My other home is a small condominium on a beach in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. I bought it in 1995 to be near my three eldest grandchildren when they were growing up. I wanted to be there to drive the girls to dancing lessons and watch my grandson play baseball and basketball. I had seen my own sons grow up. I know how fast it happens. If you aren't there to watch it, you don't get a second chance.

It is a 12-hour drive from Fayetteville to the Mississippi coast: I start off going due north and downhill. By the time I am 40 miles down the mountains, it's warmer. By the time I get to my brother's house in Jackson, Mississippi, where my family has a long history, I can take off my boots and put on pretty shoes. I usually spend the night in Jackson, where I see my nieces and nephews and my mother's antique furniture, which my sister-in-law lets my brother keep, wall to wall, in every room. My childhood is in my brother's house, and I like to visit there and be reminded. I usually stay until noon, then drive the last four hours to Ocean Springs.

My sparsely furnished three-bedroom condominium is waiting for me there, looking and feeling just like home. The condo is a no-worries house. Even on cold days, it's as warm as toast. "So this is how normal people live," I'm always thinking. "They are nice and warm and don't have to wear boots inside their houses."

I take a deep breath, carry my clothes upstairs, and take the sign off my typewriter that says, "Do not touch this machine. This is how grandmother makes a living."


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