I returned last night from a long weekend in Chattanooga at Libertycon. It was great to see so many friends, old and new, and to have a few days of discussions on storytelling and writing with other people, fans and writers alike.
It's interesting how every convention or conference has its own atmosphere. As they go, Libertycon is a modestly sized convention, and on the scale of around 1000 attendees, it has a sort of family feeling to it. My room was on the 14th floor of the Marriott, and from my bed I could see Lookout Mountain. The matter of Tennessee is rather loaded with emotion because I kept thinking of trips in my childhood to Nashville and Chattanooga with Mom and Dad and my siblings. We lived in the mid-south, around Memphis TN/West Memphis AR most of my childhood. It was bittersweet to drive those roads I'd previously only ridden when Dad was driving. It was more sweet than bitter, but it still hurts. The summer of 1976, Dad drove us to Nashville for Opryland, and then to Chattanooga to go to Lookout Mountain and Ruby Falls. Those towns in my memory are the domain of that particular trip. Life was exciting and interesting, and the future seemed a vast, amazing world of possibilities.
This weekend I stopped in West Memphis to see the dear lady who was next door for all the time we lived in that house in town. It was wonderful to see her, and talk about Mom and Dad and also her kids and her husband. She said Mom and Dad are the best people she ever knew, and that the time we lived next door was the happiest of her life. Later on the phone, Mom said that was the happiest time of her life, too. <3 It felt so good to reconnect with dear sweet Reba.
I was tickled to see our old house which is not very different, but is still well-kept. The park across the street is still there. I took a photo of the pavilion where people picnic at the park with its benches and tables. The tables have changed, as the ones from my childhood were heavy wooden planks, and were carved up with the usual graffiti of the 1970s.
One summer, a group took to hanging around the pavilion at night, smoking. We soon noticed a strange, exotic quality to the smoke that drifted across the street to our front door: they were smoking pot. The group seemed comprised of hippie teenagers, probably some twenty-somethings, and one older man, possibly in his 50s. When they sparked up the funny tobacco, Dad went over and told them to clear out, and not to come back. They took off that night. Some days later, they all came back to the pavilion, and Dad was ready. He had a hand sprayer attachment on his garden hose. I don't know the particulars, whether the sprayer was naturally turbo-charged, or if Dad modified it, but I suspect the latter. They were settled in, lighting up and stinking up the neighborhood when Dad came out, turned on the hose, and proceeded to dowse them with a jet stream of water that went about 80 feet from our front door to the pavilion. They left and never came back. That was so Dad. He did not tolerate baloney.
I know it's not him, and it's not the same as having him here, but it's a place where a thing happened, and I was there, and I feel him in my heart. It feels comforting to see it again, to remember all the wonderful times in that house, that very nice house he provided for his family. He is still here, just in a different form.
Anyway, it was nice to go back and to see a dear lady from my life. Today I'm mailing her some pecans from Wichita County, and I plan to go by next month and bring her a nice plant when I'm on the way to Imaginarium in Louisville. I look forward to driving some of those same roads again, and hopefully with even more sweetness and less of the bitter. I'm feeling like the exercise is important to work out the bad feelings, to grind through the grief, and get on with the cherished memories. This is life as it is. I'm trying to make the most of it.