August 16, 2007

elvis, mom, and graceland

We moved Kacey back to Nashville, this time not into the dorm, but into her own apartment. The back of the truck and her car were both brimming over! (Granted, we did take a bed, a desk, a dryer, 2 chairs, a futon, a partridge in a pear tree, and 371 flip-flops!) We arrived to a roomy apartment, 2 lovely Christian girl roomies, and a huge fish tank the other girls had bought Kacey as a birthday surprise. They named the fish: Ophelia, Paul Anka, Marcus Aurelius, Freboga, and something weird I can't remember.) I couldn't be happier with the situation . . . unless, of course, Kacey was a baby again.

That brings me to Elvis. Yesterday, August 16, marks a 20-year anniversary for Kacey & me, and a 30-year anniversary for Elvis. According to history, Elvis died on August 16, 1977. (Now, like all good conspiracy theorists, I have my doubts. I believe him to be inhabiting Hitler's old getaway in Argentina. Anyway . . . ) Twenty years ago yesterday, she and I flew from Anchorage, Alaska to Seattle, Washington, to Memphis, Tennessee, and then, ideally, to Nashville, where my grandparents were to pick us up and drive us "home home" to my parents. Well, there was a delay in Seattle, and by the time we got to Memphis, we had missed our connecting flight to Nashville. (No biggie, right?) Let me list the complications:
1) This was in the pre-cell-phone days. Heck, this was pre-answering-machine days.
2) My parents were out of town and didn't know I was "surprising them."
3) My grandparents only lived an hour away from the Nashville airport, so by the time I landed in Memphis, they were already on their way to pick me up, and I had absolutely no way of letting them know I wouldn't be there.
4) I didn't have a credit card, so I couldn't rent a car.
5) I had a 12-month-old daughter with me, along with large carry on bag and diaper bag the size of a canoe. (This was also pre-9/11 days.)
6) and this is the big one . . . I was in Memphis. On August 16, 1987. The 10th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. Graceland is Mecca for the King and his followers, the result being "there were no rooms in the inn." Not a single empty hotel room in the city. Seriously.

In the meantime, I am using payphones to call my husband (who is 4,000 miles away). He is on the phone trying to track down my grandparents, my parents, and any Delta airline official who can somehow be held responsible for us being stranded without proper escort in the Memphis International Airport. To no avail. A strange man offered to take us home. I politely turned him down. As the hours got later and later, and the airport became more and more desolate, I stole a spoon from the cafeteria (so I could feed Kacey the organic homemade baby food I brought in my carry-on), and barricaded us into a large women's bathroom by pushing an old couch in front of the door. (Having, at this point, given up all hope, and now just biding time until my death, or tomorrow morning's 8 a.m. flight, whichever came first.)

I fed Kacey and got her to sleep, read "Anna Karenina" for awhile, realized there was NO WAY I was going to sleep in there, washed my hair in a public sink and "blow dried" it with one of those wall-mounted hand dryers - this would have been easier had I been a gymnast. After these eventful few hours, I hear a faint
"s...t...e...p...h...a...n...i...e..." from somewhere in distance. I listen. Again, I hear it, but this time louder. It's my mommy!!!! Now, I don't care if you are a 23-year-old parent who lives 4,000 miles from home, when you need your mommy, you need your mommy! She and dad eventually got the news and drove straight from wherever-they-were to Memphis to rescue me. Yeah!

On the return flight a couple of weeks later, I almost got stranded in Minneapolis. Again, as the result of a flight delay, I was late for my connecting flight to Seattle. When I got to the gate, they were rolling back the walkway. I met the exiting airline worker as she was walking back into the terminal. She told me I was too late. To this point in my life, I don't believe I had ever stood up for myself. My usual, a-bit-shy self, afraid of spending another sleepless night in an airport, looked her dead in the face, stuck out my pointer finger and demanded, "Either you roll that walkway back out and let me on that plane, or you, personally, will be paying for my hotel room tonight." Kacey and I made it back to Anchorage as scheduled.

Twenty years full circle. 1987: Kacey and I were stranded together in the home of "the King" trying to get to Nashville. 2007: Kacey and I part ways as she moves into her first real "home" and I leave her in care of "THE KING" in Nashville.

(Thank you God, that my Graceland is wherever You are.)


Sara said...

I love this story. I read it like it was the first time even though I think I have heard you tell it 2-3 times.

I am so excited for Kacey b/c I know how excited I was to move into my first apartment. It is one more step to being totally independent.

You and Greg have done a great job with her.

Lesli said...

I love the way you write! What a wonderful story. I'm sure she's totally excited about this new chapter. I'm excited for her.

Thanks for looking after the babies for us! :-)It is a HUGE help!! Love you both for it. Heck, I'd loved ya anyway! heehee!