News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today
TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2007

Mary Catherine's thoughts from Mobile

Editor's note: America's Junior Miss contestants each year submit diary entries to the Mobile Press-Register throughout the competition. The best entry of the day is printed, and one overall winner will be chosen for a $1,000 scholarship provided by the newspaper. Friday's winner was Mary Catherine McAnnally of Decatur.

"I hope you win," he said, smiling sweetly up at me.

I was instantly charmed by this particular elderly gentleman, who guided me by the arm away from the blaring speakers at the Gordon Oaks Luau.

His "ears weren't as good as they used to be" due to grenade shrapnel.

He politely refused a dance, saying that he couldn't "wiggle" like he used to, either.

Tearing up with pride, he spoke of his grandchildren, and I was officially smitten. Stick a fork in me.

As I drifted off on my cloud of good-deed-doing, a familiar song played that my newfound friends and I began to rock along with.

Suddenly, through the chaos, I heard these familiar words: "I hope you win," spoken by exactly the same voice I'd heard not 10 minutes earlier.

Spinning around, I was shocked and riddled with laughter to find exactly the same man winking at Kansas' Junior Miss, Jamie — a fabulous-looking brunette, who was coy enough (or maybe just prettier — a slap to my ego?) to win this man's heart.

However, he realized his mistake. When he saw my mock grief-stricken expression at the discovery of his fickle affection, he instantly assured me that he hoped I'd win, too.

Pressed for a comment, he refused — that bad hearing again. Go figure.

This experience sums up National Junior Miss so far: entertaining, endearing and memorable.

I've also learned to appreciate Alabama's culture. As an Alabama native, I've become a little numb to just how beautiful deep Southern culture can be, pining away for the diversity of New York or the glamour of California.

Something about this state, like anywhere else one lives all their life, has become bland and tasteless from 1 to 18 years.

However, this week, I've seen Alabama through the eyes of Aimee (my roommate from Alaska) and others whose fresh perspectives have made me appreciate my heritage in a new way.

I sincerely do not believe that at any other event, I would have been duped (happily, mind you) by a man at least five times my age.

But that's the beauty of America's Junior Miss and all state and county programs under it: It brings those of all ages, ethnicities, weights, heights, hair colors, backgrounds and climates together for a common goal. That goal is what we all are striving for in these two weeks — to be our "best selves."

Since that is the sincere intent of every contestant, then I echo my new friend and best memory yet: "I hope we win."

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