Walking in Memphis

We pulled into Memphis late on Saturday night. It had been a seemingly long ride through Atlanta and Birmingham as the family attempted to get settled back into the car ride routine, without much success. It made me nervous for the next few weeks and to tell you the truth, I was a little annoyed.

Unlike our usual travel preference of Air BnB, we decided to use the Priceline Express Deals application where I was sure we could score the Peabody. I figured out through my super sleuthing ratings/stars comparison that the Peabody was available but unfortunately waited too long to book and lost the deal. Another annoyance.

We ended up booking a limited service property that was brand new, just blocks from the Peabody and Beale street. We grabbed a ground floor room across from the pool – which was a major score and will be added to our “how to travel” list for the future. Amazingly, my husband dragged in all of our gear at 1:00am and we eventually got the kids settled and asleep around 2:30am.

Sunday morning, we woke up, grabbed breakfast in the hotel and found an unlocked conference room where we did “races”, yoga and stretching. Finally, we had some room to breathe and just be. The kids piled on top of me for our favorite game of “ride the bronco” where all three sit in birth order and I toss them off like they are on a bucking bronco. I’m pretty sure this is the last year Gray will fit on with both Hale and Reed. Made me sad when I was laying on the ground, looking up at their three beautiful, enthralled faces, and realized this. We knew we needed to do early naps so we went to the pool and swam for a bit. Hale still has his stitches from his fall so couldn’t get in the water, but he and Reed sat and splashed and played on the side. Graydon is becoming an incredible swimmer. He’s jumping in and swimming the length of the pool with his head in the water. Just like his mama. We’ll see about swim team in the summer.

After the pool it was time for early naps. I rested with the kids while Joe chose to get some air and quiet time and went for a walk around the city. He came back reporting how similar it was to Detroit – old architecture, eclectic mix of businesses, run-down buildings, residential being reborn, old manufacturing sites and the riverfront. I had not been to Memphis since the summer of 1997, 4th of July in fact, when I was working as an intern in Montgomery, Alabama with the ACLU. The other intern (Aaron Bloom from Chicago) and me decided on a whim to visit Memphis for the holiday. I couldn’t remember much about the city except that I had danced on stage with B.B. King at his bar on Beale Street – B.B. had pulled me up there – and that our hotel room had views of the riverboats on the Mississippi river.

We gathered up the kids and walked into town, first stop at the Peabody. The lobby bar area was seasonally decorated for Christmas with a HUGE tree, bows and lights everywhere. People were immaculately dressed having Sunday cocktails, shopping bags surrounding them, while they watched children (like ours!) obsess over the famous Peabody ducks that were hanging out in the fountain. After Reed and Hale appropriately annoyed the ducks, we took the elevator to the top of the hotel to the rooftop. Remember that scene in The Firm where Tom Cruise and Jeanne Tripplehorn are being swooned by the firm’s fancy people aka Gene Hackman on the rooftop? Yep, that’s where we were. This rooftop also doubles as the home of the “Duck Palace” where the esteemed fowl live in a replica of the Peabody hotel. Seriously.

The kiddos ran around and we enjoyed views of the city and river. The ducks perform daily at 11am and 5pm and since it was only 2:30pm or so, so we decided to go wander and come back at five.

We headed out of the Peabody and down to Beale street, where we eventually landed in front of B.B. Kings. I told the host I wanted to peek my head inside to see the stage from my life 20 years ago, 4th of July. The dark room and stage were the same and had a great band playing, plus there was another family with young kiddos up on the balcony dancing (remember that for later) so we decided to go upstairs for a late lunch. We danced and listened to this incredible performance from the female vocalist, check out the videos below. Great shrimp po-boy too!

We stayed for two sets, then started to head back to the Peabody to get in position for the ducks. On the street we ran into the family from B.B. Kings. With strollers side by side, we met our new friends, Amber and Sean and their two littles, a 1&½ year old boy and 3 year old girl. Amber and Sean were amazing. He’s originally from Ireland, Black Pool Cork, I THINK is what he said, but has been living in Australia. Amber is from Australia. They are three months into their year-long journey around the United States in an RV – so cool! They were also headed to the Peabody so we joined forces.

The Peabody was packed! We got Gray a front row seat and the rest of us hung back, Joe and I with Hale and Reed and Amber and Sean with their littles, among the huge crowd. The master of ceremonies for the Ducks told a great story on the history of the Peabody, the ducks and how the legend came to be, and then they marched right up into the elevator. A very unique experience to have, especially at Christmas-time.

The four adults and five kids made our way up to the rooftop where the kids ran around until dark. We talked about travel, places to visit, where we have been, where they are going. We told them about the South Carolina Lowcountry and offered up our home while we are away. Ironically enough, they started their journey in Ventura, California – my mom’s hometown and where we MAY be for Christmas, providing the air quality from the fires is a-ok. What started them on their year-long journey? Deciding that they were tired. Super tired of working all the time, not seeing each other and not spending time with their kids. I love it. Good for them.

Oh, and Reed fell in love with their daughter. So cute.

It was a fun day followed by a wonderful night. Waking up, we got ourselves together and headed for the Lorraine Hotel to experience the location of one of the more sobering moments in the history of our nation – the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. As we stood outside room 306, we explained to Gray how MLK was in Memphis helping janitors, garbage men, housekeepers and others achieve equality for the work they were doing. And how someone didn’t like what Dr. King was doing so they shot him. And we talked about how there’s still people struggling for equality and that it’s his responsibility to make sure that he treats everyone fairly and with respect, always showing good character.

A good reminder for us all.

It was very emotional for me. I didn’t expect to cry as much as I did and when Gray read the promised land quote to me – which was from a speech Dr King gave JUST the day before he was assassinated, (pictured below) I lost it. Sobbed. Gray, who has such thoughtful demeanor and sweet soul said so softly, “it’s ok Mommy because Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t use weapons and now he’s in the promised land.” This kid gets non-violent protest. Ugh. Sobbing while writing this.

So glad we were able to spend a full day + in Memphis and enjoy the touristy sites of the city…especially as a family. We really enjoyed the area around the Lorraine Hotel – very much more our speed than Beale Street and Joe and I agreed that we would love to come back one day – just us. Until then, we’ll have our memories and the song 🙂

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