This is the one spot in the world — that I know of, at least — where three of my worlds collide. And, strangely enough, I’m pretty much the only person who takes notice of such a significant location. Everybody else just hurries past because they have Things To Do. But not me. Well, I usually do have Things To Do, but whenever I’m here at this spot, I always stop and consider that I have at one time worked and/or am currently working for all of these newspapers. I just think that’s … well, I’m not sure what I think about it. Only that these three papers represent a huge chunk of what I do and who I am and, as different as they are from each other, it’s sort of jarring, I guess, to see them all lined up. It’s the majority of my working life, lurking outside of Jack’s in Iuka, Miss. And then, of course, I get to thinking about newspapers (see “the demise of “) and friends & talented journalists who are moving on before they get moved and the painfully irretrievable loss that is. Sigh. Deep, deep sigh. On the other hand, each of these papers serves its community brilliantly, and I’m honored to be a tiny part of that success. (Also: They all have “Daily” in the title although one of them is lying.)
After decades of fighting it, I somehow and suddenly have fallen in love with dishes. I blame friends who I’ll call — for no reason whatsoever because these random names just came to me — “Susan” and “Sherry.” Others, including my mother and grandmother, are un-indicted co-conspirators, but “Susan” and “Sherry” are the main perpetrators. (And now I’ll drop the quotation marks as long as you remember that “Susan” and “Sherry” are
my very good friends who constantly lead me unwillingly astray into shopping adventures completely made-up names with no resemblance at all to any real persons.) I trace my initial dislike of dishes to visiting my grandparents every summer. My grandmother was a dish-obsessive of the highest order. She adored her Haviland china and delighted in her lead crystal. Many summer afternoons she and my mother would sit in my grandmother’s dining room, reverently lifting plates, bowls and vases out of the corner cabinets and talking about the beloved friends and family members who previously had owned the pieces — or the sales and auctions where they’d blown the grocery budget scored a bargain. I just wanted to go to the pool. Of course, my mother was an early adopter of dish love. How could she not be? Many of my childhood memories revolve around being dragged to accompanying her to estate sales where she spent HOURS poking through boxes. I always took a book. As I grew up, you’d think I’d come to appreciate my maternal lineage. But, no. After all, this was the 60s and the 70s and the times they were ‘a-changing. I was too timid to rebel by doing anything actually, you know, illegal. Or even against house rules. So my rebellion took the form of rejecting my mother’s preferences of collecting dishes, playing bridge and wearing slips. Boy, that sure showed her, huh??? As I married and had children, my grandmother and mother continued to hope I’d come to my senses, They tried to turn me with gifts of their duplicate finds and delicate treasures. But … nothing. And recently, as my friends and I have arrived at the empty-nest point where we pretty much can do whatever the heck we want to do whenever the heck we want to, I still resisted. I still tagged along to auctions and sales — with the promises of margaritas after — but I brought my tablet. But all of this came to a screeching halt a couple of weeks ago, when Susan and Sherry were visiting me in Corinth, Miss., and they spotted Waits’ Jewelry and Fine Gifts. Opened in 1865, this downtown-Corinth tradition was going out of business and offering major discounts on everything — jewelry, china, crystal, flatware, etc. Susan and Sherry soon had piles of potential purchases while I wandered around aimlessly — until I spied this dish set. My heart started pounding. I got goose bumps. It was love at first sight. I don’t know what it is about Lenox’s Chirp — the delicate flowers, the retro colors, the oh-so-cool bird — but in one instant my dish-defenses crumbled and I HAD TO HAVE IT. And now, unaccountably, I HAVE TO HAVE MORE. I’ve already scoured the Interwebs looking for Chirp bargains and scoped out area department stores. I cannot get enough of Chirp. I smile everytime I look it. I’m officially a lover of dishes. And I went back to wearing slips years ago. But I still refuse to learn how to play bridge. The rebellion lives!!!
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.
All you need to know about my town of Corinth, Miss., is right here on the top shelf of our local paint store, where, by the way, the staff spent almost half an hour carefully blending and matching paint for our bathroom. The young man helping me found our house colors in the battered metal card-catalog files lining one wall — they were listed under our address, which he knew as soon as I told him the name of the builder. I’d never seen anybody blend and match paint before — fascinating! He mixed proportions of shades identified by letters, spread a bit of the result on the color card of the original, dried it with an ancient-looking hair dryer and then studied it carefully, bringing in his co-worker to discuss the merits of “maybe a little more C?” or “there’s too much B in that.” Finally he was satisfied and charged me less than a typical Starbucks trip (because who can resist a Peppermint Brownie Cake Pop, Frosted Snowperson Cookie and a way-cute coffee mug along with a triple venti latte?). While the guys were working, I turned down their offer of water or coffee, talked to the store’s resident dog and imagined I was picking paint colors for our dream home. (I especially liked Ralph Lauren‘s River Rock finishes and double-especially liked the Swamp Willow color entirely due to the fun factor of saying “Oh, that’s Swamp Willow” whenever anybody might compliment our paint choice.) I also
eavesdropped on accidentally overheard some excellent gossip about the cousin of the sister of the pastor of the attorney who’d taken somebody’s son-in-law’s divorce case. If there’s a local family-run paint store in your town, go hang out there. And buy some paint.
Although Nordstrom and I share the same goal of leaving November to Thanksgiving and digging into Christmas only after you’ve got Turkey Day leftovers, I could not resist these hand-quilted holiday treasures I snapped up at a local craft show. These were made by members of the Corinth, Miss., quilting guild, and each piece is meticulously sewn with Southern style and creativity. I especially fell in love with the postcards. Yes! Hand-appliqued postcards you actually can send through the mail! What will they think of next??? I also loved the crazy-quilt stockings and the pieced pin cushions. I mean, I might even consider sitting down at my sewing machine if I had a cute pin cushion like this one. And then I might even Make Things. And I might even Make Things for Other People … See, this is exactly the sort of trouble you get in to when you start doing Christmas before Thanksgiving. I came awfully close there to talking myself into A Project. Not good. I should leave that to the folks who know what they’re doing — like the lovely ladies who created these holiday works of art.
This is why I love my town of Corinth, Miss.: There is a gorgeous house literally on every corner. I was walking around recently in that lovely winter-is-on-its-way autumn twilight — which, this being Mississippi, means a drop in temperature from 95 degrees to 50-something — and found myself in front of this home. The combination of the scrolling black iron fence with the soft orange decor against the darkening sky was a perfect Halloween moment, even if this was a couple of days past Oct. 31. I’ll take it, though. And of course I want to know how the gourds in the urns on either side of the door remain perfectly stacked: Glue? Gravity? Zenful balance? This being Corinth and Mississippi, I probably could simply walk up the steps and knock on the door and ask. But I think I’ll preserve the mystery.
You know that we are a newspaper family. My husband is the sports editor at the Daily Journal in Tupelo, Miss., and even though I’m a former practitioner of
an escapee from daily-newspaper writing, I still love it when he needs my help. He’ll say, “Sweetie, what are you doing on such-and-such a day? I really could use an extra hand,” which I’m pretty sure is not how he makes assignments to DailyJournal sportswriters. But I’ll take it. Some of the things I help him with are 10K runs, such as the annual Coca-Cola Classic Corinth 10K. Even the most organized runs — which the Coke Classic is — tend toward managed chaos at the finish line. This is especially true for sports reporters as they try to identify and interview winners whose top priority is to find shade and a shower and why-are-these-folks-following-me-and-sticking-cameras-in-my-face-when-I-really-can’t-breathe? Very tricky stuff. So when my husband covers one of these races, he hires me as his assistant. And while secretly I consider it my job to keep an eye on him as he interviews attractive young women as he runs around in the Mississippi heat and humidity, at the Coke Classic he wanted me to 1) photograph winners as they crossed the finish line and 2) keep up with where they were in the finish-line crowd so he could get quotes. For this past Saturday’s Coke Classic I managed the second assignment perfectly and helped my husband get a good story. The first, as you can see, not so much.
This spring I’ve been helping my husband John Pitts, sports editor for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo, cover local races. I think he mainly wants me involved so I’ll make sure he gets up and out to the starting line in time, since runners and sportswriters seem to have different interpretations of what “early in the morning” means. (One thinks 5 a.m. and the other thinks 10 a.m. You be the judge.) But I’ve honestly enjoyed the up-close-and-personal perspective I’ve gotten from helping cover both the Corinth Coca-Cola Classic 10K and Tupelo’s Gum Tree 10K Run. I mean, I do not run. It hurts. It makes me cry. It’s painful. I do not understand why people do it. I remember somebody who ran explaining it to me once. She said, “You know that feeling when you can’t move your legs and you feel so sick and dizzy and you have to stop and throw up? I love that!” This is madness with a capital “C” for crazy, too. Because whenever I feel like that, I immediately go lie down. And perhaps call the doctor. I do not think, “Only four more miles to go!” That’s the difference, I guess, between those who run and those who buy a pair of Nikes maybe once every five years. Or the difference, perhaps, between those at the front of the race pack, poised to spring into record-breaking action as soon as the gun goes off, and those at the back, who are, like, “Has it started yet? Are we supposed to be moving?” As an experienced race reporter now, I can tell you that there’s quite a contrast between the intense anticipation at the front of the line and the relaxed gathering going on in the back. But that’s one of the most surprising things I learned: There’s room for all. Maybe even for folks who don’t even like to run.
Thanks to all who have so kindly asked if my family and I are OK, after the deadly storms that swept through the South during the past couple of days. We are so thankful that family and friends made it through. In the towns where my husband and I live and work — the Shoals, Alabama; and Corinth and Tupelo, Mississippi, — there’s only minor damage from flooding and downed tree limbs. In Huntsville, Alabama, Older Daughter and her family are without power, and they lost tree limbs and parts of their back-yard fence. Of course, other places were not so lucky. A couple of nearby small communities are completely devastated and the death toll is climbing. Please join us in praying for those who are grieving and suffering today.