August 5, 2021

MISSISSIPPI PILGRIMAGES

In planning this road trip, the primary objective always was to tour Eudora Welty’s home and garden in Jackson.  Since her high school days, Heather has loved Eudora’s writings and her Mississippi life.  Two previous visits to Jackson were on days the home was not open for tours, but this time we reserved tour tickets for Thursday morning at nine.

To prepare, I spent a week reading an assortment of Welty short stories before we went, and the day before our tour, Heather played a recording of Eudora reading her delightful short story, “Why I Live at the P.O.” as an introduction for Charlotte. Charlotte and I agreed to give Heather uninterrupted time to enjoy every moment of her pilgrimage.

It was a wonderful place and tour—the house had books lying on every available surface, sofas, tables, floors.  Everything reminded you that this was her longtime family home, with her parents and brothers.  I loved seeing various manual typewriters (at the adjacent home turned into a gift shop and museum) she used for writing.  In her bedroom, she had her last typewriter—an electric one her nieces insisted on giving her.  She didn’t like it—said it was always humming and waiting for her next word.  Not so the manual ones!

The lovely flower gardens behind the Welty’s Tudor home were delightful- originally designed and cared for by Eudora’s mother. Eudora herself also enjoyed working in the gardens. 

A tailless cat named Sal now makes his home on the property and the staff care for him.  He seemed to know that Charlotte has a cat—and as she sat on a bench in the garden, he jumped into her lap for some cuddling.

After making some purchases in the gift shop next door, we made a brief stop by Clinton to see Ezra’s aquarium and meet their second cat, Zoe.  Unfortunately, one of his new fish acquisitions had died overnight—and Heather conducted a small memorial service.  Ezra gently removed him with a net and put him into a plastic bag filled with water.  He said he would return it to the pet store to determine the cause of death.  We visited with cats Percy and Zoe, and got back on the road. 

Next we headed to Starkville, for a driving tour of the Mississippi State campus where Tom and I both taught, checking out the first house we bought and where we lived when Heather was born, and the downtown State movie theater which still has angle parking in front.  We spent some time in the campus bookstore and then drove by the former Felix Long Memorial Hospital where Heather was born.  It’s now an Extension office and rather run down.  She walked around to the back where our hospital room was located and take some photos.  As we were leaving, a deputy sheriff drove up and asked her if she were all right.  In other words, someone probably saw her out back and called him to check out this suspicious woman!  Fortunately, no arrest was made and we continued on our way to Oxford for the night.  A most satisfying day!

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