Warning: For those of you familiar with my blog stylings, you know that there is the occasional serious blog amidst the plethora of silliness. This blog is one of the fewer. It is also really long.
I've been trying to figure out where to begin this, where in my past, my Memphis past, to put the first brush-stroke. I think the earliest I can remember is a picture of me wearing a little blue shorts outfit. I'm holding an empty "Otter-Pop" bag and sticking out my blue tongue at the camera. My face is serious. It was the beginning of my humor, perhaps, the beginning of the subtlety and the irony. I thought that picture was the funniest thing I had ever seen...of course, this was when I was about five years old. Only a couple of years later, I'm standing at the crosswalk in front of the University of Memphis (Memphis State at the time) Music building. It's raining, and I've just dropped my piano assignment book in one of those puddles that forms in between the curb and the sidewalk, but I'm not going after it, I'm just stunned. Luckily, my mom appears and rescues it from certain drowning, holding it up in the rain, watching the blue ink stream down the pages. Another seven or eight years later, I'm sitting in the band hall at Harding Academy, and the band director is asking if anyone is interested in playing the flute, and I've told the girl next to me that I like the oboe, but I've thought about the flute, and she reaches over and raises my hand for me, who had no idea how that tiny instrument would consume me for so long. Only a year later, I'm standing in the wings backstage with a fellow cast member playing the staring game waiting to see if I could get him to look away before I did, my knees dusty from the crawl-space under the stage that only seasoned high-school actors got to see, enveloped by the smell of the stage make-up, the set paint, and the mildew from the carpet of the auditorium that had flooded one too many times, and on-stage...I'm alive for the first time. Then, fast-way-forward to Abilene, Texas, and I arrive at my college dorm, realizing that, while I was leaving home to come to this place, it was actually one of those towns in barren west-Texas that most people run from. Dust Storms, hail in the springtime, and a sky that went all the way down to the ground accompanied the beginning of my first real heartbreak. Six years after that day, I found myself engaged to a boy that didn't love me, or so he said, in the end, and me without an escape route. When the bottom falls out, everything floods back, and you drown in it. My mom flew to Abilene that very day and took me back Home, twelve hour drive, sleeping, crying, refusing to eat. I lost about a month. Back at home, crying myself to sleep, waking up with my face in the carpet, surrounded by mangled tissues, asking over and over again "Why?" There will never really be an answer. Then I move out of my parents' house, and I'm exactly where I want to be, for the first time in my life. I live in Mid-Town Memphis, and no one knows who I am. Then begins the mistakes. The angry calculated mistakes that come from the realization that life is not an equation in which the result is happiness if the correct variables are used. Waking up every morning and asking myself if I could live with myself, and realizing that I could. After a year of this, I'm at the Buccaneer with my good friend Chris who takes me by the arm and sits me down beside Diana Fazio. It's hard to figure out where to go from here because everything changed. Absolutely everything.
Today, my mother and I drove around Memphis, stopped at the zoo and just stood at the entrance watching the crowds spill out, the children on shoulders, in strollers, and I'm crying...not the hiccup cry, and not the effortless tears, but the tears that the muscles in your face just can't hold back...and I'm explaining that I always knew I would leave, that it was never in my plans to stay, but.....and my mom cuts in and says, "There are moments when....you've always been here." It's cloudy and about 60 degrees, and the leaves are beautiful, gently falling from the trees, and I'm trying to breathe in as much air as I can because it's this air...here...in this mystical place called home, and then I realize why I'm crying...In my mind, in my memory, I'm seeing only me, these pictures, moments...all the way back to that picture of me with the blue tongue...to the insignificant pictures that I took for my mom, of the first buttercups of the spring while riding my bike through Overton Park, once a week trips to the first Target I ever visited, being a kid and sharing popcorn and coke at that very Target with my dad, walking to the grocery store around the corner and freezing in the produce aisles, drinking pabst alone at the Hi-Tone, and then never drinking alone at the Hi-Tone, staying in bed all day with my cats and the heavy blanket my aunt brought home from Vietnam, watching the sun set over the Mississippi river, sharing bottle after bottle of wine on the patio at Bosco's...ghosts of myself, everywhere...always there...always here. And then my friends....in my life, in my pictures. I was lost for a long time, I cried out of fear that there was no place for me, that there were no roots...I don't think I really ever understood home until now.