Tag Archives: family

Place Card Treasure

OK, so I have been busy, busy, busy. Another day, another closet. Two weeks ago it was vases, last week it was soup bowls, then it was place mats and linen napkins.

So forgive me, but I am busy being a dutiful daughter, helping my mother clear out the big house on the Reservation in preparation for the move to her deluxe apartment in the sky.

And then we got to place cards.

‘Oh look,’ says mom.’We have to keep these! Your grandmother used them every Christmas for years. I love these! Just look at all the sequins!’ She spread them out on the dining room table.

‘But mom,’ I say. ‘These people are all dead.’

With the help of my doctor, I am trying to cultivate patience and serenity as character traits in 2012.

‘Not all of them, dear. They could still be useful. I think we should keep them.’

‘Uh Huh. How about we throw a luncheon out at Mount Olivet Cemetery?’ OK, so I’m not very good at patient and serene, yet. But I’m working on it.

‘Oh Harriet,’ she sighs. ‘You are so ruthless.’ And she hands them over for me to put in the trash. Then she pulls out the next box of place cards.

‘Huh. I forgot all about these. My parents bought them in Paris in the 1920s. I suppose we should throw them out as well.’

I open the box. ‘Hmmm… actually mom, I think I might like to have these for myself.’

And that’s how, in the time it took to open up the top drawer of a 19th century English sideboard, I became the envy of my considerable circle of gay friends here in Nashville:



© Copyright 2012, Southern Dysfunction



Filed under Family

Cupcake Queen

When I bought this house three years ago, there was a sign on the front of one of my neighbor’s homes that said

‘Bakery coming soon!’

I asked around and was told that although they hadn’t opened yet, if I knocked on the front door and asked for Mignon, she would be happy to sell me some cupcakes, and that they were good. And that’s how I met my remarkable friend, Mignon Francois.

Mignon and A.E. Francois had moved to Nashville from New Orleans a few years earlier, into a house that had been condemned. With six kids, the economy tanking, and no money coming in, things were pretty desperate for them. Mignon started trying to think of ways to make enough money to keep the children fed. One of her daughters, Brittany, was a pretty good little baker. And so Mignon, who claims to be a bad cook herself, figured that they could have a bake sale every day.

Along with other neighbors and people in the know, we started placing orders with her. It took awhile before she went public with the business, because she kept it debt free and saved the money from the baking she did with her daughters. Her husband used those savings to turn their living room into a bakery.

Within months of opening The Cupcake Collection, the place was packed, often with lines of people spilling out the door and along the sidewalk. Today she is employing something like twenty happy people, and operating out of two locations. Her mom, Linda, from whom she gets her smarts, drives up from Huntsville, Alabama and stays during the week to do the books.



It is an amazing story, and she does a good job explaining it herself. This is one you have to watch:

Last night I went with the family and friends to see their 18-year-old son, Dillon, be presented at the Children of the King L’Elegance Cotillion, sponsored by the Riverside Chapel Seventh Day Adventist Church.

It was a special night. Along with around thirty other young people, Dillon had worked all year, raising money for his college education, doing volunteer work, and suffering through classes in things like ‘dining etiquette.’ Phew! We all got up and cheered when Dillon won the Congeniality Award. It was a no-brainer, he’s the family charmer:

What a difference three years can make. Here’s the happy Francois family: A.E. and Mignon, with her mother Linda, their children Alex, Lauren, Jacques, Dillon, Brittany, and little Xavier, with assorted girlfriends and boyfriends.

Mignon Francois, I salute you. You have taught me, along with many other people: Yes we can!

© Copyright 2011, Southern Dysfunction


Filed under Food

The Reservation

My long suffering Mother has had to go away for a week to look after her poor sisters, Darlene and Ida, who are unfortunate because they have to live in California. Although at 84 she is the oldest by several years, having lived in the South she is in much better shape to travel. This is because she is a Steel Magnolia and knows how to put up with anything, but mainly with Big Daddy, with whom she has put up for more than fifty years. This means that I have had to move back onto the Reservation while she is gone because he can no longer be left on his own.

I had better explain, because people who are not from the South generally hold prejudiced notions about how we handle relations between our ethnic communities down here.

Plantation house on the site of the Reservation

The Reservation was established before the first world war as a safe haven for Nashville’s White Affluent Peoples (WAPs). Sensitively sited on land comprising a former plantation, the Reservation is still going from strength to strength a century later. Confinement on the Reservation allows the WAPs to preserve their traditional culture and way of life, which has changed remarkably little since Our Recent Unpleasantness. Indeed, although I want to stress that while living on the Reservation is strictly voluntary, there are many WAPs in Nashville who rarely leave its borders.

I grew up out here on the Reservation but like a large number of our young people of WAP descent, I was given the opportunity to move away for my college education. Significantly, although I am an example of a WAP who has been pretty much absorbed into modern American culture, there are many WAPs of my generation who have either made the decision to return to the Reservation to raise their families in the traditional environment of their ancestors, or who have never left the Reservation at all.

According to the most recent official data, there are 3,518 people living on the Reservation, of whom 97.1% or 3,297 are WAPs. My understanding is that 1.2% or 42 are African American, of whom 41 are here in disguise as domestic workers but who are actually anthropologists who live in garage apartments provided with money from the federal government, and are here to observe the WAPs in their native environment as part of a long-term academic study (the remaining 1 African American is, I believe, a professional football player, but he might have moved away). Improbably, .2% or 7 residents list themselves as Native American. Subsequent analysis of the data, however, has revealed that this was because there were 7 residents who thought that ‘Native American’ meant that your ancestors arrived on the Mayflower.


Nashville's Federal WAP Administration Headquarters (FWAPA, or in WAP dialect, 'the Club')

I am not going to try to deny that there are some social problems and controversies on the Reservation. In common with similar tribal areas in other parts of North America, alcoholism has tragically affected many local families, although this is being dealt with primarily through local churches and the dedicated team of local FWAPA employees.

Nashville has largely welcomed President Obama’s rumored decision that the Reservation will become the United State’s 59th National Park in 2014. This news is expected to help regenerate the local economy, providing many much-needed jobs in an area that has long been blighted by unemployment. This should help the significant minority of WAPs living on the Reservation who have never experienced paid work. But of equal importance, by boosting tourism to the area, it will encourage a broader public understanding of the customs and way of life of this largely neglected community.


Traditional WAP monogrammed hand towels, ca.1956

© Copyright 2011, Southern Dysfunction


Filed under Family