Steve Mullen: The girls arrive; the party begins


Steve Mullen



We''ve covered some ground.


Lee and the two girls, ages 7 and 9, are here for Spring Break, their first time in Columbus, in advance of moving here from California after the school year ends.


I''ve received lots of suggestions on how to keep them occupied; we''ll never cover it all but we''re off to a good start.






8 p.m.: I leave for Memphis to pick them up at the airport. The adventure begins when I put the iPod on shuffle, space behind the wheel, miss the turnoff to Highway 78 at Tupelo, and ride Highway 45 all the way to Corinth. I realize my mistake when I pass the weigh station near the Tennessee line. Luckily, 72 from Corinth to Memphis is a four-lane road, I had left Columbus early, and my car is ... nimble. Arrive in Memphis with plenty of time to spare. Crisis averted.


11:46 p.m.: Plane lands; hugs all around.





3 a.m.: Heads hit the pillow back in Columbus.


7 a.m.: The kids wake us up. They''re on a different schedule than older, more sane humans, and don''t seem to require sleep. We get moving.


9 a.m.: Hitching Lot Farmer''s Market. We run into Birney, who is meeting and greeting folks near the entrance, clutching an old Look magazine he has apparently found among the sale tables. We also run into Mother Goose. We promise to hit her story time at the library on Thursday.


10 a.m.: Artisan''s Alley. We check out the different booths, and order the girls ham biscuits from Table of Plenty''s catering trailer. I go for a fried oyster po'' boy. We meet Nancy Carpenter, executive director of the Columbus Historic Foundation and the driving force behind Pilgrimage events. She gives the girls a warm welcome. We do a horse-drawn carriage ride.


Noonish: Back to the apartment after window-shopping through downtown. Despite all the activity, what may be the most satisfying moments of the week have come when the girls are settling in, playing quietly in their new room. This comes as a relief -- they love the apartment, and enjoy being able to pop out the door and have places to go downtown.


5:30 p.m.: Dinner at J. Broussard''s. I have my favorite thing: Catfish with shrimp and mushrooms. Lee has Shrimp Bourguignon. I''m happily surprised to discover they have a kids'' menu. Mary gives the girls big piles of Mardi Gras beads.





We visit my folks in the Jackson area; My brother''s family is there to meet us. You know the drill: A pack of screaming children running wild around the house. We go out on my folks'' boat for a ride around the Ross Barnett Reservoir. Back to Columbus Sunday evening.





Lee''s parents come down from Oxford. They watch the kids while I''m at work and Lee, a teacher, goes on job interviews. They take the kids to lunch at the Back Door and for ice cream at Mississippi Coffeehouse. They go to Wal-Mart, and note that the parking lot is full on a Monday afternoon (what recession?). Lee and I tour Annunciation Catholic School with the girls. That evening, I take them to West Point for dinner at Anthony''s (fried crawfish appetizer; catfish with crawfish sauce).





9 a.m.: We tour Cook Elementary with the girls, and are highly impressed.


10:30 a.m.: Grandma comes to town, up from Jackson; after lunch at Huck''s (fried crawfish po boy, extra comeback) we hit the Pilgrimage circuit. We visit Errolton, Colonnade Gardens and the Amzi Love home.


3 p.m.: More ice cream at Mississippi Coffeehouse. (Different grandparent; what do you expect?)


5:30 p.m.: Dinner -- boiled crawfish at Ruben''s. This was the kids'' first time to experience boiled crawfish; the 7-year-old wanted no part of it. But the 6-year-old dove in. After initially peeling them for her, she became more adventurous and began ripping off the heads and digging for the tail meat herself.


7 p.m.: We hit some more Pilgrimage homes. The candlelight tours are the way to go. A highlight was Temple Heights'' candle- and torch-lit kitchen and gardens.



OK, half a week down. We''ve seen so much history we could write a master''s thesis, and eaten so much crawfish we''re starting to grow claws. But the girls are loving it.


As Birney remarked, the girls probably feel like Columbus is throwing a party, just for them.



Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.


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