Umpteen months ago, we did a contest where a listener could go home with one of us to the city where we were raised. Rather that pick Kidd and the beaches of Florida…J-Si and the beautiful city of San Diego…Jenna and Oprah’s stomping grounds of Chicago…Big Al and the bright lights of Dallas…our winner Angela chose me and Florence, South Carolina. Now I WARNED her. I told her that while I loved it because it’s where I was raised, there is absolutely nothing to do or show her in Florence. I couldn’t talk her out of it, so off we went.

After we checked everybody into the lovely and newly renovated Florence Hotel, which is smack dab in the middle of the still-in-the process of being torn down and built back up again downtown area, we headed off to the station that carried our show, Star 93.7. Not only did I talk too much — Oh, I busted the DJ for dating my cousin and reminded the community of the scandal involving a senior and the school bus driver that rocked my high school graduating class — I also found out that the very first DJ I ever worked with on the radio was arrested for being a notorious panty bandit who stalked women, stole their lingerie, took it to a barn where he’d put it on, turn on some music and dance in front of a mirror….allegedly. He’s out on a technicality. These are my people!!

kellie-boiled-peanutsAfter catching up on all the gossip there, we headed off to McCall Farms for a tour of the cannery where they put out boiled peanuts and spinach and green beans and red beans and rice and all sorts of goodness. We happened to catch them on spinach day. I’m gonna tell you the truth — it was so interesting!! I don’t know necessarily that our listener was as fascinated as I was, but I thought it was greatness. I bow down to any people or machinery that manages to can the goodness of boiled peanuts and ship them half-way across the country for my enjoyment.

After the tour, we got ourselves cleaned up and went to the all-you-can-eat buffet at Cain’s Barbecue, where the blue grass band kept us entertained as we pigged out on barbecue and red gravy and fat back and flat biscuits and macaroni and cheese….I’ll just stop there because I could go on and on. My Aunt Vel was so excited to meet Big Al that after spending 5 hours at the doctor’s office and not having her hair fixed, she came out to enjoy a litle barbecue with us. After that, we headed up to Apple Annie’s bar to meet some listeners and a few of my family and friends who came out to say hey. So great re-meeting a girl I babysat when I was about 14 years old. Fun watching everybody so excited to meet Big Al and watch my cousins turn it out.

And that was it for Big Al – he had to get back home. So it was up to me to entertain Angela and her friend. Back to the warning that there’s absolutely nothing to do or show her in Florence. So my best friend since fifth grade Tomi Jean played chauffeur and we drove by my old house in Glendale, which is for sale should anyone want to snatch that baby up. Unfortunately, the ditch has long-since been filled in, so the house has lost most of its charm. Then it was off to visit Danny Boy’s mama, Miss Kay, but she wasn’t home so I left her a note. Then we drove past Francis Marion University, which is where I graduated right before I got my job working with Kidd. And then we cut up that back way to my cousin’s place. She owns the Claussen House and there are old slave quarters on the property. I thought that might be interesting, but the gate to her driveway was locked and nobody was home. So then we drove by the house I moved into after Glendale and I pointed at it. Then I drove by my Aunt Vel’s house and pointed at it. Then we drove by my old church and school — which is one and the same — and I pointed at it. And that was pretty much it for the grand driving and pointing tour of Florence.

That night, we went to meet family and old school friends at Red Bone Alley, where I ordered my usual shrimp and grits. It was fun catching up with friends from high school — even meeting their children. We’re so old!!! And a couple of listeners popped up to say hey, which is always cool.

Then it was pose-a-palooza with me and my cousins. We LOVE ourselves a camera. And I love my family so much. Miss them desperately sometimes. But it’s been almost 20 years. Could I ever go home again? Tomi Jean and I decided I could IF I married me a rich doctor from McLeod Hospital so I could run around with TJ all day, having lunch and throwing fundraisers for children and the Humane Society. If and when that happens, I’m buying a one-way ticket back to Florence. Until then, y’all are stuck with me.

The next day we flew home. I’m four pounds heavier than when I left with most of it sitting in my face, but it was all worth it. I apologized to Angela for not having more to show her and told her it was okay to talk bad about me as long as it’s the truth. And THAT was my visit home to SC, minus a lot of details because this blog is way too long now.