As you know my word for the year is change. Since choosing that word I’ve noticed how much change happens, regardless of what we may choose. Honestly, I’ve known that for a while but with this being “my” word for the year I will probably be writing quite a bit about it.
Change is inevitable. People die. People move. Friendships fade. New friendships are made. I’ve experienced a lot of that over the course of my life. When you move every 2 1/2 years for the first five or six years of your marriage you get used to the constant upheaval. Then you start to settle in after that 2 1/2 year mark and you begin to think, “Maybe this is it. Maybe this is the place I’ll remain.”
I thought that way after we moved to Michigan the second time. It was different. We had a child now. It wasn’t just the two of us. Jerry Lee settled in. Until that call came six years later, telling him they had an exciting offer for him. They wanted him to take over as the production manager in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City? I knew nothing of Utah except Mormons. I’d never lived west of the Mississippi. Nevertheless, I gave him the go ahead and we moved. I called my best friend crying only weeks before we moved. I watched my precious children flounder in their new surroundings. I missed having family close by and missing out on so much. Yet somehow it all worked itself out. I fell in love with the state. I made great friends. I got involved. My children made friends. Rock Star devoted her life to gymnastics. Picasso fell in love with hockey after trying out just about every other sport under the sun. We spent eight amazing years out there.
Jerry Lee always said we would never leave so I began to feel like Utah was the place I would remain. Until Harley came along.
But this isn’t about Michigan, or Utah, or even Virginia. It’s about my 2 1/2 years living in Olive Branch, Mississippi. It’s about the fact that living there was one of the happiest times of my life. It’s also about the fact that now Jerry Lee and Harley are there, defiling this place that I once loved so much.
We had been married less than a year when Jerry Lee took a job with PCA up in Michigan. While living there we took a week long vacation at the end of May and visited Memphis to see Graceland and the zoo, and then headed over to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. I’m sure the fact that Michigan was experiencing a very cold spring (that morning I left for vacation the wind chill brought the temperature down to zero) didn’t help, but we both fell in love with Memphis. I loved Beale Street. I loved the food. I can’t explain it; I just loved it. I didn’t even mind the humidity. A little less than two and a half years later he was offered a job in Olive Branch, which is right outside of Memphis, Tennessee. In fact, when I lived there I would often hear it described as, “Memphis’s fastest growing suburb”, which I always thought was interesting considering they were in different states.
We had an amazing group of friends. Jerry Lee was actually social. There were quite a few transplants working at the plant so they hung around together quite a bit. It was nothing for us to go out to dinner in a group of 12-14 people. Robert and Judy. Bev and Tommy. Arch and Alice. Kevin and Kelly. The good Aunt Judy (who would later turn out to be the bad Aunt Judy) and her daughter, Sheri. Julie. Eric. We went to each other home’s. Some of us bowled together. We had parties. We went out to dinner. We went to football games (okay, once we went to Knoxville to see a football game but we couldn’t get tickets). I had a key to Bev and Tommy’s house. We were such good friends we were at the point where we just walked into each other’s homes. I spent a lot of time in their above ground pool and hot tub. I went out to dinner with Bev, Judy and Judy every week while Jerry Lee and Tommy played golf. Arch and Alice trusted us enough to leave their son with us on the rare weekend they managed to get away. We exchanged Christmas presents and spent holidays together if we didn’t go home. We would go to the restaurant Robert and Judy owned, The Oasis, and eat dinner, talk with the locals. One time the place got overwhelmingly busy and neither Judy nor Robert was there. Bev and I jumped up from our table and began helping out. We ran the register, got drinks, ran food out. I got pregnant while living in Olive Branch. I had three separate baby showers and lovingly decorated a nursery in classic Winnie the Pooh. I brought my baby daughter home to that house. They had a brand new high school there and I envisioned my little Rock Star graduating from that high school one day. Rock Star was surrounded by people who loved her. Judy, Judy, Bev, and Tommy were all at least 10 years older than me, and in some cases 20 years older. A baby was a welcome addition. We finished our upstairs and now had a five bedroom house. I had a life there and I loved it.
Then Jerry Lee got fired. Seems he and his boss didn’t get along. So he was hired back on at PCA. He had an area VP that loved him and had stayed in contact since he left the first time.
At first he was assigned to Manufacturing Services, which is a team of people that travel to various problem plants and try to help them fix whatever issues are plaguing them. That lasted for four months before a position opened at one of the plants. As luck would have it we moved back to the same area and he was at the same plant as he had been before.
We moved, and despite the fact I would once again be only two hours from most of my family, I was devastated. I was losing my friends. I had to start all over.
Now, Jerry Lee and Harley are living there. Funny aside- I think he’s actually in the subdivision his old boss that fired him lived in. Her kids are going to be the ones graduating from Olive Branch High School. She gets to shop at all the great places in Memphis. She gets to visit Graceland and go down to Beale Street. She gets to marvel at those beautiful red clay roads. She can eat all the fried catfish and BBQ she wants to. She can go to the fantastic Memphis Zoo. In short, she gets to pick up where I left off, in one of my favorite cities.
When I first heard the news that they were living in Olive Branch I’ll admit it took me back a moment. I had this, “WTF” moment and probably a brief feeling of jealousy. They moved back to one of my favorite places and they replaced me with her. How did I feel about that?
I’ll be honest. When I heard that the Olive Branch Catfish Company was no longer in business I felt a little better.
Oh, such great memories of time spent there. Our realtor took us there when we were down looking for a house. If you like catfish you would have loved this place. It was amazing. And always packed. They had added on at least twice to the original restaurant. Our large group of friends would gather there on a Friday or Saturday night. Wait an hour or more to get a table. And then enjoy that amazing fried catfish (although you could have it grilled if you chose). We always took visiting friends and family there as well.
I’m glad Harley doesn’t get to experience the Olive Branch Catfish Company. I’m happy that Jerry Lee doesn’t have access to it either. Ha! It’s a small, selfish, silly victory.
That aside, I realize that my Olive Branch no longer exists. Kevin and Kelly moved away probably a year before we did. Robert and Judy, who had been together for many, many years, went their separate ways and Judy spent most of her time in Hot Springs, Arkansas after that. I found out years later that Robert had died. As I said earlier the good Aunt Judy turned out to be the bad Aunt Judy. She had an affair with Tommy, Bev’s husband. They divorced. Bev put the house on the market and it sold within 24 hours. I held onto my key to their house for years until finally I threw it away. Bev eventually moved down to Jackson. Judy and Tommy got married and then divorced 2-3 years later. Arch and Alice moved back to Chicago. Eric moved back to his hometown of Corinth, which was probably 2 hours or so south of Olive Branch. He got his ex-wife pregnant and married her again and then went on to have one more child with her. He left Menasha sometime after Jerry Lee got fired. Julie went to work at a different corrugated plant and then eventually remarried her ex-husband and moved back to Tennessee, although I’m not sure what order that took place. Sheri, who was just a young teen back then, is married with a daughter and a son on the way. She lives in Florida now and is a stepmom to two older girls.
Life’s about changing; nothing ever stays the same. Even if he didn’t get fired the Olive Branch I knew and loved wouldn’t be there. All of our friends are gone. We would have watched as Arch and Alice moved back home, and we would have had a front row seat as Bev and Tommy’s marriage exploded and we were faced with the fact that Judy was the other woman. And then I would have been left behind when Bev made her move to Jackson. Maybe there would have been new friends as Rock Star, and then Picasso, began high school. Or as new people were hired on at the plant. Then again, maybe those few years were like lightning in a bottle- never to be captured again.
That high school I envisioned my daughter going to? It had only recently been built and they were already using multiple portables because they had outgrown the building. Apparently a lot of parents were not fans of the Memphis school system. That high school probably doesn’t exist anymore. My guess is they have already built a new one.
If I were to visit I’m not sure I would know my way around anymore. It’s been 19 years since I lived there and 17 years since I last visited.
I can still see that shopping area with the Kroger, the cheesesteaks, Applebee’s, and Cookout. I think there was an eye center there as well. I remember where the new Wal-mart was built. But who knows what’s there now?
I would love to take my kids to Memphis one day because I love the city. Maybe I would take them over into Olive Branch as well. Show Rock Star where she lived when she was a baby. Show them where Bev and Tommy lived. Show them where the Olive Branch Catfish Company used to be.
I know it’s no longer the Olive Branch I once knew and loved; it’s only a treasured memory now. What made it so special was the people, and the people are all gone.
I’m fine with Jerry Lee and Harley living there. It takes nothing away from me and my memories. It won’t ever be replicated. I doubt very much that they’ve made friends, and that was the best part of it. Even if they have it doesn’t change the fact that they’re not living in my Olive Branch. My Olive Branch is gone. They can have this new one.