If you happen to be rolling down Brainerd Road on a Saturday afternoon, you may find multiple generations of the Taylor family packed into their food truck, stirring up some authentic cajun cuisine.
Tacia Taylor, affectionately called ‘Miss Nola’ by some in the community, runs Nola Girls Gumbo while also working a nine-to-five and running a nonprofit organization. Taylor is no stranger to the food industry; her parents opened their restaurant in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans when she was just thirteen years old.
For nearly two years, Marianna Cooper has worried about bringing her work home with her.
As a nurse in the float pool, Cooper has been working around patients with COVID-19 since the pandemic originally began in the U.S. Already, that would be more than enough to gnaw at anyone, but like countless others in her position, she has had more than just herself to worry about.
From the beginning, Cooper’s three children turned her 12-hour night shifts at Parkridge into 24-hour ones as she was faced with the possibility of bringing home the deadly disease every time she walked through her door.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” she said. “You worry about doing simple things like giving your child a kiss on the cheek because… what if you’d had an exposure and you didn’t realize it, and now I’ve exposed my child.”
Boxes of medical equipment fill Mandy McAllister’s small, quaintly decorated home in Brainerd. There was no preparation for her mother’s diagnosis of metastatic cancer or for her eventual stay in hospice care.
As the machines, slings, and medicine become more necessary the answers become all the more grim. Ushering a loved one through their final days is a task no one is truly ready for, but through family and communication, the McAllister’s stayed together.
“In a matter of two or three days, she went from being pretty healthy—going to garden club, going to church, hanging out with family—to having conversations about going into hospice care,” says Mandy McAllister.
McAllister, an administrative specialist at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was the primary caretaker for her mother, Susan Reggin, while in hospice care. She was flooded with guilt, grief, and unfamiliar medical responsibilities all at the same time, so she greatly appreciated the support and validation of her family.
Her son, Jacob Paige, speaks on the family’s close connection that only grew stronger through these hardships.
“We communicated as frequently and as in-depth as normal,” says Jacob. “Knowing that it doesn’t matter what’s going to happen, and it doesn’t matter if the cancer is going to get better or worse, we’re still the same people. If she’s got eight months to live or two weeks to live, we are still on the same level all the way through, and that just creates a smooth transition.”
Although death is never an easy confrontation, the McAllisters have felt eternally grateful for their limited, but cherished time with Susan. Mandy’s mother and family were forced to face mortality in a slowed and intimate state.
“This could be the last time I really hug her. Is this going to be the last time she remembers who we are? Is this the last birthday? Is this the last ‘X’—whatever it is,” Mandy said.
Susan Reggin served as a clergywoman for over 30 years. Her philosopher’s brain and her dedication to others was passed down to her family.
“I adored my mom, so everything about me that’s good, I would attribute to my mom,” says Mandy, “I think she gave me tools and a model for how to work with other people. We all carry her around in our hearts.”
Mandy reminisced on those quiet moments, sitting at her mother’s bedside reading old poems and laughing through fading memories.
She smiled thinking about her niece and mother playing with stuffed animals, forgetting about the future. It’s those moments that stay with family till the end. It’s the seconds of quiet, vital peace in the midst of the storm, that they look back on and wish to relive.
Meet The Storyteller
Mark Drinkard has 3 years of experience in student media. From those experiences, he has gained skills as a videographer and video editor. He has used his knowledge of creative tools such as Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, and Audition to make and produce videos and audio projects. He is also adept in his knowledge of lighting, audio recording, and audio editing. Mark Drinkard currently lives in Chattanooga TN as he attends college. Photography is a passion of his and the rural landscapes offer a great backdrop to find and make photos. His goal is to provide a voice to everyone and use his skills to tell the stories of the voiceless. For questions, collaboration or to hire Mark Drinakard, contact him at markdrinkard2@gmail or (865)407-3317
On the corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. and Foster St. is a brewery that feels like a home-away-from-home to many Chattanooga locals. Oddstory Brewing Company opened its door to the city of Chattanooga after a son sparked up an idea to his father while drinking a beer.
Jay Boyd, co-owner of Oddstory, graduated from Covenant college and was determined on opening up a brewery. He then went on to work for four different breweries, and also went to a brewing school up in Vermont. After three years, his father Bryan Boyd, owner of Oddstory, felt like they were in a good place to open Oddstory Brewing Company.
“We started with six taps when we opened, and we now have 18 taps,” says Bryan. Oddstory is growing more and more with their variety of beers as the years progress.
Along with having an array of different brews, Bryan mentions that they intentionally made the brewery an environment for people to feel comfortable in. “We wanted to create an atmosphere where people talk,” says Bryan. “We kind of always felt like beer and talking went together, opposed to beer and isolation.”
In a place that encourages the comfort of having conversations with your friends and family, along with enjoying a beer that is unique, Oddstory has become a place that many have grown fond of.
“What Oddstory means to me is the ability to create this environment where family—my actual family is real important—but also I think we created an environment where at least our employees, and some of our customers, they feel like family,” says Bryan.
Oddstory not only started with family but grew the family with the Chattanooga community.