I went back this week for a short visit to my hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. I’m proud of being from Little Rock. It’s very different from my Malibu home of 30 years (and yet there are many similarities), and it’s full of so many memories that made me who I am. These memories I share with family and friends there will always make it home, even though that period of my life ended over forty years ago.
In the bridge from The Beatles’ Two of Us*, Paul and John sing,
You and I have memories
Longer than the road
That stretches out ahead
Going home always makes me reflect on those memories, while creating a few new ones on the way.
The day before Jill and I arrived, vicious tornadoes slammed Arkansas and many other southern/midwestern states. One of those tornadoes struck very close to home. My sister Martha’s house was significantly damaged by the winds and falling trees, while my brother’s, my mom’s, and my dad’s houses were spared. But my sister feels fortunate, as many of her neighbors were hammered with far worse damage, some losing everything. Driving through her neighborhood reminded me of my own Malibu neighborhood after the devastating 2018 fires. Some houses were destroyed, some were severely damaged, and others were miraculously unharmed. It makes no sense looking at it. I believe those seeking to understand the reason behind the randomness are asking the wrong question. Stuff happens in life. Sometimes, it’s really bad. Most of the time, we won’t ever know why. What’s really important is how we react to the stuff that happens.
Our family, friends, and neighbors can give us strength in that reaction. And we can do the same for those we love. And our memories of what we have all been through together and how we have supported and been supported by each other make us even stronger.
I remember one time, my brother Pat, my dad, and I were cycling on one of the beautiful forested roads in Arkansas, one of those roads that stretches out ahead forever, and we needed to eat lunch. The only thing open in town was a small mom and pop grocery. They didn’t have any prepared foods. While we were searching the shelves and considering our options, the mom of the store asked us if we wanted a sandwich, and when we said yes, she just opened up some bread, deli meat, and mustard from off the shelf, and made us three sandwiches. She prorated the cost and said that she would use the rest of it herself. That’s the best of Arkansas – neighbors who will do anything for you, whether they know you or not.
I saw that happening in Martha’s neighborhood after the tornado. Neighbors were helping each other with chainsaws and backhoes. In Arkansas, you don’t need to rent those tools. There’s always someone with the right tools. And if you’re not a tool person (my friend Merlin wisely advised me to stay away from the chainsaws – one more injury would just make things that much more difficult), you can bring a cooler full of water or Cokes, or just help with hauling stuff away. I said in my 61 lessons post that family is the main course in life, but having great neighbors is like pie for dessert, or more accurately, pie with ice cream, which everyone knows is the best dessert.
The South does not have a monopoly on good neighbors. My Malibu neighbors would have fit right in, helping out and doing whatever needed to be done. It was my neighbors in the Malibu Volunteer Fire Brigade who helped to save my house and so many others. And I have so many work colleagues who are also the same way. Crisis sometimes brings out the best in people and shows us what we are truly made of. If we could convince ourselves that we don’t need a crisis to come together and help each other out, maybe our world would be a little less angry.
In thinking about that line from the Beatles, after 61 years, it’s interesting to recognize that my memories may be longer than the road ahead. It does not make the road ahead less interesting or inviting, but it does make reflecting on my wonderful memories somehow seem even more important. After all, it’s our memories and our choices, far more than our possessions and job titles, that make us who we are.
So here’s to memories old and new from my childhood home in Little Rock, as well as all of the memories I’ve created with my family, my neighbors, my friends, and my colleagues. Those memories contribute to the hopes and dreams, and eventually the realities, of whatever our road ahead is going to bring.
Let’s see what that road ahead brings today!
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*If you’re a Beatles fan, then while you may not recognize the lyric, you’ve heard this song before. It’s from the Let it Be album. I got to know it better while watching the amazing Netflix documentary, Let it Be, which contains several studio sessions as they developed and eventually recorded the song. While the song is written by Paul about his wife Linda, some people thing this section is about the impending end of The Beatles, and all of the memories Paul and John share.
The stunning and beautifully tragic lead photo was taken by my sister Martha. Taken through her tornado-shattered window looking behind her house, you see that the woods that used to be there are practically gone, and so many houses were hit by the tornado that swept through west Little Rock. The other photo features my beautiful mom, my amazing father, and Martha and Pat, my two siblings who still live in Little Rock.