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Donna can do magic: She can stretch time. I had little more than one day at Memphis with her, only, and she managed to make it feel like a lot more. We cruised the streets of her home town in a very relaxed way. She made me take it all in, the good and the ugly sides of town: her own neighbourhood Cooper-Young, Whitehaven and Graceland in the pouring rain, fancy Parkway houses with their Christmas decoration, the great river crossing on the Mississippi, Beale Street and downtown, as well as dismal social housing areas, or over-sized development sites.

She loves her city. While completely aware that Memphis has appalling crime rates, infrastructure is broken and the social cohesion doesn’t work well, she made me appreciate the details: the artsy atmosphere in trendy Cooper-Young with its craft beer breweries and little shops and cafés, the elaborate Christmas decoration of the old colonial houses, excellent street art in the Glenview neighbourhood, the greasy „heart attack food“ of the South, concept stores on South Main Street, the Arcade Restaurant, and the many manifestations of the Black Lives Matter movement. And, last but not least, the beauty of her own little house with its wooden window and door frames, the wonderful kitchen with the old stove and the stylishly built-in furniture, and the cosy veranda. In Donna’s house and garden, every single piece has a name, even the broken and then fixed plate which one of her cats pushed down the shelf on day one. 

And this is one more of her core qualities: Donna weaves strong social networks of friends and family. Because she is an exceptionally friendly person, and she cares. I hadn’t even stepped out of the airport, yet, when I saw her outside, enthusiastically waving from her car, and a warm wave of hospitality swept into the building. This warmheartedness is reflected by her friends, who welcomed me straight away, and it is obvious in all the thoughtful presents that people gave her and she has on loving display in her house. 

Besides, Donna is creative. She loves to do things with her hands: from crochet (knit?) work, painting and designing to upholstery. Which seems to be a family trait, really. Her sister painted the alphabet in honour of her son’s birth James – and forgot the „J“. To make up for the glitch, she then wrote a book: „The Case of the Missing J“.

Donna’s life has certainly not been easy: coming to Memphis on her own as the adventurous rainbow girl, integrating job and children as a single mother, trying to pull through. She didn’t have a chance to get her degree after four years at the Memphis College of Art, because she redirected her attention to her family. Nevertheless, she has maintained a positive learning attitude and found ways to bring in her creativity. Donna might have had bullet holes in her roof, but those were never able to affect her big heart. 

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