Sunday, June 14, 2009

Coming Home

"You’re dirty and you’re filthy,
But I love you ‘cause you’re my home, baby
You are my home."
Lou Rawls, “Tobacco Road”

Well, I’m here y’all. I finally made it. After all this time, the prodigal son has returned home.

After many years away, today I returned to my hometown, Memphis, Tennessee. Let me take time to qualify that. I have been back home many times before now; I didn’t just altogether turn my back on the hood.

Usually when I’ve returned it has been for a quick visit. You know, a four day weekend here and there. In and out for a funeral or a wedding, but never for as long as I plan to stay this time. Always an excuse to stay at a hotel downtown or out in the suburbs, way away from everything or anything that would remind me of the poverty of my youth. And never without my wife and children acting as pleasant distractions preventing me from seeing, from knowing the truth.

I don't really understand my dread of returning to my old neighborhood. My work has taken me into ghettoes all over the country. And rarely ever have I felt afraid. But when confronted with returning to my own community, I am not able to shape the angst.

My visit began well enough. I arrived at Mom’s house just as the sun was going down. I greeted my sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews who had assembled to await my arrival. And for the longest, my sisters and brothers and I sat around catching up and exchanging memories. We had a few laughs.

Before long, I began to feel at ease; being there with all my siblings again, at least those not incarcerated or given up to the ravages of drug addiction, in the familiarity of the place of our upbringing caused a twinge of nostalgia to arise.

For a moment, a brief moment, I was a child again. I didn’t realize until that moment how much I really missed my people, how much I missed the comfort and familiarity of my mother’s home.
When everyone had departed, I looked around my old room which was now the domain of my nieces and nephews when they came to visit. But my yellow, aging shoebox of adolescent childhood treasures was still there where I had left it, on the top shelf of my old closet, pushed way to the back.

I took inventory. Among the things I found were ticket stubs from a Rick James concert (Prince was the opening act); a letter from my high school sweetheart declaring her undying love and fealty (we didn’t make it to prom); a old, unopened box of condoms (wishful thinking); and my first check stub ($35.86).

After I was done surveying my old room, I did something I had not done in twenty five years. I lay down in the bed under my mother’s roof and exhausted from the drive, from the excitement, I slept.

And this morning, again for the first time in a long time, I place my feet under my mother’s table. Playfully fussing, she smiled that smile I remember so well from my childhood as she heaped my plate with all my breakfast favorites. She continued to pile the food on my plate until I pleaded for her to stop. Finally, I had to pull my shirt up to offer my bulging stomach as evidence that my stomach could not hold another bite.

Then I arose to do what I knew I must, that which I dreaded the most—confront myself.

Tentatively, I exited my mother’s house and stepped onto the front porch. I took a deep breath and inhaled the familiar stench of my childhood; I could smell the garbage, the rot, the decay of the ghetto. I could smell the heartbreak and broken dreams. But right above those smells, I could detect that same faint sense of hope I clung to as a child growing up here.

I looked to the left, to the right, and then straight ahead as I bore witness to the neglect and the deterioration that had only gotten worse since I had left. But above it all, I could feel the palpable determination of a few to break out, and if I looked close enough, I could perceive the end of the road, the main thoroughfare leading out of my boyhood community, as well as back to my boyhood community.

I was home.


Jo Moore said...

Hey Max,
Was the Tyme on that bill along with Prince and Rick James?....I saw that tour when it stopped at Wilberforce University in Ohio...way back when...ah memories..... Rick was two hours late taking the stage...those were the days...

and as far as going home....If you're meant to be are...if you're meant to have will....when it's's you need it...probably....karma....

Sauce said...

What part of 1Town you from?

RiPPa said...

Welcome home my man. As I read this it took me back to the times I would return to the old neighborhood in Brooklyn New York. It's been 5yrs since I've been back for any extended period of time.

We'll have to get together while you're here.

Ann Brock said...

Love It!!there's no place like home.

Citizen Ojo said...

I was talking to the wifey about going to Memphis for vacation... I think she is starting to come around to the concept.

KST said...

Wow. Great post! I was just thinking and writing about my hometown. Funny how life brings you back to places you once tried to escape and as an adult - avoid. I like your perspective though...

Max Reddick said...

Sorry it took so long to respond. I was having technology problems. And sorry that the formatting was so bad. Publishing from an handheld device is more complex than you think. If you noticed, I have not posted lately either. I do appreciate you stopping by and taking time to comment.

But I'm back!

@ SkeptikOne

No, that was long before The Time. Prince was promoting his second album. The single at the time was "Sexy Dancer."

Thanks for coming. I always enjoy it when you stop by. That goes for you too, JJBrock!

@Sauce and RiPPa

Check your email.

@Citizen Ojo

Come on! It's a great place to visit, but don't stay too long.

and @KST

Please do write something about your hometown. I look forward to reading it!

RiPPa said...

I may have accidentally deleted that email bruh. Can you resend it?

KST said...

@ Max - I did, but it was brief and kinda mean. Sorry to disappoint! I'm enjoying reading about your experiences though - will comment more tmrw.

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