Announcing a New Feature: Friday Photo


Crossroads, Corinth, Mississippi / Gerry Wilson

I’m excited to announce a new feature on the Intersection!

Every Friday, I’ll post a photo, most likely one of my own. I may simply comment on it (or I may not; I may leave it to you to consider); or I may spin a story or a memoir piece. I hope you’ll respond with your own thoughts.


Last spring, I attended a family reunion, a gathering of distant cousins who were mostly strangers, all linked to my great-great-grandfather who settled in middle Tennessee in the early 1800s. We cousins are a diverse group–all ages, many different professions, some with strong genealogy interests and knowledge and some, like me, more or less novices. I am an only child. Until the last few years, when these cousins surfaced, I’d felt isolated and wished for a big, extended family. Now I have one. We swapped a lot of stories that day.

For the reunion, my husband and I stayed in Corinth, Mississippi, the nearest town of any size to Selmer, Tennessee, where my father’s family roots are.  We visited the Civil War Museum in Corinth, a museum that doesn’t glorify the war but portrays its heartbreak and deprivation. We also discovered the little railroad museum built beside the tracks that, as in so many little towns, run right through the heart of things.

The rails in the photograph mark where the east-west and north-south railroads crossed–a significant crossroads for both North and South, thus the battles nearby for the control of that area. Those railroads and the nearby Tennessee River were major conduits for goods and soldiers.

At the war’s end, my great-grandfather reached a crossroads of his own. His oldest son had been killed at the Battle of Corinth. (My father was named for that soldier.) A younger son was arrested for passing himself off as a Confederate soldier and commandeering a horse and a mule. My great-grandfather posted bond for him, using his land as collateral, and when his son failed to show up in court at the appointed time, my great-grandfather went on the run, too, taking his family, including the wayward son, with him.

I imagine him rushing into the house, the door banging shut behind him, telling his wife to hurry, throwing things into the wagon–a feather bed, a chicken crate, pots and pans, maybe my great-grandmother’s travel trunk she refused to part with–settling in the children, and setting off into the night. Leaving much behind: house, land, family, friends, debts, a dead son. They moved to Mississippi, and that’s where they stayed. My grandfather, the youngest child, was six years old.

Colorful stuff, this. The stuff of story.

Think about your parents’ or grandparents’ crossroads. Whose choices have shaped your life?







Today or Tomorrow, Noon or Evening

Today, another assignment from Blogging 101: use a prompt from the Daily Post and make it my own. Here’s today’s prompt:

In Reason to Believe, Bruce Springsteen sings, “At the end of every hard-earned day / people find some reason to believe.” What’s your reason to believe?

Bruce tells it like it is.

By many people’s standards, my days are not “hard-earned.” I have a good life, not without its problems and sorrows, but relatively easy compared to some.

My dad’s days, on the other hand, were hard-earned. He came up poor, and after high school, he went to live with and work for my uncle, who had a car dealership in a nearby town. When my uncle decided to move back to Pontotoc, the tiny town in the hills of north Mississippi where they had grown up, my father moved with him. In those days, Daddy  followed the big bands that traveled the South. He was quite handsome, and I have old photographs of the pretty girls he knew. But my mother put an end to what seemed to be his confirmed bachelorhood. When they married, she was eighteen and he was thirty-two, and the love affair that was their marriage continued until his death forty-five years later. For the rest of his life, he worked six days a week, from six in the morning until six at night, to provide for my mother and me. Maybe we were his reason to believe.

Do I believe in providence?

Daddy @ 1937
my father, about 1937

Yes, I suppose I do. I’m not certain how my parents met. I do know that my mother’s best friend lived across the street from the little service station my dad ran. I imagine her walking past the station, blushing, never looking his way. Did she and her friend watch him from the friend’s front porch? Did they giggle? Did she write her name as his–“Mrs. G______”?

I wish I knew the answers, but I don’t. What a shame I never asked.

I can only speculate, just like I can speculate about the coincidence of meeting my first husband at a college party. We were both there with other people, but he cut in and danced with me. Later, I ran into him on campus and he offered me a ride back to the dorm. Still later, he called and asked me out. And that was the beginning.

Or much later, some twenty-five years ago now, a phone call came from a man I didn’t know, the man who is now my husband. He needed a judge for a high school literary magazine contest; would I do it? When I said yes, he offered to bring the materials to my house. And soon, there he stood, on my doorstep, this man I would eventually marry. He says he remembers I served him iced tea (it was July, maybe August). What if I’d offered him coffee? Or lemonade? Or nothing? What if I’d said no on the phone? I so easily could have, but I didn’t.

Today or tomorrow, noon or evening.

This restaurant or that one. Why are we in particular places at particular times? Five minutes, or less, even seconds, and the turns our lives take could be so very different. Call it providence. Call it fate. Call it God-ordained. Our lives unfold in mysterious ways.

What is my reason to believe? My best answer is how can I not?

I’ve lived long enough to look back on the days of my life–some of which were indeed hard-earned, heartbreaking days that I thought at the time would surely break me–and see how they didn’t. They shaped and matured me and made me a different person from the one I might have been. That evidence is my reason to believe. No, I can’t prove it. But it sustains me, and that’s what matters.

Have you experienced a particular moment in your life when you felt something larger than yourself at work? I’d love for you to tell me about it here.


Reason to Believe

A Clean, Beautiful Place

The Day 8 assignment in Blogging 101: Meet the neighbors, which means we Blogging 101 participants were to visit new blogs, ones we haven’t visited before, and leave comments. Day 9’s assignment is to take the gist or spirit of a comment and make that the seed of a new blog post here. I’m running a little behind (Day 10 assignment is already posted), but here’s the result of 8 & 9.

I visited several blogs, all of them strong, and then one in particular struck me: a clean, beautiful space called Timeless Wheel. I skimmed the posts, and one drew me in.

The writer is several months post-breakup. My heart ached for her, and her account brought back a difficult time in my life. I left some comforting words for the writer without being too cliched, I hope, because when someone is hurting, the last thing she needs to hear is “you’ll get over it” or “the hurt won’t last” or “you’ll find someone better.”

Lonely Road / Gerry Wilson

And no, I did not leave that sage advice, “Just be glad you didn’t marry him.” After the breakup of my marriage, I was a mess, totally preoccupied with my hurt and anger. Because of my children, I managed to get up in the morning, get dressed, get them dressed and fed and out of the house and to school. Somehow, I functioned, too. I’d started a new job that fall, teaching in a preschool, which was a good thing. How could I be a sad sack around four-year-old children?

My own kids were sad and scared. One put his fist through the wall. One retreated into himself. One had night terrors. The youngest clung to me. But somehow the days passed and I muddled through, crying at the slightest provocation, calling my ex at all hours of the night. Then one day, a good friend took me aside. I’ll call her *M*.

*M* never hesitated to speak her mind, and that morning, she delivered a hard truth: it was time to pull myself together and get on with it, she said; she (and others) were tired of my moping around and dragging everybody down. That I had too much going for me to let him ruin my life.

Dragging everybody down? Too much going for me? I remember my first thought: she couldn’t possibly understand. She’d been married to the same man for many years. They’d survived. They still loved each other.

I was indignant and embarrassed. But deep down, I knew she was right. I still had a long way to go, but that moment was a turning point.

I hope the writer at Timeless Wheel is able to “get on with it,” too. That she’ll realize she doesn’t need anybody else to complete her. That she is whole even–maybe especially–when she’s alone. It took a long time for me to understand that and to feel worthy and lovable. I hope it won’t take her as long to find her clean, beautiful space again. I wish her luck.


Thanks to Blogging 101 for these terrific challenges! We are sharing our stories here–sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking. But our stories all the same. Cheers.