Oh my goodness. I don’t know about you, but things have been CRAAAZY around here lately. For one, my husband right now is the most important person in the state of Mississippi. Well, one of the most important. Well, OK, an important person. (And, of course, to me he always is the most important person everywhere. This commercial message brought to you by the institution of marriage and soulmate-age.) Why is this, you ask? What has he done to bring such fame and fortune? Of course, those who know John L. Pitts are not surprised to discover the extent of his influence, but lately he holds in his hands, literally, the story that is shaking up everything anyone knows about football: namely, that the two teams his newspaper, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, in Tupelo, covers — Mississippi State and Ole Miss — are in the top 10 in the AP poll. And, as of right now this very minute, they are no. 1 and no. 3 respectively. Pretty amazing. And now there’s Heisman talk? All I know is that for the past few weeks, my sports editor husband has been working pretty much 24/7 to cover this national story for his local readers — not easy. But, as always, he’s excelling. Of course, this could explain his recent encounter with a deer, on a heavily traveled road less than a mile from our downtown. I really don’t like to think too hard about this. And what’s even stranger is that my Republican-voting, NRA-supporting, Obama-criticizing husband went and bought a new car that’s synonymous with all he makes fun of: a Prius. It’s the mileage, you know. And the anti-deer capabilities.
Well, those are not even the most exciting things to happen to our family lately. Our third precious grandbaby-boy got born last weekend. Older Daughter and son-in-law did an amazing job of completely un-medicated childbirth in a hospital suite dedicated to a natural and drug-free experience. She is a warrior mom, through and through. I did un-medicated by accident with Younger Daughter (Me: “I really think that we need to go to the hospital now.” Husband-at-the-time: “No. You can’t be that close to pushing yet.” Folks at the hospital as soon as we got there: “Get this woman to delivery stat!!!”), and there’s something to be said for it — now that I’m 28 years away and have pretty much forgotten the details. And speaking of totally awesome Younger Daughter, she now shares her birthday with her third nephew, which is the second shared birthday in our family. I think we’re on a roll.
If you live anywhere in the 11-state region of the hallowed ground known as the SEC, you know exactly what this photo means. And if you don’t know, you’re in luck because I’m going to tell you in one word: Football. This. Is. SEC. Football. Because we girls know that an SEC football stadium is the biggest runway of them all. New York Fashion Week? Yeah, that’s nice and all, but an Alabama football game trumps any designer’s catwalk any day. I know that dressing up for football games is sort of a Southern thing that some folks may unflatteringly link back to so-called Southern belle-ism, but I prefer to think of it as a way to be stylish and comfortable and show team loyalty all at the same time. And another excuse to go shopping. So it’s all good. (And, please, y’all give Vanderbilt some time. It’s a rebuilding year, you know.)
Creative, artistic, super-nice people. Don’t they just
infuriate annoy inspire the heck out of you? Jaylene Whitehurst, of Corinth, Miss., is one of those folks. She is a painter, storyteller, poet and counselor. Energy and compassion are her native languages. She sees the world differently from everyone else and knows how to make you see it differently, too. And she does it all in that lilting-yet-deceptively soft Southern-woman voice that greeted the damnYankee officers who broke into the finest home in town and found the diminutive hoop-skirted lady of the house pointing Daddy’s hunting rifle at them. But if it were actually Jaylene in this situation, after she had their attention she would put the gun down and gently led the DYOs in a heartfelt discussion about why they felt it necessary to break into her house and steal her food and wouldn’t they rather just go back to their homes in Ohio or wherever and live peacefully? And they would say “yes, ma’am” and be out the door and on their horses and headed back north with no strong grasp on what had just happened to them. That is Southern women. Luckily for us, Jaylene lives in the 21st century and can spend her time painting instead of Protecting Her House Against Marauding DYOs. An exhibit of her endlessly fascinating work is at the Crossroads Museum, in Corinth, and on Saturday she invited friends to meet her there for a gallery talk. I know nothing about art but I’m constantly amazed at how artists can create something out of nothing. Jaylene uses texture and collages (that’s what you call layering things on top of other things, right?) to tell her stories. I especially liked this piece, where she used buttons, doilies and clothing patterns from her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother along with flowers from a poster she’d designed a few years ago. This work is more than a family tribute, though. It explores our fascination with circles — a fascination that connects people throughout time and all over the world. That’s the power of art, I think: gently nudging you to think about mandalas, crop circles, rose windows and Jung while looking at vintage buttons and old crocheted doilies. And footballs. Because after the gallery talk, the group ate lunch at a downtown Thai restaurant but I had to go help Vanderbilt win its bowl game. That makes five of seven SEC bowl wins, with optimistically six of eight after tonight. We shall not speak of the Recent Unpleasantness.
This is my husband. This is my husband on vacation. I offer it as photographic proof that he actually can get away from his office occasionally and relax. Like most newspaper folks and especially like most newspaper editors and doubly especially like most newspaper sports folks, he is dedicated to and enthusiastic about his job. To him, following sports stories online for six hours straight isn’t “work” — it’s just what he does. And he does it well. He also is an exceptional boss. He supports and encourages the sportswriters and copy editors he works with and never asks anybody to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Like be at the newspaper 12, 15, 20 consecutive days. In a row. Now, he and I both are pretty independent people — having a commuter marriage for several years will do that to you — and I rarely invoke a wifely clause but sometimes I just have to insist we Get Away. Luckily, there’s a window of relative calm that comes after college baseball and before SEC Media Days when he’ll agree to sneak off for a week, provided he can take 1) his laptop, 2) his cell phone and 3) my laptop, tablet and smartphone for back-up. He even wandered out to the beach a couple of times. But at least being almost 400 miles from the newspaper prevented those “I think I’ll just run over to the office for a little bit” moments.
Older Grandson — the former Capt. Adorable, who made me stop calling him that a couple of years ago when he turned old enough to take control and tell me firmly, “Kacky, that is NOT my name.” — is absolutely the most creative, innovative, smart and loving almost-5-years-old grandson ever in the world. And I have proof. He recently gave me this painted train engine, and it’s not so much his skillful brushwork and design expertise (you see that, too, don’t you?) that impressed me but the story he wove about his gift. I had bought it for him a few weeks before at the Crossroads Museum gift shop in Corinth, Miss., which he calls “The Train Store” because it’s full of fun stuff celebrating Corinth’s famed railroad crossing. This train actually is a bank — you buy it as a white ceramic blank and then you decorate with the included paintbrush and little plastic pots of paint. Although he’s grown out of his Thomas the Tank Engine phase and now is into Batman, Star Wars and hobbits, Older Grandson’s still likes trains. As an accomplished artist, he seemed delighted with the idea of painting one. So I bought it for him and sent it home with him and didn’t think any more about it. Until recently, when he and his mom — our Older Daughter — and baby brother were at our house. “Give Kacky the present you made for her,” his mommy whispered. He dipped his hand into his backpack, pulled out something I couldn’t quite make out and scampered into my bedroom. I followed and found him carefully placing the train on my bedside table (which also usually holds 1) a coffee cup, 2) a book, 3) my glasses, 4) my cell phone, 5) the TV remote, 6) another coffee cup and 7) another book). “Oh, wow!” I said, thinking how cute that he wanted to put the train where I’d see it every day. “I like the way you’ve made the train so colorful.” (Notice how well I follow Older Daughter’s directives on complimenting my grandchildren: I praise a specific action instead of a lavishing general and unfocused praise. Yes — I can be taught.) But he knew I wasn’t seeing his vision. “No, no, Kacky,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s not just a train. It’s a dream-changer. When you sleep, your bad dreams will go in here” — pointing at the coin slot — “and then they’ll get changed into good dreams so you won’t be scared.” His mommy was smiling. “That’s all his own idea,” she said. “He wanted you to have it.” I would have hugged him and thanked him and cried over him a little, but he’d already run off to
torment play with the cats, and he’s never said anything about it since. But his dream-changer works incredibly well, and I highly recommend that you ask your favorite 4-year-old to make you one, too.