The Trip Home
For many, a journey home is highly anticipated. Seeing family and friends you’ve missed, a familiar setting where you grew up, the smells from a well-seasoned kitchen invoke memories of your childhood and bring you back to happier times. For others, like myself, the trip is always a bit more. For me, the feelings are like ingredients in a recipe. Some are pungent, some sweeter, some bitter, and all necessary to the creation of who I am today.
Getting Back to the Garden
Well rested after a hard sleep at my Aunt and Uncles, I decided today to visit a place my past trips home had kept me from for the last 34 years. Memphis Botanical Gardens is a peaceful sanctuary and an iconic part of the city’s landscape near the University of Memphis not far from my childhood home on Ivy Road. Its modest entrance belies the beauty of what lies behind its shrouded exterior.
The best time to visit is spring, around Easter, when the tulips and daylilies bloom and the canopy is peppered with Dogwood tree flowers. The sight rivals our nation’s capital during Cherry blossom season. But even on this humid summer day, I feel like I have rediscovered a lost Eden of my past. The path begins with a kaleidoscope garden and winds through forested rough terrain and perfectly manicured lawns. There are Japanese gardens, untamed water features, and other havens that delight the senses with smells and textures unique to each setting.
I recall very little from my childhood between birth to age 11. That time remained clouded in my mind for most of my adult life. When I would try and recall anything, only stark dramas played themselves out.; vignettes of stories I would sooner forget than share. Still, there were certain fragments I could remember, times with my mom spent swinging in parks, strolling at the zoo, or walking to the library every week. The Botanical Gardens were always a favorite. My intention for today’s field trip? To find the mysterious “babbling brook”. When mom would bring me here, she always made a small production of us finding this secret spot that supposedly no one knew of. We would wander off the paved path and across a grassy field surrounded by the Dogwoods and other flowering shrubs, and then a little further in if you were quiet, you could hear it; the trickling of water cascading over rocks. This water feature is nothing major in the park. It finds itself in one of the farthest corners and opens up just slightly to drop down two tiers of rocks. As the water plummets over the rocks, an ever so soft gurgle can be heard. To sit there and listen is to meditate. The sound is very relaxing.
Finding this monument to my childhood was important to me today. My thoughts rolled back to a special moment for me and my mom. A story of healing told by the brook satisfied the ending of a long chapter of forgiveness owed to my past. Should you ever visit my hometown, please visit these gardens and search for the babbling brook. You won’t be disappointed.
Fond Memories and Family Secrets
A detour to my old home off Mt. Moriah flooded my memories with even more fond times spent alone and with my childhood pal, Scotty. The old Magnolia in my front yard had been removed, but in my mind, I could still see myself atop the lowest branch, the trunk and my back supported with the tree’s fragrant blooms and red seed pods all around me. So many days, a book was my companion in this secret hideout. And if not there, I could be found riding my bike, a brown and orange 10 speed that I was inseparable from nearly every day as I fearlessly rode it more than a mile “around the block” unaccompanied.
I pick up a bucket of chicken for dinner, my uncle’s favorite, and plow into tomes of photo albums and DVDs researching my family’s history. Two folders full of documents tell their own stories and family secrets some better left untold for now. Each photograph, and person represented in media and words could recount a hundred stories I am sure. To tell them all would fill volumes.
I sit with my uncle and we eat. He begins to loosely share some of the more colorful tales of my Papaw, his father, “Chief”, James Newton Kilpatrick. My grandfather was a legendary figure. A leather lung firefighter, Deputy Chief, a former semi-professional boxer, and all Irish. His past was as checkered as they come by his own admission until he found salvation and converted from Catholicism to Protestantism. Those stories will remain untold on my podcast for now, but they will find their way here eventually.
A True Love Story
Now is the time for a love story, that of Richard and Paulette. The audience should not expect a traditional tale of romance and courtship. Those stories are best left to Hollywood. A true love story such as theirs cannot be relegated to such fiction. It is a timeless story of true commitment, giving, and compassion.
As we spend the last few hours of the day together with Aunt Paulette, I prepare in my mind the stage I will set for the backdrop of this tender, poignant, story, one that must be told.