Yes, today is my birthday! Usually I would not toot my own horn is such a way, but this birthday is a big one for me. Indeed, yours truly was brought into the world exactly 50 years ago. I was born the typical way, a healthy, 7 pound 12 ounce bouncing baby girl to Edward Franklin and Marjorie Jo Hudson at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Especially poignant this year, aside from the chronological WOW of hitting 5-0, I just returned from a week in Pascagoula visiting with my father and other family members. Sadly, my mom passed on 3 years ago, so her “happy birthday” wishes are felt in my heart. Luckily, I have reams of family remaining who made sure my approaching special day was celebrated.
Being present at the very place I was born and spent the first year of my life, when on the cusp of my birthday, was a unique experience. I met a few more of my cousins in a major shindig on our final Saturday in town. Oh man, the food was phenomenal! As I get older I recognize in a more profound way how precious the connections to my loved ones and to my heritage.
One incredibly moving moment came when my father and aunt took my sister and I to see the long-overdue erected memorial to my grandfather and his crew. That image is below. If the call had come 10 minutes earlier, my dad – who was a teenager but already setting his sights on being a fireman – was at the station during his lunch break from school, and he would have jumped onto the truck to lend a hand. If he had, it is quite likely he too would have died. Scary thought!
The followup to what is on the sign is that my grandfather Jimmie was out of commission for 6 months, resumed his Fire Chief duties temporarily, but was never able to work as a firefighter again. My father Eddie became a fireman and eventually was the Fire Marshall and then Fire Chief of Pascagoula and Moss Point, MS – just like his daddy. Seeing the memorial, hearing my dad and aunt emotionally relive one of the most horrific events from their childhood, was merely one of many special moments during this trip.
All in all, it was a fabulous week chock full of memories, stories from the older folks, fine food, familial companionship, and plain old-fashioned Southern fun.
Because I am thinking of my ancestry and the plethora of stories shared and history imparted while in the South, I thought I would mention the legend behind why the hospital I was born at is called “Singing River.” My dad told me this tale a few years ago, this detailed version from a local area website. Not classically romantic, I suppose, but it is touching. Also, my great-grandmother was full-blooded Escatawpan Indian, the Escatawpa Indians the other tribe in the region.
The Singing River (now the Pascagoula River) is known throughout the world for its mysterious music. It sounds like a swarm of bees in flight and is best heard in late evenings during the late summer and autumn months.
The legend is based on the mysterious extinction of the Pascagoula Tribe of Indians. The name Pascagoula means “bread eaters.” The Pascagoula Indians were a peaceful, gentle and content people while their neighbors to the west were not. The Biloxi Indians considered themselves to be the first people and were enemies of the Pascagoula tribe.
A Biloxi Princess, known as Anola, fell in love with Altama, the Chief of the Pascagoula tribe. She was betrothed to a chieftain in her own tribe, but fled with Altama to live with his peopled. This lead to a war between the two tribes, and the Pascagoula Indians swore to either save the young couple or perish with them. The Pascagoula Indians were outnumbered and faced with enslavement by the Biloxi tribe or death.
The women and children lead the way, as the Pascagoula tribe joined hands and began to chant a song of death as they walked into the river. Many believe that the sounds heard by the river to this day are that song. Various explanations have been offered for this phenomenon, but none have been proven.
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For the record, I have never heard the singing myself. Guess on the next trip I will need to spend more time sitting on the riverbank for a spell! My heart has been additionally touched by the flood of birthday well wishes from fans on Facebook that began pouring in a couple days ago and are increasing by the minute. Talk about overwhelming! I have no way to fully express how lovely it is! And special thanks to my dear pals Esther Ann and Susanne for sending cards. Love you ladies!
October 26 will start with a visit to my gynecologist – not sure what I was thinking when THAT appointment was made! But having the gorgeous bouquet of flowers from my hubby to cheer me all day, and knowing he will take me to a nice dinner tonight where I can dress up for a change and wear the stunning necklace he gifted me will cancel out the earlier unpleasantness! So gyno joy aside, it WILL be a fabulous 50th Birthday!