March 24, 2007 – Memphis, still
Something else we forgot about the Mid-South: Sunrise, when whatever the name of those birds are that swarm the trees like bats under a bridge all wake up at the same time and start chattering. Not chattering, really — much more of a gossamer noise — like all the stars in the universe falling at once, or the sound lightning bugs would make if they could talk.
All the women we know out here in Memphis (and a majority of those we don’t) still hot-roll and style their hair every day, and put makeup on every day… even if they know they’re not going to see anyone from morning till night.
A paddleboat cruise would be nice to go on while we’re here, or to Handy Park or the Pink Palace or Shelby Forest for “steak nite and live banjo pickin'” or the Hi-Tone and other places we hear the hipsters hang out here in Memphis… don’t know if that’s going to happen.
But we also love sitting with Nanny and quietly humming along to the Louvin Brothers and the Carter Family and Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys and everyone else Grandaddy used to sing us to sleep with. Old-timey stuff they used to gather ’round the radio with their families and listen to after a hard day of picking cotton in Alabama.
At night the caretaker and this writer watch either O Brother, Where Art Thou?… or the documentary concert film to O Brother, Where Art Thou?
We can’t agree on much else, culturally, but we sit together contented in the bosom of the music that pulls at our heartstrings and, despite our vast differences in every conceivable way, makes the both of us feel spiritually whole and grounded on this Earth.
The next door neighbor we’ve known all our life, whose kids used to play with our mother and her brother, who has shared the past 50 years with our grandmother and grandfather, came over last night to watch OBWAT for the first time.
She’s a Yankee, but we’ve always loved her anyway… and when she started talking shit about “Southern movies” and “Southern music” and complaining about everything onscreen for much of the movie, we both looked at each other and silently entertained the incongruous notion of asking an 80-year-old woman to leave the house.
If one more person tells us to “be sure not to take any canoe trips” while we’re down here — We’ve never seen Deliverance, but we know what they’re talking about — we’re gonna put our foot so far up their ass it’ll take an entire team of truck-driving rednecks to extract it.
The other neighbor lady we met for the first time on Saturday — really nice woman, toted over some banana bread when she came to call — brought another entire loaf for us on her way to church the next day when we jokingly told her not to come back unless she had some more.
She died yesterday.
Last night we ate the heaviest piece of banana nut bread we’ve ever eaten.
We’re spending today appreciating health, youth, and vitality, and honoring elders. Even if some of their opinions on things make us want to throttle them. Our opinions upset them just as much.
Life is so slow and lonesome right now, in so many ways. And stars fall from the trees every morning, and they make the most beautiful sound…
Follow Summer Burkes on Twitter.