I have always heard that friends are the family you choose. Virginia Woolf said it best: “Some people go to priests, others to poetry, I to my friends.”
Last week we rolled out the red carpet of Southern hospitality for our Colorado friends, Lillian and Marcella, to celebrate a very special birthday. It was a joy for us to give them a tour of our Mississippi when, after all, for almost a year these two friends and many others put out the welcome mat for us in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado.
Their visit began with cocktails in vintage martini glasses which I like to imagine even Tennessee Williams would have appreciated, leading into a candlelit supper in the front parlor of our 1830s townhouse on the historic brick streets of Vicksburg. A delicious birthday cake with buttercream frosting topped off the night, and the next morning we dined on traditional Southern breakfast appointed with freshly cut hydrangeas from my garden. As always, the conversation was easy and natural, embodying the old Southern phrase heard so often in my childhood: come sit for a spell.
We enjoyed lunch at the world famous round table at the historic Walnut Hills restaurant where the fried chicken, sweet tea, and banana pudding in silver dessert cups never run out. Lillian especially enjoyed the collard greens. We visited Natchez and had cheese grits at Dunleith, an antebellum mansion which we toured, paying homage to the magnolias in full bloom. Marcella was captivated by the riverboats, while Lillian made plans to return during dogwood season. We swayed to the music of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash at New Stage Theatre in the picturesque Belhaven neighborhood just blocks from where Eudora Welty penned her masterpieces.
That’s the thing about the best of friends. No matter where you travel, from the tallest mountains of Colorado to the flattest Delta of Mississippi, it’s all about the miles traveled together. In Colorado, we explored mountain passes with elk jumping across the road. Here we passed over babbling creeks lined by towering pines. Either place, it was not about where we began or ended as much as the time spent with each other in sunshine, rain, or snow.
Willie Morris described one of his unique memories of the South this way: “One of my pleasures has been to drive across it, with no one in the world knowing where I am.” Mobile phones make that sense of self-imposed isolation a bit harder to achieve in 2017, but we preserve the spirit of it, turning off the main road every chance we get to see what lies in the undiscovered country.
So that’s just what my friends and I did together last week in Mississippi. We got lost together and, as always, in doing so, we found the love and the joy we always seem to find.
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