Yesterday morning, I almost talked myself out of participating in the March challenge. I wasn't sure I had 31 days of good stories to tell. I doubted I could come up with anything worth reading. Then I remembered one of my favorite family pictures...the one where our family is standing at the gates of Graceland.
About nine years ago, the four of us were on our way to Dallas, Texas, to visit my husband's mother. We had made the drive before; and we knew it was a long trip for two little guys. Jack was six, and Will was four. My husband suggested that we break the trip up by spending the night in Memphis. He had visited Graceland as a kid, and he thought the boys might like it. We decided to spend the night in a hotel, then tour Graceland the following morning.
The day started on a high note. Both boys enjoyed the night in the hotel, and they were anxious to see the fancy house where Elvis had lived. By the time we arrived at Graceland, their enthusiasm was impossible to contain. Freed from their car seats, they pulled us toward the gift shop. While my husband stood in line to buy our tour tickets, the boys and I browsed the racks of t-shirts and hats. Will tugged on my purse and pointed to an expensive porcelain figurine of the King. Miniature Elvis was dressed in a white pantsuit. He was wearing a red scarf and holding a tiny porcelain microphone in his sculpted hand. Will had found the souvenir he wanted.
"That's not a toy," I said. "You can't have that." I didn't realize that Will's desire for the $45 porcelain Elvis was far greater than his desire to follow through with our original plans for the day. My son demanded the porcelain Elvis and refused to leave the spot in front of the display case. By now, my husband had our tickets and had joined us in front of porcelain Elvis.
"What's going on?" he asked. I reached for Will's arm to lead him toward the exit door; and he actually stomped and jerked his arm free, snapping into a frozen position in front of the case. He was as unmoving as the Elvis that stared back at him from behind the glass. We were now attracting a crowd; and the start time stamped on our tickets was quickly approaching. My husband handed me the tickets and picked Will up. Will remained just as stiff as he had been in front of the case. My husband carried him that way out to the long, winding line of tourists. Once my husband finally set him down, Will crossed his arms over his chest and lagged behind us, making a conspicuous gap in the crowded line. Urged on only by his discomfort at the closeness of the strangers behind him, we made our way toward Elvis's house.
Of course the line led directly to a souvenir photo opportunity; and there we stood...at the gates of Graceland. My husband, Jack, and I clustered together, forcing smiles for the camera. Will refused to smile or stand within arm's reach. His perfect day was ruined.
The irony of the situation was not lost on us; and over the years, all of us (including Will) have come to love that picture. It reminds us that, even if we're pretty sure we're not going to walk away from the day with the $45 porcelain Elvis, we should still enjoy Graceland when we have the chance.