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Monday, March 7, 2011

The Day the Music Died

It was 1977 and I was 12 years old. For those of you who are bad at math, that makes me about 39 ;-D I lived in Memphis, in a corner house in the Colonial area...in a room decorated mostly with Shaun Cassidy posters. But, being the true Memphian that I prided myself to be, I had one very large poster of a hometown boy named, Elvis Presley. It was a shot from his 'Aloha' concert in Hawaii and he was gorgeous. At the peak of his career I think and looked it. On the afternoon of August 16th, I lay across my bed listening to WHBQ (56 on your dial) when the most devestating news of my life came across the airwaves. Elvis had been rushed to the hospital and it didn't look good. As we all know now, he was already dead. Agonizing moments later, that sad news was confirmed. My heart fell and tears burned my eyes as I ran to find my Mother. I remember crying in her arms. It never occured to me at the time that she probably felt the loss much more than myself as she had grown up in the 'Elvis revolution'. She had listened to his first hits when they were freshly released. She basically taught me to love him as I remember the night she taught Anne and me to do the 'bop' to one of his records. The day they took him to Graceland for a public viewing, my Mother took me there. We stood in the August heat along with thousands of other mourners to get one last look at the King of Rock and Roll. The line formed down the sidewalk in front of the house, around the corner and as far down that side street as I could see. I don't know exactly how many house we waited in line but we waited. Little by little the line moved and we inched closer to the gates. We made friends with our 'line neighbors' and shared fond memories. Mom had a few herself as many Memphians did. She was fortunate enough to meet him once on the lawn of Graceland one afternoon when he and Priscilla were out on their horses. She also recalled a funny moment one afternoon when she and my Dad stopped at a red light. My Dad said, 'Jean, that looks like Elvis in the car next to us'. She laughed and told him it couldn't be but when she turned to look, there he was. In an old station wagon clearly he was using to be discreet but it was definitely him. He smiled and raised his hand in a small wave and the light turned green. It was a moment she treasured. As the afternoon grew later we finally made it to the famous gates of Graceland just as some official person announced they would not be letting anyone else in. We were to be in the next group. There was no hiding our disappointment. For so many years, that was my story. How we made it so close only to not make it in. It's not so much a story of disappointment any longer but more of a laughable moment of our quest ending so abruptly. I haven't thought about that day in a long time until the other night when a completely different thought came to me. My Mom took me to Graceland. It was hot and the crowds were enormous but my Mom took me to Graceland anyway. The real moral to this story is the amount of love and understanding my Mother showed me that day. It no longer matters that we never got to see his body laying there. Maybe I'm sorta glad we didn't as I prefer to remember his handsome image on that poster that hung in my room. But my Mom took me to Graceland. She did. And that's my 'Elvis story'.