Foote posthumously with its Literary Legend award — “in recognition of significant contributions to the literary heritage of the state of Tennessee.” TWA member Terry Thompson of Memphis only recently had the opportunity to present the award certificate to Foote’s son Huger.
What does this have to do with me, and how did my fingertips touch fame? I designed that award — the borders, typed the text, added the TWA logo, got signatures, printed it on fine parchment paper on my HP Photosmart C5280! I actually typed the name SHELBY FOOTE. The award is still saved to my computer’s hard drive. And I bought the frame and framed the certificate. And this award will go with all Foote’s other belongings, perhaps hanging on someone’s wall, honoring a great man for his works.
This may be as famous as I ever get in the writing world!
Jillian got dropped off at her daddy’s office at the end of the day Wednesday, so her mama and twin brother could go visit Nay Nay, her other grandmother. Jillie usually gets to go to Nay Nay’s mid-week so there’s a gathering of three generations of girls, but this time, Hardy got to go with the women, and Jillie went to Daddy’s MojoLoco.
They drove home by the reservoir and down busy Lake Harbor Drive. Many evenings, Jillie’s dad calls me on his commute to catch up. It’s called multi-tasking.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Nothing much. Driving home from work down Hillsboro Road.”
“What’ve you been doing?”
“I visited a new critique group last night, and my book order has shipped — I’m expecting 600 books to arrive on my front porch.”
“RRAAAAA!” Jillie is not one to tune up or have thoughts about crying. She just outright yells out painfully loud. “RRAAAAA!” And the first sound is as loud as the last one.
“What’s she crying about?”
“She doesn’t like to stop. We’re sitting at a red light.”
Then, instant silence.
“You heard anything more on Steve McNair?”
“No, nothing more.”
“I had to go to Hattiesburg this morning on business, so I took the opportunity to drive over to Mt. Olive to see his grave. It’s just a small stone with his name and the dates. Nothing special.”
“It’s OK Jillie, we’ll be rolling in a minute.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“She doesn’t like to stop. It’s another red light.”
“We’re moving now. How’s Mamaw?”
“Her back hurts, her eyesight is fading, and she’s having a colonoscopy next Monday.”
“Jillie, Daddy can’t run a red light. Just a minute, just a minute, and we’ll be going.”
And so it was, all the way home, Jillie yelled at every red light — every time the car stopped — and sat sweetly and silently as the car moved.
High summer, sun and heat, a little rain, and green growth. Tomatoes are full and fat on the vines. Energy pumps through my veins as I watch and wait for them to turn the right shade of red.
I rub a leaf between my fingers, pick a ripe tomato, hold it in my hand, then sniff the distinct smell it leaves on my skin. It’s still warm, fresh, full of juice, packed with sunshine and life-energy surging to it from the vine source.
I slice through a sunburst of yellow and let seeds and juice burst out and run across the cutting board and onto the countertop.
I place two of the slices between two pieces of white bread smothered with creamy white mayonnaise, then sprinkle sea salt and pepper on top. I take a bite and let the seedy, pulpy juice run down my chin. I savor the taste.
Summer in the South is distilled into one sandwich.
Cleveland High School Concert Chorus 1967
We wore navy blue skirts or pants and white shirts with a red, white, and blue crepe paper banner stretched across our chests. Under the capable direction of Paul Jones, we traveled to other schools and presented a patriotic program. On this 4th of July, I am reminded of some of the words we sang in harmony:
“This is my country, land of my birth; this is my country, grandest on earth; I pledge thee my allegiance, America, the bold; for this is my country, to have and to hold!”
Happy Fourth, all!