>Big Bad Birthday

>Today’s my birthday, and my sweet husband and I just got home from a delightful birthday trip. My best friend, Daphne, came over from Little Rock early Saturday morning, and the three of us drove down to Oxford (Mississippi) for a fun-filled 24-hour celebration. (Well, 19 hours of fun, 5 hours of sleep.) First we unloaded the car at the condo we had rented for the night (a lovely place five minutes from the square, with great interior design, including original paintings by local artists) and then we headed down to the square to begin the birthday marathon. We started at Square Books (where Daphne stealthily bought my birthday gift, which she saved for a surprise at lunch today—Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor—a new biography by Brad Gooch which was reviewed in the New York Times last Sunday, and at Salon.com today. Can’t wait to get started on it! Don’t you love the jacket design?

After cappuccinos on the balcony at Square Books, we said goodbye to hubby for the rest of the afternoon. (He headed back to the condo to go for a five-mile run through the campus, shower and join us later for supper and the rest of the festivities.) Daphne and I shopped at some of the cute little boutiques around the square for a while . . .

. . . and then headed up to the balcony at City Grocery, where we met up with the other birthday girl, Michelle (journalism student at Ole Miss and member of Yoknapatawpha Writers Group) and another writing group buddy, Doug.

Hubby caught up with us at Ajax for supper around 7 p.m. Here we are waiting for our table… that’s our new friend, Katie, on the far left. She’s also a journalism student at Ole Miss.
Here’s our table, (minus hubby, the picture-taker) waiting for our suppers… veggie plates, oyster poboys, and catfish. Yum! I didn’t take pictures at Proud Larrys’, where we headed next. The opening band was really really bad. I could say more, but bless their hearts, I guess they were trying. So finally the “real band” came on, and well, we gave them until after 11 p.m. to get better, since we had paid a cover to get in. Finally we walked around to the other side of the square and discovered some better music at Taylor Pub, but only caught the last 30 minute of the show. Katie Dintelman was really good, and we wished we had been there earlier. Just as we were leaving, we noticed a ruckus outside, and met up with another birthday girl. She was turning 21. I have to say I’m fine that my friends didn’t make a birthday sign for me to wear around town last night. Just saying.

So here are the 3 birthday girls, at ages 21, 28 and 58. I’ll just leave it at that.

Back at our condo, Daphne, hubby and I stayed up until 3:30 a.m… enjoying more music, laughter, conversation and a good bottle of wine (Kim Crawford Savignon Blanc) that was another birthday gift.

Birthday morning brought another special treat—coffee and mimosas on the porch at the home of writer Jere Hoar. Daphne and I had lunch with Jere about a month ago at the Downtown Grill and when he heard we were coming to town for my birthday, he was so gracious to invite us for coffee on his porch this morning. (We met Jere the first time in June of 2008, at the 2008 Yoknapatawpha Writers Workshop, where he was on faculty.)

We were greeted at the gate by Daisy, a Llewellin English setter who was gentle and friendly. Here she is later, relaxing amongst the daffodils.

And here’s Brutus, Jere’s pit bull, who was tied up when we arrived, but once he got used to us, Jere untied him and let him roam free while we visited on the porch.

The breeze and sunshine (a perfect 75 degrees) were perfect compliments to our mimosas and conversation on the porch. It was really fun for me to have my husband enter into my writing world a little more, as we talked shop with Jere.

I’m taking notes here, writing down the titles of books of essays and letters by authors he recommended I read to inform my own essay writing:

Growing Up by Russell Baker
Essays of E.B. White
A New Generation of Essays by James M. Salem
Heart’s Desire by Edward Hoagland
The Old Man and Lesser Mortals by Larry L. King
Southern Legacy by Hodding Carter (that’s the one I want to get first, since it talks about some of the issues I’m addressing in the essay I’m currently working on to submit to the 2009 Southern Women Writers Conference. (The theme is “Many Souths: Remembering, Sustaining, Creating.”)

It was hard to say goodbye to Jere, who is the very definition of a Southern gentleman and also a brilliant writer. He’s so generous with his time and words of encouragement and instruction to fledgling writers like me. What a treat! I enjoyed sketching and painting this entry for my watercolor journal, which is a feeble attempt at capturing the magic of our morning with Jere, but still a treasured image.

Our final leg of the celebration was a late breakfast at Big Bad Breakfast, where I’ve eaten a couple of times before with writing group buddies. Back home in Memphis I find more birthday surprises waiting for me on my own front porch, and I assemble my goodies into an artful arrangement and just look at them and bask in the love that’s behind each of them, the way I used to do with my Christmas gifts when I was growing up. Golden roses, a good book, a gift certificate to a bookstore, a bookmark, a bottle of wine, a cheerful cup and saucer from an antique store, an artsy candlestick and candle, and cards that bring joy to my heart. I am blessed. And now for a quiet evening at home, reading. Life is good.

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