I was born and half raised in Brentwood, TN. We moved after my 9th grade year because Mama got remarried. Brentwood used to be a quiet little place. Big yards, rolling hills, a few country music stars. It is not that way now. Holy moly the gigantic houses that have taken over. Mama and I lived in a condo at the very south end of town, so south we were almost in Franklin. And there was nothing out where we were. Now there is a mall and all the things that follow the building of a new mall. It is completely unrecognizable.
Grandmother and Popa lived in town. Their subdivision was called Country Club Estates, but there was nothing estate-like about the homes. Acre lots, though. This was where I spent the majority of my time. Most of the residents there were older. There were not a lot of kids. It was just me and the next-door neighbors, the Grahams. They had 2 boys and a girl, and I was right between the boys’ ages. God bless Norma Graham for hosting me so often. They were the best.
Grandmother’s house is no longer there. We heard it burned down. It’s just as well, because the rest of the neighborhood has had quite the glam up.
I have not made many trips back to Nashville in recent years. It almost hurt too much. My grandparents have passed and we don’t have family there anymore (they all followed us to Columbus, GA). As years go by you naturally grow apart from the people and places you once knew. Change happens and if you are not there to see it and grow with it…well, it grows without you. Life moves on. When we leave a place we want it to stay the same until we can get back. We don’t want it to survive without us. It should be kept all folded up nice and neat until we can return. Everyone should stay just as you left them. Yes, just pause until I can come back.
That’s not what I want either.
This is much harder to articulate than I thought it would be. I just know that I used to be sad when I drove by all my places that looked so different than how I knew them. Trees cut down, new buildings, extra lanes, less space. No Red Geranium Pizza. No Traveler’s Rest Motel where I was sure I was going to drown during swimming lessons. No Opryland.
I was feeling a little sad last week when Jim and I arrived in downtown Nashville. I even felt a little anxious and overwhelmed by all the noise and traffic and construction. All the areas have new, hip names. But, Friday when I had to navigate Jim to where we needed to be, I knew exactly how to go. Even without the familiar markers of my youth.
As we pulled past my forever home church, Tusculum Hills Baptist, it’s blue cross still stands. I don’t think any of my people still attend there, but it felt comforting to pull in the parking lot. It has changed, but it was familiar enough. Bar-B-Cutie pork and fried cornbread tasted just as good even if the sauce is a little different.
This trip gave something back to me that I had been missing for 30-ish years. It reminded me of how a place can be more than a location, more than the appearance. The warmth and heartbeat are still there and now I realize it is in me too.