Carry On, Stories behind the lyrics

The story behind the Carry On song lyrics: She taught me how to spell Mississippi

My Grandparents loved to travel. They loved exploring new places and sharing their love of travel with me and my sisters. In 1987, they took my sisters and my cousin and I to the Mississippi river. Being that we were coming from Madison, Wisconsin where I grew up, the river wasn’t too far from us boarding the state of Minnesota. I was probably four or five at the time.

I remember driving there while sitting in the front seat of my grandparents’ car. My two older sisters and cousin were in the back three seats. Since I was the youngest, I got the front. We didn’t use car seats back then like they have today. Because I was so small, my grandpa put down the arm rest that was between my grandma and him, and I sat on top of that. I think it was blue.

You can imagine how unsafe this probably was, but at the time no one I’m sure really thought much about it. The phrase: “Things were different back then” comes to mind.

Either way, I thought it was great because I was so close to everything up front. I could look right into the rear view mirror, reach out and touch the radio dials if I wanted, snuggle into grandma’s shoulder or even… touch grandpa’s ears! I couldn’t resist, and I simply couldn’t keep my hands to myself.

“Annie?” he’d say with a low kinda rumble in his voice.

…”Annie… Annie?…”

It was after a few times of him saying my name like this that the sirens popped up. I could see the lights coming up behind us in that rear view mirror and that’s when grandpa got, grumpy.

I remember my grandpa explaining to the officer that his grandchildren were all in the car and that we were on our way to the Mississippi river. I had been playing with his unusually large ear lobes and I guess it had caused him to start speeding. I’m not sure if he explained that to the officer or not, but I do know he did get a ticket.

I can imagine I was a tad annoying and distracting to his driving, and I do believe I was sorry he got a ticket. But I also think I thought it was kinda funny at the time too, even though he obviously didn’t think it was funny at all.

Years later we all laughed at the story though.

How I learned to spell Mississippi
So after the whole getting pulled over by a cop on our trip thing, the next thing I remember about this trip was grandma entertaining us girls for the long car ride.

My grandma was not shy. She’d sing out lyrics to songs, hum out of tune, and try to get everyone to join in whenever she felt like lifting the spirits around her. On this trip she kept repeating:

“M-I-SS-I-SS-I-PP-I!…M-I-SS-I-SS-I-PP-I!”

“Say it with me girls!” she’d say.

“M-I-SS-I-SS-I-PP-I!…M-I-SS-I-SS-I-PP-I!”

We all eventually got the hang of it too and could join in. It stuck in my head like a song and it’s how I learned to spell Mississippi. It also has kept in my head over the years and is a funny memory I have of my grandmother. It’s why “She taught me how to spell Mississippi” is a lyric in the song I wrote about my grandma called Carry On.

Here’s a picture of us at a rest stop. I’m the one sticking my tongue out and plugging my ears. Guess that about sums up my personality at the time.

I think I can hear grandpa saying…

“Annie!”

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What’s a phrase someone special to you said to you once and it’s stuck with you over the years?
 I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below.

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