How y’all doing, Bookworms?
I took a trip to my hometown recently to spend a little QT with my mom. We had lunch and got mani-pedis to celebrate Mother’s Day. It felt extra indulgent because I’d taken some vacation time and we were galavanting ON A WEEKDAY! As I’ve discussed with you on several occasions, when driving alone, I hate to waste the hours. I have taken to listening to audio books on all solo road trips and find the car time infinitely more tolerable.
On this particular trip, I purchased a copy of Fannie Flagg’s Standing In the Rainbow via iTunes to play on my fancy little phone through a wire thingie to my car’s speaker system. It’s as high tech as you can get while still using wires. I did not realize it AT THE TIME, but it seems the version I downloaded was ABRIDGED. I KNOW! I’m very disappointed in myself for not doing my due diligence, but as is the case any time I visit Elmwood Springs, Missouri, I was enchanted (even if I inadvertently missed out on some of the story…)
Fannie Flagg narrated this audio book herself, which I LOVED because southern accents are adorable when you’re talking about small towns in the American south. A little twang is downright endearing. I’ve been to Elmwood Springs, Missouri a couple of times already when reading Welcome To The World, Baby Girl and Can’t Wait To Get To Heaven and I love the way Flagg incorporates her characters into different stories. They might only show up as a side note, or write a song that becomes someone’s favorite, or host a charming radio show, but the minute I run into a character I’ve heard of before, I feel like I already know them. I was SO pleased to hear so much of the famous Neighbor Dorothy’s story in this book.
Neighbor Dorothy started up a little radio show out of her home in the mid 1940s, and shared recipes, homemaking tips, and hosting a wide variety of musical guests. Neighbor Dorothy’s show, and her cakes, appeared in both Welcome To The World, Baby Girl and Can’t Wait To Get To Heaven, so hearing her story was quite a treat. She was a homemaker, but no pushover. She could bake with the best of them, but she and her former suffragette mother-in-law weren’t about to sit back and watch women pushed out of politics or anywhere else. Dorothy’s gentle personality and her typical refusal to discuss hot button issues made her opinion all the more valuable when she occasionally let it out.
Dorothy’s children, Bobby and Anna Lee go on to lead interesting lives, but nobody’s life is quite as interesting as the introverted daughter of a gospel singer the Smiths take in one summer. Betty Raye Oatman starts out as a painfully shy girl. She is so shy that the idea of traveling with her family’s gospel group sickens her. She is anxious and forced to go on stage and be around people constantly. All the poor girl wants is some peace, quiet, and a place to read (bless her heart.) After a short visit with Dorothy and the Smith family, Betty Raye finds it even harder to go back on the road with her family. This is why it comes as such a surprise when little Betty Raye goes on to marry a mover and a shaker in politics, Hamm Sparks.
I could keep on rambling about Tot Whooten and Aunt Elner and Jimmy Head and Macky and Norma and the impossibly fabulous Cecil Figgs, but I’ll spare you the details. I can’t help it, y’all. Fannie Flagg lifts my spirits in a way nobody else can. I love her quirky characters, I love the Southern charm, I love the whole schtick. When I need a pick me up, she’s my go-to gal.
Now that I’m longing for a simpler time when soda fountains were in pharmacies and bubble gum blowing contests were a thing, I’ll pose this question to you. When Bobby Smith hits middle age, he’s struck by an intense nostalgia for his childhood and the town he’d grown up in. I know I personally get really happy when I find ORIGINAL (and not the new fangled animation style) Care Bears and My Little Pony stickers and whatnot. What are some of your favorite childhood toys and memories?