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Contributed by Carole Ezell.

About twelve years ago (urp), I wrote my master’s thesis on Welty’s short story cycle, The Golden Apples.  It has now been about that long since I read it, but I still think of the process of reading and re-reading it as something like driving through fog.  On my first reading, things were fuzzy around the edges, characters and events a little obscured by Welty’s language.   I remember Noel Polk calling on me in his Southern Lit class in grad school the day we discussed The Golden Apples.  I smiled, what must have looked like a knowing smile, at something he’d mentioned, so he called on me to explain what had happened at the lake.  As I stumbled along, I hoped very hard that I had actually understood and wasn’t making a fool of myself.  As I read it over and over, things began to emerge from the fog, events I had read over, past, around, until they seemed so glaringly obvious I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen them there all along.  I wrote my thesis about these hidden moments of sexual violence.  I love the way that Welty uses words to cloak her character’s lives, and writing this has me curious to pick The Golden Apples up again, to see if the fog might have settled around her words again.

On a totally random note (not really part of the blog entry), every time I buy a new pair of shoes I think of Welty writing in One Writer’s Beginnings about how her father always scored the soles of slippery new shoes with his pocket knife in a diamond pattern so that she wouldn’t fall down.

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Memories of Miss Eudora abound at the TYCA-SE conference where I have spent my week.  She attended a luncheon in 1987 when the conference was held in Jackson.  She did not speak.  She agreed only to her presence, and that was more than enough to thrill the hearts of English teachers across the Southeast for many years to come.  It’s been suggested that she was lured to the conference with promises of sherry, but I’ll leave that to others to ponder. 

 

I’ve just enjoyed the memories.  She rode in Beverly’s car and made several comments about how much she liked it.  Mark Reynolds introduced her.  She signed a composition textbook for a woman who accidentally handed her the wrong book from a stack.  She made memories for one and all.

My favorite story told this week, however, came from Beverly Fatherree who works as a tour guide at the Welty house.  The subject came up of whether the award given to Miss Eudora by TYCA-SE in 1987 might still be in her house.  Bev’s answer is that she didn’t display any of her awards.  Even her Pulitzer Prize was kept in a box in the closet.  Other prestigious awards were stuffed under the bed.

 

Because she did not display awards the Welty house does not display them now.  However, an education center will be opening soon.  Her commendations will find the light of day there.  We have hopes that the one given by our every so humble organization will be among them.

David Powers, who was in high school with me, has this to share:

I met Eudora Welty while I was at Hinds in the early 80’s. I worked at Scrooge’s by Highland Village. She would come in for lunch and request my table. We became friends. She was an amazing and interesting lady.I would sit with her and her friends and talk about everything. I eventually moved away from Jackson for a few years. When I moved back around ’92 I ran into her in a restaurant. She was really getting up there in age then. She came up to me and said “David where have you been?? I’ve missed you”. That just about brought a tear to my eye. I was amazed that not only did she remember me after so much time going by but the fact that she had thought of me. She was a really unique lady. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting quite a few famous pepole over the years. None has left the impression on me that she did. I’m grateful that I got to know her.

I never met Eudora Welty.  It’s a huge regret.  It seems I know possibly hundreds of people who did.  I bask in their experience.

by Jeanne Ezell

In the late 1970s my husband and I were living in central Florida but frequently visited his parents, who live in the Belhaven neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi.  Sometimes during our visits we would attend a New Stage production.  When New Stage presented a stage production of Eudora Welty’s Robber Bridegroom, my mother-in-law and I took my daughter, Carole, then about five or six years old, to see it. Carole was delighted by all the on-stage shenanigans and talked about the play for weeks afterward.  When we returned home, I found a children’s book written by Miss Welty and checked it out to read to Carole. 

Sometime after we saw the play, not during our same visit to Jackson but months or perhaps a year or two later, Carole and I happened to be shopping in the old Jitney Jungle located in the Belhaven neighborhood.  As we stood in line to check out, I realized with some awe that the elderly lady standing just ahead of me was none other than Eudora Welty.  Now, I held a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English and had taken more than one course in Southern literature.  I still recall vividly being totally charmed by listening to a recording of Miss Welty’s reading of “Why I Live at the P. O.” and hearing her speak at a conference I attended at M.S.C.W. when I was a college freshman.  I am seldom at a complete loss for words, but this time I was.  I felt it might be a severe breach of etiquette, an invasion of Miss Welty’s privacy, to approach her while she was doing her grocery shopping.  On the other hand, I felt I could not let this opportunity pass.

 

My internal struggle intensified as I realized that the woman in front of Miss Welty would soon complete her transaction and my chance would be forever lost.  I was able to catch Miss Welty’s eye; she smiled and nodded pleasantly.  Thus emboldened and with little planning, I blurted out that I was a great admirer of her writing.  Then I introduced Carole and said, “She loved seeing the New Stage production of The Robber Bridegroom.”  That seemed to catch Miss Welty’s attention, and she spoke directly to Carole.  We chatted for an all-too-short few minutes, and then she turned to the checkout clerk.

 

That was not the last time I shopped at the Belhaven Jitney Jungle, but it was the last time I saw her there.  I always watched for her, though, and I consider it no mere coincidence that Carole grew up to earn a master’s degree in English and write her thesis on Miss Welty’s book, The Golden Apples.

August 2019
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