Nostalgia Trip

Yesterday my mom and I took a trip to Marietta and Smyrna, the area where she grew up and where I spent my first few years. Since we moved to Covington when I was four or five, my memories of living there are fairly vague, yet I have memories of going back to visit and seeing places around the area. It was astounding just how much everything changes.

We started out going by the apartment complex where we lived when I was a toddler. It didn’t look

My Great-Grandmother's old house

nearly like what’s in my  memory. The buildings looked similar, but there were far more trees than I ever remembered, and my mom said they built some new buildings where the old parking lots were. I wish we’d taken pictures there.

Next we visited my great grandmother’s old house in Smyrna. It used to be a tiny house, and I have years and years of fond memories there. We were in for a shock when we saw how much the new owners have changed the house and added on to it. It looks like they may have nearly doubled the square footage! It was a beautiful house, but it just wasn’t the same house that we loved so much. We joked that they messed the house up.

The first house I lived in as a baby

After that we visited the first house my parents owned, where we lived when I was a baby. Obviously I have no memory of the house, and even the pictures I’ve seen of it didn’t quite look the same. It was fun to see the first house where I lived.

Finally, we drove by the house where my mom grew up. She has shared the memories of that house and the years they spent there for as long as I can remember, so it was nice to get to see the place she has talked about for so long. It was almost exactly what I imagined.

It was nice to get to see all these old places,

The house where my mom grew up

and I’m glad we took the time to go. Even though things have changed (and we shouldn’t be surprised at that), there’s something comforting about seeing familiar areas. I’d love the chance to do something like that again.

 

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Hey! Anybody remember elim Hall?

It’s not unusual for songs to enter my head for no apparent reason, and one evening last week I was walking down my driveway, and one of my favorite Christian songs from the 80s entered my head: “Moved” by elim Hall. As soon as I got back in the house, I googled the band, looking for the chords to the song. No dice, but I found this tribute site, which flooded me with nostalgia for a band that rocked the foundations of my Christian music experience in the late 80s. Here’s the story…

I’ve always loved all kinds of music. But when I was a kid, I always wondered why I couldn’t find Christian music that was as cool as what I heard on the secular radio stations. There was some decent Christian music, but it didn’t challenge me musically.

Back then the only decent Christian bookstore close to us was at the mall in Athens. Naturally, I was in Athens fairly often, and I loved the fact that they had tapes that you could listen to to demo what was popular. During my freshman year of high school (1986-87), I saw a tape with an interesting cover: Things Break by elim Hall. I immediately popped it into the Walkman that was attached to the listening station.

I was enthralled by what I heard. Since it was a tape, of course it picked up where the last listener had left off, a song on Side 2 called “Moved.” It was an amazing song…a minor-key alt-rock praise song at a time when we still only had a piano and organ at Covington Christian? I was all in.

When the demo tapes were circulated out, they sold them at a discount. I picked up Things Break, and I listened to it over and over. Chiming guitars…moody sounds…quirky rhythms. (Wasn’t everything quirky back then?) It was just like what I heard on secular radio, but the lyrics were Christian. I felt like my world was opened up. Now here was something that sounded much more like some of the more challenging stuff I heard on Album 88 and by Athens bands like REM, with lyrics that explicitly reflected my beliefs.

I literally wore the tape out. Years later, I found it on CD on eBay, and I now have it on my iPod (…the natural evolution of music…). For me, elim Hall paved the way for me to discover bands like The Choir and Dakoda Motor Co.

Nowadays, I really don’t listen to much explicitly Christian music at all. Other than really good worship music, I’m far more drawn to music by Christians who are making a go of it in the broader marketplace. But bands like elim Hall and the other alt-rock Christian bands I discovered in the late 80s and early 90s have a special place in my heart because they helped me explore music that reflected both my tastes and my beliefs when I needed that the most.

Epilogue: elim Hall recorded an independent album in 1990 and called it quits shortly thereafter. Check out a nice photo/video/audio montage of the band here; alas, it’s the only video of them I could find…

Steel Pigs Over Atlanta: A Christmas Memory

Riding the Pink Pig at Rich’s Downtown was a holiday tradition in my family for many years. Every year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we’d drive all the way into downtown Atlanta to visit the amazing Rich’s Downtown store. I remember being so excited!

For those who don’t know, the Pink Pig was a monorail of sorts that was erected at Christmas time at the Rich’s Department Store in downtown Atlanta from 1948 to 1991. It started out in the toy department and rode out on the roof of the store through a Christmas village and alongside the Rich’s Great Tree, with a view of the buildings of Atlanta all around it. (Yes, the Pink Pig exists today…sort of…at Lenox Square, but I’ll get to that in a minute…)

There aren’t too many specific memories of our trips; I think all these remembrances blend together into one tableau of images: driving into Atlanta; marvelling at the beautiful Rich’s Great Tree atop the Crystal Bridge; the huge department store unlike anything I’d seen anywhere else; the elevator with the color-code for each floor; the bustling cafeteria; the thumbprint cookies with sweet, creamy icing; the reindeer in the petting zoo; Santa’s Secret Shop (where parents weren’t allowed!); the Pink Pig itself, with its awe-inspiring view of the Great Tree and the “big city” around it; the sticker, which was the coveted free souvenir, with its red ink on a pink fabric circle, that read I Rode The Pink Pig At Rich’s. (The funny thing is that I never remember going to see Santa there; I may have, but I just don’t have any recollection…)

The Pink Pig returned in a much lesser form in 2004 at Lenox Square Mall, inside a tent, as a small train ride with cheesy narration done in a fake Southern accent. (There was no audio at the real Pink Pig, except for children’s chatter…) I’ve been to it two or three times, most recently last week with Ashley, Kenzie, and Hadley. It really hit me this last time riding it how it’s nowhere near the amazing experience we had as children. First of all, it’s at a mere mall…in Buckhead. Secondly, the tree was scrawny and sad looking…no majesty here. Last of all, there was nothing to inspire the imagination…no ride over downtown, no view of a growing, bustling city. It made me wish I had a time machine to take the girls back to the days of a truly magical Christmas experience.

Thanks for allowing me to share a Christmas memory, albeit in a cranky, “things ain’t what they used to be” kind of way… May your Christmas this year be full of memories that you’ll want to share.