Going Home

One hundred years ago, a little baby girl named Mary Evelyn Gunn, known to her family as Aunt Sissy, was born in a big white house in Enterprise, Mississippi. She was the beloved sister of her five brothers (two older and three younger), one of whom was my grandfather, Frank Carlton Gunn, affectionally called Bubba.

Riverside Plantation

Riverside Plantation

Little did her family know then, how many lives she would touch in her life time.

Many of those family members gathered this past weekend to celebrate her life and her 100th birthday at that same white house, named Riverside Plantation.

All week, I had stressed over how I was going to manage making it from Atlanta to Enterprise to join in the celebration. My husband is in the process of getting his masters and had a huge project due and we realized it would be too risky for him to make the trip in case he couldn’t finish his work on time.

At the last minute, my son and his girlfriend decided to drive up from college in south Georgia to make the trip with me. He had never seen the old home place but had heard about it for years. I welcomed the company and was thrilled that they wanted to be a part of the occasion.

As we pulled into the grassy yard, Riverside stood tall and proud, albeit a bit weathered. Two tall white columns flanked both sides of the front porch, welcoming visitors into the foyer. Built in the early to mid-1800’s, it has seen better days but the sight of it still overwhelmed me. I had been to the place only twice before, but this time, I was older and truly appreciated and understood where I came from. Two chimneys flanked both sides of the house. The green shutters had faded as had the once bright red door, but the beautiful decorative transom windows were still intact. I could hear the squeals and laughter from children who were playing on the balcony above the front steps.

I thought of my grandfather and my great-uncles and Aunt Sissy as they played in the front yard as children. They had climbed the trees, worked in the garden, tended to the livestock, and swam in the Chunky River nearby. I was confident that if I listened hard enough, I could probably hear the ringing of the dinner bell and the voice of my great-great grandmother calling everyone inside the house for dinner.

My grandfather, Aunt Sissy and Uncle Kiddo on the front steps of Riverside.

My grandfather, Aunt Sissy and Uncle Kiddo on the front steps of Riverside.

As we walked in, Aunt Sissy sat in a chair in the very room that she was born in, grinning as those who came to celebrate with her stopped to wish her Happy Birthday.

The hardwood floors creaked as people walked around, soaking in the history that has made up the house, wishing the walls could tell us stories of those who lived here. Before the Civil War, the house was owned by a man who was a Mason. When Union soldiers took over the house, they found a box (supposedly full of valuables) wrapped in Masonic papers. With many Union soldiers also being Masons, they stood by their vow to never cause harm to a fellow Mason, thereby ordering the other soldiers not to burn the house or steal anything. They then turned the home into Union headquarters, where they planned the Battle of Vicksburg from the front parlor. The home is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

There is a book called Riverside Remembered by Wallace Neal Briggs, Aunt Sissy’s cousin, who everyone called “Buster.” His story tells about the times he visited his beloved Riverside, starting when he was only six years-old. For those of us who were not around during that time, it has been a beautiful way to learn about Mammy and Pappy, my great-great-grandparents, along with Allie and Cally, my great-grandparents. I have also learned about my grandfather as a young man, before he met my grandmother. What a rare gift to be able to treasure events in his life long after they occurred!

In addition, the book tells about Mattie Riley and her son Leroy, their black neighbors who helped at the house who were really just part of the family. Sissy and Mattie were especially close, since Mattie had taken care of her since she was a child.

One of the most cherished moments was when Mattie’s grandson, Floyd, arrived at the celebration and handed a photograph of Mattie to Sissy. I wish I could have frozen in time the moment Aunt Sissy saw the photograph – her delighted expression clearly showed the love she had for her and how much she missed her.

Throughout the day, all of the family laughed and told stories of parents and kids and simply loved being there. I hope Aunt Sissy looked around and realized that the people who were there, were there because of HER family – each one of us being a child, grandchild, great-grandchild, niece, nephew, cousin or other relative.

I watched my father laugh with his brother and sisters. I watched my son and nephews look for rusty old railroad spikes by the Chunky River. I laughed with my cousins, some of whom I had not seen in over 25 years.

My Great-Aunt Sissy with her brother Bubba (my grandfather's) kids - Aunt Carol, Daddy, Uncle Pat, & Aunt Polly.

My Great-Aunt Sissy with her brother Bubba (my grandfather’s) kids – Aunt Carol, Daddy, Uncle Pat, & Aunt Polly.

And as the children of my cousins ran through the house and people mingled about sipping coffee and eating birthday cake, I felt the house shake. Some would think that a 150+ year-old home shaking wouldn’t be a good thing, but I felt otherwise.

To me, it felt as if the home was happy and giggling because after way too many years, it was once again full of the love, laughter and life of the Gunn family.

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Why March Is A No Nookie Month

Nineteen years ago today, my life changed in a way I never could have imagined:

I became a mom.

It all started with the infamous “blizzard” of 1993 in Atlanta, GA. We actually got enough snow that year to cover the street, which, if you are familiar with living in the South, means that all normal ways of life come to an absolute stand-still.

It’s pretty simple. We don’t know how to drive in the snow. It is rare that we see more than an inch of it at a time. Even the mere mention of the word “snow,” people will flock to the grocery store to stock up on bread and milk even though the snow more than likely won’t last past 11 a.m. the next morning.

Such was the case in March, 1993. What started off as snow flurries quickly turned into what would be soon plastered across the news as a “blizzard”. Anyone living North of Tennessee would have considered it a light dusting, but people in Atlanta were in a panic. You would think us Southerners will begin to contemplate cannibalism if we can’t get enough bread and milk to last us a few days.

Then the power went out.

With no power and no backup generator, what was a young newlywed couple to do?

Five weeks later, I was in for quite a surprise.

I made an appointment with an OB and soon found out that my husband and I weren’t the only ones who lost power. A RECORD number of pregnancies were reported that year and they were all due in December.

Fast forward eight more months.

My son was actually due on my mother’s birthday, which is Christmas Day, but he had other plans.

For the first time in his life, he came early and showed up on my father’s birthday – December 9.

Now that would be a coincidence in itself, right? Due on my mother’s birthday but born on my father’s birthday?

December 9, 1993

December 9, 1993

What is really interesting is that my father has a brother and three sisters. Three out of five children were born on December 9. And when my sister was pregnant, her due date was also December 9 (but he broke tradition and arrived two days later.)

December 9, 2012

December 9, 2012

March, it appears, is a very fertile month in my family.

And as we celebrate the lives of two of the most wonderful men that I have in my life, I am also thankful that I have an equally wonderful and understanding husband. Because he knows that March is officially EXTRA SAFETY MONTH in the romantic department at the McIntyre house.

Just in case.

Another Year Older…Dang It.

My 44th birthday is coming up this month. When I was in my 20’s, being in my 40’s seemed to be SO FAR OFF. Holy cow. When the heck did this happen?

On my mother’s last birthday, my 93 year old grandmother asked how old she was. My mother, who we call “Ninny” replied, “Well how old do you THINK I am?” My grandmother thought for a few moments and said “42?” My mother told her she was CORRECT. (Ninny later told me that she doesn’t want my grandmother to really know how old my mother is because then my grandmother will realize that she is 93!)

Birthdays have always been so much fun for me. I’ve always loved them – no matter whose birthday it is. And now that I’m older, when I look back it seems like something crazy always happens on my birthday.

On the day I turned 18, I was a fun loving college student at Mississippi State University. I was so excited because back in 1986 if you were 18, you were of legal drinking age. Unfortunately for me the VERY NEXT DAY – October 1st, the drinking age changed to 21. And there was no grandfathering. So I was legal for 24 hours and then I couldn’t drink legally for another THREE years. Talk about a buzz kill.

On my 25th birthday I was married and six months pregnant. On my 30th birthday I was going through a very bitter, two-year divorce and custody battle.

I spent my 35th birthday at the hospital with Ninny while my father was having surgery for Melanoma. Halfway during the day, mom looked over at me and said “Oh! It’s your birthday!” Then she smirked and sing-said “Ha-ha-ha You’re 35 years old!!!” I just smiled at her and said “Well, at least I can say that I don’t have a 35 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER.” SCORE for the smart ass daughter.

On my 40th birthday I went to dinner with a nice fellow but found out a few days later that he was interested in pursuing someone else. Apparently my competition was not another girl.

My birthdays are starting to get better though. On my 41st birthday, I was on day 4 of my honeymoon. How awesome is that? Wedding cake + birthday cake = heaven.

Birthdays 42 & 43 were both spent with my sweet hubby at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. For my 44th? I’ve been told it’s a surprise, but it better involve cake!

I still have 49 more years to go until I make it to my grandmother’s age.

And as much craziness as I’ve had over my last 44 birthdays, I will be thrilled if the next 44 are just as fun…because at least that will mean I have lived until at least age 88.

Dang it. I just realized I’m already halfway there.

I just opened a birthday card & a dollar fell out. Oh how I love birthdays!

Bailey’s Birthday Minus Mom

By Dana McIntyre      @DanaMcIntyre1

It’s so hard for me to believe, but my husband and I have been married now for almost three years. We don’t have any kids together but we both brought kids from our previous marriages into our new one.

Most parents will agree that one of the most difficult things about getting divorced is not having your children with you all of the time. (Although for some people, they consider that a vacation!) For me, the hardest part was missing important holidays and events in my child’s life. He would spend Thanksgiving at my house one year, the next at his dads. Splitting Christmas day right in the middle…half at mom’s, half at dad’s.

This year, my step-daughter, Bailey was with us on her 11th birthday. We planned the usual birthday festivities – cake, balloons, gifts, friends, grandparents, etc. But as a mother who has been there, I knew it would be difficult for her mom not to see her on that day.

We used StoryMark to document her special day with tons of pictures (even using Instagram to add effects), but we also were able to add the sounds of the party and the ear bleeding result of our family singing Happy Birthday to her off-key. Bailey e-mailed the StoryMarks directly to her mother, allowing her to share in the party festivities.

So the next time you can’t attend a birthday party or a school chorus recital, consider using StoryMark to include the other parent. Bridging the gap between divorced parents can be so beneficial to your kids, and can start with the most simple gesture .

So Happy Birthday, Bailey! Cha! Cha! Cha!

Baileys Birthday – YouTube.

So what about you?  Have you ever been away from your kids on a holiday or birthday due to a divorce?  How did you cope?

For more information on StoryMark, visit http://www.storymarklife.com or download for free on your iPhone or Android.