You’ve heard it said that if you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band.
And I say, if you’re gonna be in Tennessee, you gotta have their sweet tea.
I never liked tea until I had Tennessee sweet tea. And then there’s their barbecue, their hush puppies, their catfish!
My mouth waters – at 9 on this Minnesota morning.
These things plus to aid and abet his accent are the reasons my husband, Jim, returns to his home state whenever he can. “I don’t want to start talking like you people up here,” he joshes.
We’re back from a great-eight-day-southern get-away which included reunions with people on both Jim’s late mother’s and his late father’s sides.
We started out by flying to St. Louis where we spent a couple nights with my sister, Lori, and her husband Bob. Their daughter, Lynda, from Illinois, also was visiting and prepared a delicious salmon dinner for us.
From St. Louis, in a rental car, we headed for Nashville where our hosts were Jim’s Uncle Donald and Aunt Elaine. They invited everyone from Jim’s mother’s side to their home on Saturday night. Seventeen southern drawls bouncing off the red walls and how funny is this? They think I’m the one with the accent!
Everything about the evening was a highlight, but the icing had to be seeing Jim’s Aunt Nell, of Nashville, and his cousin, Dianne, of Knoxville.
Jim has always been especially fond of Nell, the widow of his Uncle Aaron. I had never met Dianne and we think she and Jim hadn’t seen each other in 50 years. What a grand reunion and a rekindling of family love! Dianne and I bonded immediately. I believe it’s because of our shared Christian faith.
The next morning we worshipped at Donald and Elaine’s church, Harpeth Hills Church of Christ. We hoped to see Tracy and Scott Hamilton, the American figure skater and Olympic gold medalist, who are members there. We found out they attend the second service and we went to the first. Tracy is the daughter of our good friends, Margie and Terry, who we would see on the next leg of our journey.
Then it was off to Jackson, Jim’s hometown, where our hosts were his brother, Nathan, and sister-in-law Geneva. They organized the reunion with Jim’s father’s side at the favorite haunt, Catfish Cabin. It was another night of revival, family style, complete with sweet tea!
On our last night in Tennessee, we were honored to be part of a surprise birthday party with friends who are family. The revelry was for Jimmy, the son of Betty Jean (BJ) and her late husband, Clark, who was Jim’s forever friend. Clark died in 1995.
BJ has remarried and she and her husband, Billy, threw the party for Jimmy who was coming home from California where — get this — his job is to caddy for Wayne Gretzke, the former professional hockey player.
We found ourselves in the garage, with the lights out, awaiting the arrival of Jimmy, BJ and Billy from the airport. With us in the dark was Jimmy’s gift – a mint condition 1969 red Chevy Camaro convertible. When the door went up and the lights came on, we shouted, “Surprise.” Jimmy nearly fainted and had to bury his head to keep from breaking down.
After cake and ice cream, Jim and Jimmy went for a ride in the Camaro. Jim told me later that being with Clark’s son was like being with Clark back in their high school days.
BJ and Billy live out of Jackson a ways, and after the party we headed back to Jim’s brother’s house in our compact rental. We were off the gravel and on pavement when suddenly just on the other side of the windshield there appeared a huge deer. I saw the white around his big brown eyes just before we made contact. BAM!!!!
Jim was going the 55 mph speed limit, had no time to hit the brakes and that deer went flying. It was a huge impact and we were surprised the airbags didn’t deploy. Buckled in we were fine. Under the lights of Jackson, we stopped to survey the damage. The left front fender, headlight and hood were heavily damaged. To think that Jim and Jimmy had just been on this road in that vintage Camaro makes Jim shudder.
We had rented the car from Enterprise in St. Louis, and the next morning that office told us to switch it out at the Jackson Enterprise office, which we did. We drove back to St. Louis where Bob and Lori picked us up at Enterprise. We went to lunch, then to the airport and flew home.
Of course my sister and brother in-law are the finest of folk and more and more I find that the people of Tennessee are as sweet as their tea.