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I’ll close my eyes and “oopala”

 

There has been a lot of highway improvement going on around the Delta lately.

They are all very much overdue and I am glad to see it happen but Sunday I saw an improvement that really hurt my heart.

To really get you to understand the importance of what this particular piece of road means to me, I have to go back 35 plus years to when I was a little girl.

Back then if there was shopping to do or doctors to see we usually headed to Greenville. Mama always picked my Mimi up and in usual fashion we dressed up and the whole thing was a true big outing for us.

This was all serious business to the point that I agonized over which outfit I should wear and which purse I should take for this outing.

We would leave the house early to pick Mimi up at her house a few miles from Shaw. She was always ready to go with her slacks and dressy jacket.

Her hair was poofed just perfect, her lipstick was blotted and her ear bobs were in. She wore her rings as well. They were so sparkly that I thought she had gotten them from a movie star. Mimi liked for us to go the rest of the journey in her car.

Now mind you she didn’t drive but she preferred to be driven in her own vehicle. She probably thought she was saving Mama money by not using her gas. That big blue Chevy Impala was more than enough room for the three of us.

She had clear plastic covered seats and my little legs stuck to them after being on them for 45 minutes or so. Back then kids didn’t sit in any kind of booster seat or even wore a seatbelt, so if my little sister wasn’t going on this trip, (We didn’t like her to go because she was always into something.)

I got to sit up front on the “hump” between Mama and Mimi. All the way, I listened to them discuss the newest gossip or plan the next family holiday or get together. Occasionally we listened to the radio spurting out 1970s music that even to this day are my favorite.

I am a disco lovin’ baby! As we got nearer to Greenville we had to go through Leland. Sometimes we would stop and shop. A favorite was Jacob’s dress shop, which was owned by the great aunt of one of my friends. It was always a treat to go see Mrs. Helen and all her beautiful things. On the way out of Leland, we had to turn right to get on Highway 82 to finish our trip to Greenville.

Right there, just a few feet to your right you had to go under the railroad tracks. Since the Delta is so extremely flat we loved to travel down under this underpass. It didn’t matter if there was a train or not. It was a little hill. It was so much fun.

Every single, little bitty time we went under this, Mama would speed up just a bit and as we went under it and back up again, with her arms raised above her head, Mimi would holler, “Oopala”! Oh my, this was my favorite thing.

Our very own small fair ride in the flat Mississippi Delta on the way to and from Greenville. We would squeal and laugh until our bellies hurt because it was so much fun and Mimi had put the perfect spin on it. “Oopala!”

This is the road improvement that has truly hurt my heart. MDOT has torn my oopala down and is leveling it off and repaving it.

I admit that it does look better, cleaner and more modern but my fun — Mimi’s and my “oopala” is gone.

Another small piece of her stripped from this earth. My son can even tell you about oopala. He doesn’t revere it the way I do, but it is a memory I will have forever.

I will always think about oopala every time I go that way. There is no more up and down but the memory will never fade. How could it with such a great name that Mimi gave it. I just wish I had a photo of it as a whole.

Right now half is completely gone and they are working on the other half. It will be just another ordinary highway.

Isn’t it funny how a teeny memory like that can become so important to us? I will have to close my eyes every time I go through there and imagine myself going down and up again. My heart will yell “oopala” especially if after that I haven’t wrecked while my eyes were closed and driving.

I will miss that old “oopala.” I miss my Mimi.

Caroline Laster is an employee of The Bolivar Commercial. She may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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