Skip to content

The World Of A Juggler

Recently I flew back to New York City to hug my family and fill up on the things I miss while living in a new place. I sallied forth through the snow, admiring the trees coated with white. At the Museum of Natural History I grinned at the dinosaurs and tilted my head back to once again view the big blue whale. 

After ten days in my borrowed neighborhood, I knew the names of the produce man and the checkout girl at the grocery store; both wished me safe travels when I left town. The cop on the corner waved hello in the morning, the man at the newsstand daily asked my opinion of the weather.

I feel like a clever juggler holding separate worlds, one in each hand. A toss in the air and I am loose in the big town visiting my old haunts, taking it in with affection and recognition. When I land in Memphis and point my car south, I make another toss. A different world appears, less familiar, though coming out of the shadows and into focus.

A landmark that tells me I am in this new place is Valley Agri. Hardy vegetable plants, a tray of rosemary, a few pots of lavender wait for Water Vallians to trust the temperature to behave and remain consistent over time.

To a woman who likes flowers, all garden supply stores bring a hint of excitement. But no prior place has combined all I find off South Main Street. On the porch, at the right of the door, hangs a giant board with a list offering gates and posts, cattle feeders and molasses-lick tubs which come in two sizes to please your cows. 

And if your hands need smoothing or your eyelashes curled, Valley Agri also carries Mary Kay.

After scanning the menu, I step around the orange cat and go in where I ask Johnny Wood, a tall gentleman wearing a beard, if Maggie is awake. “Oh, she is back there,” he tells me, waving his hand.

Tucked in at the end of an aisle is a small playpen, outfitted for all the needs of an eight-month-old baby girl. Standing off to the side is a little seat where she sometimes prefers to sleep.

Wide awake from a nap and powerfully kicking her legs, Maggie smiles at me, looking enchanted with a world that holds her grandmother Virginia Wood and a selection of ready-to-wear along with its garden supplies.

While a crackerjack gardener in the North, I have so far killed every plant I associate with in the South. Virginia kindly discusses different strategies as we consider the merits of butterfly weed and lantana. 

Maggie always enters into the mood of things. She travels on her grandmother’s hip to take my order and watches with interest as the register pops open and Virginia makes change.

Sometimes Jim Bowles is working and takes a few minutes after explaining the benefits of lime on Mississippi dirt to tell me his story about growing up here, his work in aviation building ‘highways in the sky’ before eventually returning to life in Water Valley.

I say goodbye to Maggie, watching that little body bounce with her precious spirit. I travel back to Main Street taking in this town’s highlights as I head towards the white house with the wraparound porch.

The juggling continues. One world appears, another recedes. To be a juggler is not a simple matter. On a random morning, awake but before I open my eyes, I pause. Which toss had I made last night, what floor will I stand on when I slip out of bed. 

Leave a Comment