Had he not passed away thirty-nine years ago today, Elvis Presley would be eighty-one years old now. Hard to fathom, isn’t it? Elvis was before my time, so my first real experience with him came in the eighties when I was standing in the supermarket checkout line with my mother. One of those “newspapers” had a cover story about how Elvis had faked his own death and was actually alive and living under an assumed name. Their proof? A grainy black and white photo of man sitting in a chair behind a screen door. According to the story, Elvis was living a secret life in Kalamazoo, Michigan or some other remote location. I remember a cluster of women standing around reading the article and having a lively debate on whether it could possibly be true. Really, they needed to think about this?
While I never had my own encounter with the king himself, I have had the pleasure of touring Graceland on two occasions. The first time, I was in Memphis on a business trip with my husband in tow. During some downtime, we decided to check it out. We may live in a GPS-dependent world, but when I travel with my husband, his job is to drive and my job is to tell him where to go. (Isn’t it a wife’s prerogative to tell him where to go?) I was excited. This was Graceland! Home of the seriously dreamy gorgeous beyond words star of the “comeback special.” (I’ll never look at black leather the same way. Ever.)
We followed the directions exactly, but after looking around, I was sure we had done something wrong. The boulevard was the equivalent to our Post Road back in Connecticut; surely this can’t be where Graceland is. Guess what? That’s exactly where it was.
I was sure that Graceland would be tucked away in a private corner of Memphis. Wrong. I don’t know what surrounded the house back in the day, but I never expected to find it among the shops, restaurants and gas stations. We parked the car and bought our tickets. In the blink of an eye we were whisked through the famous iron gates emblazoned with musical notes and were standing at the threshold of Graceland. The Georgian-style home was elegant and beautiful with its stone façade and white columns. It was elegant and oozing Southern charm. We went through the front door and I held my breath. It was a lot to take in. I felt like I had taken a ride in a time machine and was standing in the 1970s. With its white furniture, velvet curtains, mirrors and stained glass, it was surreal. Time stood still. It was as if Elvis had just stepped away from the dinner table to grab something and was expected back in seconds.
The house is heavy with history as well as the spirit of the man himself. You can feel him in every room from the kitchen to the famous jungle room. By the time we got out to the meditation garden and the final resting place of the king, my mood had changed; I was sad. Here was a man who was not only a musical legend, but a son, father and a dear friend to many, cut down in his prime. Remove the trappings of being the king of rock and roll, and you have an all-too-familiar theme: a person who meant so much to so many, gone in a flash. Still, if you find yourself in Memphis, I highly recommend touring Graceland, as well as the car museum where you can see the drool-worthy pink Cadillac. It’s sort of like looking through your family photo album; you’ll laugh at the long-ago fashions and furniture, you’ll marvel at how life used to be, and you’ll mourn those who went too soon leaving just memories behind. “Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind. Memories, sweetened through the ages just like wine.”