Learning Early


Madison, Tammy and Ramel Cotton enjoy a birthday gathering at Ely's.

Becoming a girl-about-town takes years of practice. Case in point: I vividly remember the pair of high heels that get credit for training me so that today, I can navigate anything in stilletos. They were purple snakeskin and lived in my neighbor's dress-up box filled with treasures from the Junior Auxillary's thrift shop. And they were fabulous. I teetered around in them at least three times a week from the ages of about 6 to 9.

Much like accessorizing, successful management of socializing is a learned skill. My schooling in this came because as an only child, I always went everywhere with my parents. My grandfather was a major foodie, and he frequently took us out of town (often to New Orleans) to eat, so I grew up dressing up and going to restaurants a lot. Those experiences influenced me in ways big and small—I know they're why I enjoy eating out and hearing the stories of chefs or bar patrons so much as an adult. They're also why I think of my grandfather whenever I eat oysters Rockefeller or someone orders a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned.

Recently, I've remembered those nights on the town and how they shaped me thanks to the daughter of a friend who is being brought up in the ways of About Town-dom.

My friends Tammi and Ramel Cotton live downtown, and Ramel's daughter Madison, 7, often joins them out and about for dinner. We have dubbed her the "Little Girl-About-Town." It's been a busy few weeks for her (and the rest of us downtowners), and she's handled them with class and style.

My birthday was a few weeks ago (no, I'm not telling you how old) and to celebrate, I had a burger bash with a group of friends at Parlor Market (115 W. Capitol St., 601-373-9841), because nothing says "celebration" like red meat for everyone.

I was pleasantly surprised when Tammi and Ramel walked in accompanied by the lovely Madison. Like any good socialite, she wore bright colors for a party mood, greeted me with a birthday hug, and spoke to chef and owner Craig Noone before settling in at the end of the table to enjoy the evening along with the rest of us.

The following week, some neighbors gathered at Congress Street Bar and Grill (120 N. Congress St., 601-968-0857) one evening to talk downtown things and enjoy some fellowship. Madison was there, too, fresh from dance class (a Girl-About-Town has to be well-rounded, you know) and proudly showing off her metallic gold sandals. No matter one's age, good shoes are key in Girl-About-Town world, and I'm glad she's learned this important lesson early.

May being a popular month for birthdays, the following week some downtowners headed to the suburbs to celebrate Jennie Pitts turning another year older with dinner at Ely's Restaurant & Bar (115 West Jackson St., Ridgeland, 601-605-6359). Madison once again joined the party, this time sporting an adorable cardigan with sequin embellishment. (Told you she was classy.) Once again, she was a perfect little lady, and relished in half of her decadent chocolate dessert, saving the other half for later.

Tonight, I'll raise a glass in honor of the grandfather who taught me how to eat out, and to Tammi and Ramel for giving their "Little Girl-About-Town" a similar memory-filled childhood.

Follow Julie on Twitter @jcskipp.


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