“Don’t hit that deer, Andra!”

“I SEE IT, DAD!!!!!!”

“Golly Molly, Andra. You’re gonna kill us all. I hope this restaurant is worth all this trouble.”


We wandered into the Gibbes Store in Learned, Mississippi in search of the best steaks around. After clocking 90 miles in six days, I. Am. Always. Famished.

Dad started his Roy Variety Show before his gigantic butt hit the seat.

“Looks like you like antiques, huh?”

The female owner of the place asked us where we were from. I was too busy shoveling salad with comeback dressing into my mouth to answer, but that never matters with Roy The Talking Machine.

“South Carolina!”

The lady took a step closer. “Do you know a town called Denmark?”

I stopped chewing. Dad said, “I know it!”

“Have you been in that three story antique store there?”

I whirled on her. “You know Caroline????”

Her eyes got wide. “She’s my only cousin.”

“She’s my friend Alice’s godmother!!!” I shrieked. “Alice was with me until this morning.”

“I know her parents!”

And so it goes. In a tiny dot in Mississippi, next to the Natchez Trace, we came upon someone who was practically family.



boiled peanuts

MTM is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He grew up eating things like frozen custard and cheese curds and Friday Fish Fry. He is a hot, slender man in spite of that early diet.

On the other hand, I have never lived north of the Mason-Dixon line. While I love to get out of The South, I would probably spontaneously combust if I tried to live anywhere else on earth. My Southern genes would likely attack themselves trying to recreate the hot, humid Hell I’ve always lived in.

I grew up eating all the usual Southern fried suspects – fried chicken; BBQ (vinegar base only – everything else is crap); shrimp and grits; fried okra; fluffy biscuits. I could go on and on and on.

Boiled peanuts have to be at the top of my list of things that make me feel Southern. Hot out of the pot, their salty goodness is next-to-impossible to top. When the hot water runs down my arms and I’m covered in wet peanut shells, I am always happy. I cannot fathom anyone else feeling differently about something so decadent.

Only MTM cannot stand boiled peanuts. In fact, one of the biggest arguments in our marriage occurred at a Charleston RiverDogs game over the issue of peanuts. He wanted roasted; I demanded boiled. A stalemate ensued as we purchased enough peanuts to feed our entire stadium section – mine boiled; his roasted.

What was worse, we tore into them at once, loudly proclaiming with mouths-full-of-peanuts why one selection was superior to the other. That MTM eats his roasted peanuts SHELLS AND ALL only added to the dramatic impact of the escalating carnage. I mean, I had never in my whole Southern life seen another human being eat a peanut shell. WHAT do they teach people about eating in Milwaukee?

Our dapper friend Ray Huff quietly came over, sat down next to me, looked at MTM, and started eating my boiled peanuts with me. “Some people just don’t get Southern,” he said.

Maybe so. But everyone should get boiled peanuts.

When I last made boiled peanuts, I did it this way:

Bring water to a boil in a large, deep pot. Add enough salt to the water to make it briny, anywhere from 3/4 cup to 1 cup. The amount of salt is contingent upon how salty you want them. I prefer less salty, but some people prefer more. Stir to dissolve.

Wash 4 – 5 pounds of raw peanuts, leaving the shells on. When the water boils, place the peanuts in the water. Cover, stirring occasionally, and let boil for at least 3 hours, though I prefer the peanuts very soft, which usually takes at least 3 1/2 hours.

Remove from water and let cool just enough to be able to not burn your fingers when you rip into them.

Do you like your peanuts roasted? Or boiled?


Penelope’s last house was a haze of dust. It filmed the corners. Draped the tops of clothes. Seeped into cloth upholstery.

Dust thou art.

Penelope wasn’t dust. Not yet. She couldn’t see much. Heard nothing. She always said she wanted to die when her mind stopped. Sitting in front of the window in a bland nursing home and feeling the sun on her face wasn’t any kind of life. Especially since she couldn’t remember what was sun or warmth in the first place. She watched the blurry box, combed its edges for clues in a window lit like an oyster shell.

Who had she been when she found that shell? He gave it to her, didn’t he? It was too fine a thing to be dug out of the mud on the beach, though she could smell salt and sulfur when she thought about it. Maybe that was the smell of his cologne.

She was always confused. Suspended there. Waiting to die.

Blind eyes blinked behind orbs of glass. Snatches played in the light of a broken movie reel, her life in her mind’s eye.

Why did she hang on to moldy things? A shock of tulle. A glass box, engraved on top. A bleached oyster shell. Scraps that added up to a life lived. Living done.

To dust thou shalt return.

Not yet.

Penelope whispered it into the void.

Not yet.

To read more about Penelope, go here and work your way forward.

Have you ever found a memento and wondered about its story?