a tale of three 901s


Happy 901 Day!

I’ve spent my entire life living in the 901. (In case you don’t know what the 901 is; it’s the area code for the Memphis area.) When I was a child the portion of Northwest Tennessee I lived in was also part of the 901.  In recent years, it has changed to the 731 area code. I choose to believe my moving away took away the 901 spirit from the area, hence the code change. Don’t argue with me about that. Ok?

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my parents with baby me. on the porch of the log cabin where i lived the first half of my life.

September 1st is known as 901 day in the Memphis area. And is a day full of pride for those of us who love the 901. For me, the 901 doesn’t simply encompass only Memphis (while it is the best part of the 901) but it encompasses all of my West Tennessee.

Here is the story of the three 901s. My mudder’s, my Grammy’s, and mine.

# 1: My Mudder, Geraldine, was born and raised in Crockett County in Northwest Tennessee. It’s a rural area surrounded by farmland that seems to go on until the edge of the earth. She married my Grandy, Darrell, and started a life there.  She and my Grandy spent a few of their younger years living in the bottom left corner of Tennessee, in Memphis. She and my Grandy would eventually move back home and start his family farm back in Crockett County.  Mudder’s life was not simply spent as a local farmer’s wife. But also as a prominent member of the community.  She even wrote for the local Perry’s Community News.

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lebanon united methodist church. friendship, tn

Mudder’s 901 was not just a place to live. It was a place saturated with family, friends, and the life she had always known.  She went on to raise her family in the same area. And eventually settled on property that was on a road named for her married last name a few feet away from a road named for her maiden name. The occurrence of those two roads doesn’t simply speak to the small size of the town. But it also speaks to how deeply grafted her family was in the area.

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grandy adjusting my preschool graduation cap. mudder, seated in the pale pink dress.

#2: Grammy, Virginia, was born in Memphis. She lived in Arkansas then Mississippi. She moved to Memphis, met, and married my grandfather, Bill. They spent their marriage living in the East Memphis area. Splitting their time between the Berclair area and eventually spending the most time near the area of Walnut Grove and White Station. Grammy and Grandaddy were married at Union Avenue Methodist Church. A church that now, regretfully, has been demolished to make way for a hideous drugstore.

(Brandon was able to procure a brick for me from the church before its complete demise. He’s a good guy.)

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my grandparents and aunts at a holiday inn event. my mom is the smallest one.

Grammy put down roots in Memphis. She raised her three girls in the city limits.  She watched some of Memphis’ most historical moments happen before her eyes from her vantage point in the suburban East Memphis area. Her husband was a vice president for the Memphis-made Holiday Inn corporation.  She loved some now disappeared Memphis landmarks: eating her favorite liver and onions and chess pie at the Britling Cafe and shopping at Lowenstein’s.

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top: my mother, grammy, aunt susan, me (with the lollipop), my cousin liz, (the baby). bottom: grammy with newborn me in front of our home in crockett county.

#3: My 901 has been divided almost evenly between these two parts of Tennessee.  I’ve now lived in the Memphis area longer than I lived in Crockett County. But I still think of myself as comprised by equal parts Memphis and Crockett County.

My younger self in the 901 loved growing up surrounded by cotton fields. I was afforded the opportunity to play in the large trailers full of freshly picked, soon to be ginned, cotton. I was able to walk, independently, down to my Aunt Belle’s home or across the field to visit my Mudder. I loved playing in the fields that pretty much seemed like they belonged to me. I got in a lot of trouble coming home covered in mud (or one memorable time- losing a shoe in the mud).  I was afforded a lot of freedom in the first half of my life by being able to explore in that 901.

My second half of life has been spent near or in the city of Memphis. I’ve always been energized by being in cities. When I was a child, I was always so enamored by the cosmopolitan grandeur of the Clark Tower when I would spend weeks with my Memphis grandparents.  By the time I was a teenager, I had officially fallen in love with Memphis.

my "memphis" morse code necklace. betsy and iya from hoot and louise.
my “memphis” morse code necklace. betsy and iya from hoot and louise.

I would live on Tutwiler Avenue. A street that is divided into about a thousand mini-sections all throughout the city. My Grammy had lived on another portion of the street when she was a young woman.  She had already begun to lose cognition to Alzheimer’s Disease by the time I moved to Tutwiler. But the shared street gave me a special  feeling of kinship with her.

My 901 is a connection with all of West Tennessee. It’s where I started my life and where I’ve spent this last half of my life. It’s a place I love as unconditionally as one can love a place.

My 901 is the place I couldn’t imagine being any more amazing. But I’m so optimistic to see where it’s headed in the future.

My 901 is a place I will defend fiercely.

My 901 is a place where I’m still discovering my own history. And the only place I truly want to build my future.

My 901 may be a different place now than when my grandmothers built their lives. But it will always remain the place where I will feel most most comfortable; my most ME.

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3 thoughts on “a tale of three 901s

  1. I have loved the time I’ve spent with you, Geraldine, Virginia, and Aunt Belle this afternoon. I read every word, and am in love with you gift for writing, and with the gift of valuing your upbringing, that God has planted in you. You’ve brought me joy today!

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