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Friday, December 1, 2023

Meeting Mrs. Carter

Where are we?

This link will take anyone who wants to follow it to an old post of mine about the little town that President Jimmy Carter and his wife of 77 years, Rosalyn Carter, called home. If you choose, you can see the high school from which both Jimmy and Rosalynn graduated, and – more pointedly to my little story – Mom’s Kitchen, the restaurant in Plains. (I have included above a photo of the parking lot.) Go ahead. Take a moment to look back now at Plains….


When the Artist and I drove to Florida for a winter getaway, as we did for several years (first with our old dog, Nikki, later with puppy Sarah), we always made sure that our otherwise freeform route would put us overnight Saturday in Americus, Georgia, so that we could go to Plains for Sunday dinner the next day at Mom’s Kitchen. From there we would make another pilgrimage, out to Archery, Jimmy Carter's boyhood home. 


One year, though --. But I need to explain. Mom’s Kitchen has a large dining room with a cafeteria arrangement at one end where you line up and make your dinner choices. In the back corner past the food, another doorway leads to a second dining room. The Artist and I always sat in the main room, but when President and Mrs. Carter were there after church, their place was at the big round corner table in the back dining room. The restrooms, accessible from both dining rooms, are at the opposite end of the building from the kitchen and cafeteria line, and you turn left in the hallway coming out from the restroom, you re-enter the main dining room, while a right turn and then a left takes you to the back dining room. I’m telling all this for a reason.


See doorway at far right.

Because once when we were there, Mrs. Carter came from the restroom through the front dining room (where she probably knew everyone but us!) and stopped at our table to welcome us to Plains and exchange a few friendly sentences. She would not have had to come through the main dining room at all to rejoin her husband in the back room, and nothing obligated her to stop to welcome strangers. Nothing but exquisitely gracious manners and the sense of social obligation she no doubt felt as a former First Lady of the United States in this simple little farm town. 


As we shared a few moments, it was obvious to me that Mrs. Carter was a very reserved person, perhaps even shy, and had undoubtedly pushed herself beyond what we would now call her “comfort zone” for a lifetime. Not only, I think, because her role as a president’s wife demanded it but because she realized that she was in a position to do good in the world.


For me, that encounter was terribly moving, and as we left to continue our way south my eyes filled with tears. They fill with tears again today, thinking of that dear lady and her loving husband.


Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, after four years in the White House, returned to Plains to live what many saw as a startlingly modest life. Whenever they were interviewed, however, their smiles and soft Southern accents could not hide the firm convictions held by both or the keen, penetrating intelligence both possessed, and they continued to make contributions to their country and to the world through Habitat for Humanity and The Carter Center


How sad that stories such as theirs are so rare in our world! But how wondrous that they lived in our world – and worked for us and beside us -- for so long!


Karen Casebeer said...

What a grand lady! She will be missed.

P. J. Grath said...

Mom's Kitchen is missed, too. I looked online for a web address to provide a link in this post and found that the restaurant had closed. Sad to learn that!

David Dean said...


Anonymous said...

Awesome read Pamela!!! I loved it. So glad that you got to meet her. She seemed elegant. RIP to her and family. Shelly Walter

P. J. Grath said...

Thanks, David and Shelly!