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VOL. 39 | NO. 23 | Friday, June 5, 2015

Singing, dancing through Arkansas, Mississippi

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In the afternoon of Thursday before Mother’s Day, I drive southeast. I stop at a certain spot in White Hall, Arkansas, and pick up a mess of fried chicken.

Then I drive on to Lake Village, Arkansas, where I am greeted by twin great nieces Sloan and Amelia, age six. They live on the banks of Lake Chicot with mom Caroline and dad Chuck.

We play, sing and dance “The Hokey Pokey,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and a couple other songs. They read me the best-seller “No David” and one of its sequels. I get caught up on the family’s bees, chickens and cats.

I’m introduced to Sparky – a 1-year-old rescue dog the size of a Shetland pony – and two parakeets, whose names I didn’t catch.

I learn what the girls are learning in kindergarten.

Joined by Caroline’s dad, Neill, we eat chicken and some sides. My sister Nancy, Neill’s wife, is with us in spirit – may she rest in peace.

On Friday, I meander down to Jackson, Mississippi, place of my birth. I visit my parents’ graves, where I play “The Hokey Pokey,” “I’ll Fly Away” and a couple other songs.

I look up from the guitar and see that a cemetery employee on a backhoe is making a video of me. I ramp it up a notch, sing a little louder. Why not?

I lunch with second cousins, Ellen and Mary, sisters whose maiden name was Fleming. We are meeting in person for the “first” time, although one of them claims to have seen me when I was a toddler.

They’ve created an impressive family tree at one of the sites for such activities. The Fleming sisters and I have a memorable discussion about family, from which I picked liberally while writing last week’s column. They repeatedly tell me how much I look like their grandfather, my great uncle, age 143, may he rest in peace.

After lunch I strike out toward Marion, Mississippi, home of the latest addition to the family: Anson, son of Nancy and Tyler, brother of Russell, whose newborn-sized diapers I was changing in January 2013.

On this visit, Russell and I toss a football around. We also play, sing and dance “The Hokey Pokey,” “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and a couple other songs. We also read “No David” and a few other kid-lit staples. (Think “Goodnight Moon.”)

Being new to the scene, Anson is pretty much on center stage. Russell, who is quite the dynamo, is adjusting to the role of big brother.

As the visiting relative, I try nonchalantly to keep Anson, shall we say, out of big brother’s reach? I change a few diapers, administer a few bottles and do things that I know my sister would have loved to be doing, were she not resting in peace.

After two days in south Mississippi, I return to Lake Village and, switching families, join in wishing my mother-in-law, Anne, and aunt-in-law, Sarah, a happy Mother’s Day as we lunch with Sarah’s daughter and son-in-law, Beth and Webb – a preacher and a psychologist.

My wife, Susan, meanwhile is in Denver, Colorado, on family business of a different nature, which may be addressed in a future column.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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