Memphis, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

A month or so ago, I was FaceTiming my mom, as I do every morning, all praise be to modern technology. She was talking about seeing my sweet niece (seven adorable months old!) and about what she and my dad were going to do over the weekend. Suddenly a wave of longing swept over me. “If only there was some way I could get myself on a plane..” I said. Twenty minutes later, we had the flight all but booked, and all that was left was to talk to Eric about it. (It is so awesome being married to me: “Good morning! I love you! What would you think about me taking the baby home to Memphis in three weeks?”) As it turned out, he had a huge conference at Caltech during the week in question, so it made sense for us to go; we wouldn’t have seen much of him that week between long meetings and dinners and presentations. So! I booked it, for this crazy and mysterious low rate that I will probably never see again. Fortune favors the impulsive! At least in this case.

My reasons for wanting to go home were myriad. We were home in February, which was great, but the weather was so rough (ice! bad roads!) that we really didn’t get out of the house much. Before that, we hadn’t been home since Christmas 2012?! Clearly this oversight needed to be corrected. I love being with my family at Christmas, but there is a special magic to Memphis in the summer, 100% humidity notwithstanding. It’s green and lush and, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to experience the wonders of a summer thunderstorm.

I also really wanted to see everything that’s new. I was born and raised in Memphis, and I lived there my whole life until I went away to college in 2000, but I’ve never lived there as an adult. Recently my best friend and her family moved back home, and between her enthusiastic reports and the daily play-by-plays of my parents’ fun explorations, I was really just itching to experience it myself. A lot of this development has taken place within the last 5-7 years, I would say, and now it’s like a whole new city, at least to me. I spent a lot of my adolescence wanting to get the heck out of dodge, but now in addition to my old standbys, there are four (FOUR) local breweries, a greenline for biking that stretches the length of the entire city, more amazing restaurants than you can shake a stick at, so many growing neighborhoods, a lively non-profit and arts scene, and endless possibilities for your every Friday night. Wow. My parents are perfectly positioned for all this fun because they have a little condo in Midtown, which has always been, and will always be, my very favorite part of town, amen and amen.

IMG_3264So, basically, I went home to drink beer with my parents. I went home to spend time with my best friend. I went home to see this beautiful new city that has blossomed in the last decade. I went home to see (and kiss!) my baby niece. I went home to watch Micah push his walker in circles around my parents’ house, all of us smiling adoringly. And I did all of that, and so much more. It was a truly magnificent week, and it was so hard to pack my suitcase and head back to LA (except that we missed our daddy so much! He was the only piece missing in our delightful puzzle).

Ack, I think this is going to be a long one (mom: refill your coffee!) because before we get to all the fun, there is also this little bit of the picture to contend with: taking my baby on a plane by myself for two four-ish-hour flights. One of which was a red-eye. I was so nervous in the hours before we left! I actually texted Hillary, “I can do this, right? Right?!” Thankfully, it all went so smoothly. It was not exactly easy, but it was not terrible. And for that I am so grateful! A huge thank you to Hillary for the Ergo, without which we never would have made it! I doubt anyone really wants to hear the details, but leave me a comment if you do, and I will lay down the specifics. Short version: free gate-checking of strollers and carseats is the greatest achievement of modern aviation!

Without further ado, a smattering of our adventures in pictorial form:

IMG_3040My angelic dad picked us up at 5:30am and took us to the condo, where we changed the baby and drank coffee, and it was glorious. My mom took us home, where we took a three-hour nap, and then we were ready to spend the day with my niece! I will put pictures of the kids on Micah’s baby blog–so cute! We had lunch at Cheffie’s, which is my platonic ideal of a salad place. Can y’all please just install one in my kitchen? I would never eat anything else.

IMG_3081The next day we started our beer parade. It was so fantastic to just walk out the door of the condo and walk over to The Second Line.

IMG_3089I was utterly charmed from start to finish.

IMG_3090Oh, yes.

IMG_3092I liked this too.

IMG_3094Good times!

IMG_3096This was the on the door to the kitchen. There’s something about this warm, comforting feeling of being home in the South–it’s almost like when I came home after a semester in Russia, and I just couldn’t stop thinking, “Y’all speak my language!”

IMG_3109On Wednesday my dad worked from home, and we walked Micah around the lake. It’s a great trail, and it’s a three-mile roundtrip from our house. Someone demanded to be carried for most of it, so we passed him back and forth and had a double workout.

IMG_3111Pretty, pretty. Makes me want to get out there with a kayak.

IMG_3122That night we went to The Flying Saucer, where my parents have plates on the ceiling commemorating their induction into the UFO Club for trying 200 different beers. Impressive!

IMG_3123We ordered big pretzels and salads, and I got this lovely tasting flight.

IMG_3124Just me and my beers.

IMG_3132And now for an interlude in praise of my parents’ backyard. They claim not to have done much with it this year, but it still looks gorgeous to me. That ladder is for harvesting figs.

IMG_3134Under the pergola.

IMG_3136A gourd vine walking itself across the patio. Its tiny little tendrils were so beautiful.

IMG_3137Passion flowers growing wild!

IMG_3144And big fat caterpillars feasting on them. I could not get enough of them.

IMG_3149On Thursday my mom and I took Micah to the zoo, which I was really excited about because 1) it is actually a pretty impressive zoo, 2) they have pandas, grizzly bears, and polar bears, and 3) Micah knows how to say “bear” now (it sounds like “bee-uh!”), and I was wondering if he would say it when he saw them.

IMG_4243The grizzly bears were a bit out of sight, and the pandas were asleep, but once the polar bear adopted a fairly stuffed-animal-looking pose, there was a precious baby voice proclaiming, “Bear!” You better believe I bought him one in the gift shop. He loves it.

IMG_4253We went to the condo for Micah to take his afternoon nap, and I fell asleep on the couch. We didn’t have a blanket handy, so my mom covered me with dish towels from the kitchen. So indescribably sweet, especially because I would, of course, have done the same for my own child.

IMG_3184That night we set out from the condo to go to Memphis Made Brewery, but, alas, they weren’t open. But we still took this picture outside, and it has to be one of my favorites ever.

IMG_3185Memphis Made, for reference.

IMG_3186Undaunted, we headed over to Hammer & Ale, passing under this sweet little village scene, which I have loved since my high school days.

IMG_3187Cute popsicle truck!

IMG_3189Hammer & Ale was so charming. They serve only local beers, and they used to be called The Growler, since they’d happily fill one up for you to take home.

IMG_3197A blurry beer shot with my mom, while Micah very doggedly persisted in trying to get himself a job by crawling behind the counter. Sweet baby. My brother and his girlfriend came over with my niece to meet us, and more baby cuteness ensued.

IMG_4287We had dinner at Young Avenue Deli, where I used to go when I wanted to pretend I was cool in high school. The fries and veggie hoagie are still just as good, and, as an added bonus, Micah danced away to a Michael Jackson song in his high chair and munched up all the cucumbers on our hummus plate. Precious. (And yes, I know, isn’t Heather *gorgeous*? And Lily adorable?!)

IMG_4290We walked back to the condo in the moonlight. I can’t say enough about how much I love being able to walk to dinner, especially in such a cute neighborhood.

IMG_3206On Friday we had visitors! Eric’s sweet parents came down to see the little tiger, and we all had a wonderful time playing together. It’s always a treat to get to see them. And my best friend and her daughter came over to swim and have a picnic. It was adorable. I will put pictures of the kids (who look like siblings!) on Micah’s baby blog.

IMG_3241On Saturday morning I took a stroll down memory lane with my high school yearbooks. I had forgotten that these ridiculous shoes were featured there. My best friend and I painted these with nail polish because we were oh so edgy, haha!

IMG_3259After a trip to the Children’s Museum and a visit with my niece, we made it back to Memphis Made. I loved this photo wall.

IMG_4342Our sweet baby fell asleep, snoozed through the live band, and then woke up and knocked a beer glass onto the ground. I’d say he lived it up.

IMG_3266For dinner we went next door to Aldo’s, which I am still not over. It broke my heart right in two with its delicious food, gorgeous second-floor patio, and unremittingly 90s playlist. It hurt to peel myself away from there.

IMG_3265-001This picture is for Eric’s benefit, since I think that Figgy Piggy sandwich was made for him. As an added bonus, Micah had a prime view of the bussing station, which kept him heartily entertained all evening.

IMG_3274On Sunday my mom and I made a quick trip to the Bargain Barn, International Thrifting Mecca! This is a maternity dress that I will never stop wearing because it is so. very. comfy!

IMG_3275The real treat was this: Sunday night my best friend and I went out on the town and spent the night at the condo, sans kids. It was so good for our souls. I do not think we have had an uninterrupted conversation like that since…her baby shower. And now her baby is almost three and a half. We dropped our things off at the condo and discovered these little treasures in our purses. Mom life.

IMG_3278We walked down to Overton Square, and I ogled all the charming public art, some old, some new to me.

IMG_3280Cute, cute, cute.

IMG_3287Pretty, pretty, pretty.

IMG_3281We even have a shuttle from Cooper-Young to Overton Square now! I am really sorry that I did not see it in action because it is apparently a bus with a gigantic kangaroo on top of it.

IMG_3285We went to LBOE for dinner and ate this. YOLO.

IMG_3288After dinner and a stroll we went (somewhat ironically) to our old high school hangout, Java Cabana. Oh, the untold hours we spent here, writing poetry and brooding over boys! It still gave me shivers a bit to be there. Of course, it’s not the same. There used to be empty journals lying about for people to write in, and we couldn’t find them, so we could not relive our ridiculous high school glory. It is a weird, weird thing to bump elbows with the ghost of your former self. Mostly it just makes me so grateful to be happily settled and non-broody now!

IMG_3289This is the only picture I took of us, and I moved my hand right as the shutter clicked. Still, I kind of think it’s perfect. That’s me on the left, Emily on the right.

IMG_3294We stayed up late (10:45!) talking and had such a lovely relaxed morning at the condo, where my dad had Peet’s coffee stocked for us. I will always consider good coffee to be one of life’s greatest luxuries.

IMG_3297On the way back home, we stopped by Muddy’s Grind House, which is indescribably cute. By this point, I was already so sad to be leaving my friend and so sad to be leaving Memphis the next morning. It really was just such a tremendously wonderful time.

Memphis is something I carry with me, I think. When I was thinking about all the things I love about it, I realized they probably sounded kind of strange, or at least not like something you find in a travel recommendation article. Nonetheless, here they are. What do I love about Memphis? 1) Tall trees. Really, really tall trees. We just don’t have them like that here. 2) Brick. It’s a Southern thing, but I didn’t really notice it until I went away to college in Ohio and couldn’t figure out why things looked so funny to me (all the houses were wood-paneled!) There’s something stolid and comforting to me about brick. 3) Businesses in former homes. This is one of my favorite things on earth. I love eating in old restaurants with creaky floors and putting together that the room I’m sitting in was once a parlor, the bathroom once a pantry. I love old things of all kinds, and the stories they can tell. A very stark contrast to strip malls. 4) It’s green, green, green. There’s such a lushness and sense of open space in the summer. It’s magnificent. 5) Civic pride. Places like Los Angeles and New York don’t need to work hard to get anyone to come see them. They’re huge metropolises with lots of offer. But I find that often in mid-sized and smaller cities, the creative and civic-minded people band together, and they build incredible things. There’s so much of that going on in Memphis right now that it makes my heart swell. And, finally 6) My family, my family, my family (including my best friend). These are my people, and any chance to spend time with them is an occasion for fireworks and dancing shoes and all the champagne you’ve got. And I guess that’s what I really love best about Memphis: love.

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