Dixie Chicks

They flew into New York City first. They rented a car and set off for the Yellowhammer State—home of Spanish moss, live oaks, boiled-peanut stands, cotton fields, and mosquitoes big enough to kill most medium-sized house cats.

Mobile, Alabama—a bed and breakfast. It’s early morning. I am not a morning person. On a good day, it takes me a full sixteen hours to wake up.

There are two girls at the breakfast table. They are from France. Sisters.

They are young. Talkative. They speak English, with accents. They are eating triple the food I eat.

This is their first visit to Alabama.

“We NEVER visit this Deep South before,” says the girl who wears a camellia in her hair. “There is so much beauty. But it is SO hot.”

Hot. It’s only eighty-six outside. I could wear a wool sweater and jump rope in the attic without breaking a sweat.

They tell me their mother passed away a month ago. The girls are taking this trip—which their mother always wanted to take.

They’re here to honor her memory.

They flew into New York City first. They rented a car and set off for the Yellowhammer State—home of Spanish moss, live oaks, boiled-peanut stands, cotton fields, and mosquitoes big enough to kill most medium-sized house cats.

Yesterday, they hired a guide to take them fishing in Mobile Bay. It was everything they’d hoped it would be.

“I catch my FIRST fish!” she says. “A beeg, beeg one! It was THIS beeg.”

She holds her hands out as far as she can.

“We even eat GRITS!” says her sister. “With cheese, they are so weird, these grits.”

If they were weird, they were instant, sister.

The girls traveled to Tuscumbia, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuskeegee, Selma, and Mobile.

They got their first American sunburns, they drank Ko-Kolas from glass bottles. They ate tomato sandwiches.

They just left Birmingham recently, where they spent two days. They were nervous in the big city.

“Our friends in France warn us that Birmingham is dangerous city,” she says. “That we must be VERY careful, or we get shot.”

I inform her that her friends are exactly right. There is no telling what kind of hell lurks in the ghettos of Mountain Brook.

“We visit Sixteenth Street Baptist Church,” she says. “And we both cry. It was very moving.”

So far, the girls have done it all. They took a canoe tour on the Coosa. They had pictures made at the Hank Williams statue in Montgomery.

They sipped sweet tea with mint, and clipped fresh camellias for their hair. They’ve eaten oysters in Azalea City. They drank at the Flora-Bama.

After the week is over, they will be traveling to Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

She goes on, “People always tell my mother, ‘You crazy. Why you wanna go to Alabama? Why not Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone, or Disney World?’

“My mother was beautiful, she was kind, and she was everything.”

They get quiet.

One sister says something in French. They laugh. Then, their faces become serious. The older sister touches her sister’s hand. I don’t speak French, but I understand that look.

“We don’t mean to talk about our mother so much. We are only missing her today.”

I know you are, darling. And I believe you always will.

Welcome to the South.

20 comments

  1. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - August 6, 2017 12:20 pm

    Yes, missing mamma. Do you ever stop missing her? Especially if you were close. Something pops in my mind and I think I’ve got to tell mamma. Well, I can’t call but perhaps I can tell her anyway. Lovely post, Sean!! I hope the girls know that their mamma is with them on their journey.

    Reply
  2. Catherine - August 6, 2017 12:31 pm

    I miss my Mother every day too. So glad their French Mother knew there is amazing beauty in the South. You just need to embrace the heat and humidity.

    Reply
  3. Donna Holifield - August 6, 2017 12:33 pm

    Beautiful!

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  4. Marty from Alabama - August 6, 2017 12:49 pm

    Another one for the books.

    Reply
  5. Laura Young - August 6, 2017 2:09 pm

    It sounds like their Mother knew that real beauty isn’t always in big canyons or huge parks (though there is real beauty there too), but in wherever you are– if you look for it! What a delightful experience meeting them!

    Reply
  6. Cathi Russell - August 6, 2017 2:22 pm

    The weepy glees! We take so much for granted here living in this slice of heaven, it is wonderful to hear it from two Southern “virgins”!

    Reply
  7. Sam Hunneman - August 6, 2017 3:41 pm

    Sounds to me like mama watched GONE WITH THE WIND once upon a time, and how could Disneyworld possibly compete with a fresh-cut camellia for your hair and Ko-Kolas from glass bottles?
    And now, I’m gonna go get a cool drink of water ’cause just thinking about wearing a wool sweater and jumping rope in the attic on an 86° day has given me a hot flash!

    Reply
  8. Sherrie - August 6, 2017 4:14 pm

    ♡♡♡♡♡

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  9. Erika - August 6, 2017 6:19 pm

    These young women are doing it right, bless their hearts. I wish they were coming to Kentucky; we’d show them a time.

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  10. Jack Quanstrum - August 6, 2017 6:37 pm

    Wonderful story. Well written! Yes there is nothing like the Deep South. I love the heat. Keep them coming Sean!

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  11. Melodie - August 6, 2017 6:49 pm

    Yes, welcome to the South, but missing one’s mother is the same in any place, or country. My mama was my everything. When she passed away, it was the first time in my life, I was unable to share my sadness with her. Funny, it’s in my plans to ‘visit’ her tomorrow, and take her some new flowers. I love her and miss her so much. It’s been 9 yrs., this month.

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  12. Jeannie - August 6, 2017 8:45 pm

    I am so glad that they were able to meet you! You are the epitomy of the Real South. Thankful that they get to know that REAL part.

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    • Sherrie - August 6, 2017 11:22 pm

      That’s a good point, Jeannie!

      Reply
  13. Maxine - August 6, 2017 8:45 pm

    A refreshing visit with loving daughters on a mission for their mother. In 12 days it will be 16 years since I lost mine and I still want to tell her about the beautiful purple flowers a friend has growing in the yard.

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  14. Debby Haddock - August 6, 2017 10:55 pm

    You always touch my heart. Thank you. I wasn’t born in the South, but my momma was, and I got here just as fast as I could!

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  15. Darlene Rhodus - August 7, 2017 12:36 pm

    The word picture you have painted makes me feel like I am at the Whistle Stop in Fried Green Tomatoes. Lovely story. Thank you.

    Reply
  16. Mike - August 7, 2017 4:58 pm

    Not a complete trip without Texas.

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  17. Drucie Brown - August 8, 2017 5:21 pm

    Beautiful story. I’m glad the girls gave Alabama a chance.

    Reply
  18. Kathy Burgess - August 9, 2017 8:24 pm

    I am 67…my mama died in 2004 She was 73…still a beautiful lady. But the ravages of lung Cancer had taken its toll. She smoked from the time she was 14 until a few weeks before she died. I didn’t really love her until I had my own children. I was blessed to be able to take care of her at home before she passed and now I miss her every day. Love you Mama.

    Reply
  19. Mary Anne - August 9, 2017 10:30 pm

    We all miss our Mama, if she’s no longer with us. We all wish we could call her and tell her (fill in the blank). But if we are lucky, we still sense her spirit at the most inopportune moments. Our mamas live on in our hearts. God Bless those sisters for taking that trip to honor their Mother. Thank you, Sean, for sharing their story with us.

    Reply

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