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  • Writer's pictureLeslie Prichard

My Visit to Graceland - Finding Elvis



Finding Elvis Graceland
Graceland

It's hard to imagine that as an Elvis enthusiast, I never visited Graceland until I was 60 years old. It's not that I didn't want to go, but it was just never in the cards until the season of my life that I really needed the visit. It just goes to show that God has plans for us that we don't understand or appreciate. I should trust His timing more often.


When I visited Graceland last year, it was during a transitional point in my world. I was leaving an unhealthy job and embarking on a new journey in my life, one which I was not entirely convinced was the right path. But it was a necessary detour to bring some calmness to my existence and provide me an opportunity to take a step back and do some emotional recovery that was long overdue. I needed to remind myself of my self-worth and value, something which had been slowly chipped away for too many years. It was a time to evaluate and discern why I had allowed that degradation to happen. In short, I needed Elvis. And along with him, the opportunity to be transported back to an era when I was truly happy, with the love of a family that lifted me every day and showed me what unconditional love meant, and to remind myself of the kind of love I should demand in my life, no matter what.


When I arrived at Graceland, I submerged myself in everything, Elvis. It was the most joy I had experienced in a long while. I took the trip alone so I could let myself surrender to all the tourist trappings and enjoy every minute without anyone pushing me to hurry along or judging my slight obsession; to take photo after photo, to cry at Elvis's memorial site, to feel his presence in the Jungle Room, to buy t-shirts, books, magnets, bags, shot glasses, and anything else I could afford. Thankfully, I also had to pack the souvenirs so I couldn't go bankrupt in the process. I admired every captivating photo of Elvis. Walking slowly past each artifact that was hung on a wall, displayed on a shelf, or memorialized in a video, I didn't let other visitors rush me and shortcut my experience. I held up lines and forced people who were in a hurry to go around me. I took the VIP tour and found myself with a lump in my throat when I held Elvis's boots.


At the Guest House at Graceland, I drank Pink Cadillacs and Blue Hawaiians, flirted with the bartender, and watched the Elvis movie in the theater; frowning at the back of the heads of the couple a few rows down who wouldn't stop talking during the movie. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning listening to the band belt out songs of past eras. I went back to my room and worked on my book, Finding Elvis, with the King fresh in my heart. I fell asleep to the loop of Elvis movies, and slept soundly with Elvis serenading me throughout the night. And when I woke, I thought about the days of my youth. The days when I was six and watched the 1968 comeback special with awe, falling in love with the superstar. I took copious notes on my feelings and emotions throughout the entire experience, so as I wrote Finding Elvis, I could remember how I felt and what I saw, and relay it to my readers. I tried to burn in my memory every sad, happy, and unsure emotion that pierced my heart during the visit.


And even though time travel is not real (unfortunately), it was a time-trip for me to a happier part of myself and a reminder of who I am, and why I can never again allow myself to accept treatment that doesn't fill me with love and raise me up. There was no erasing my smile when I revisited myself during the days Elvis lived. I swaddled myself in the warmth of the days in the 70s when I saw Elvis in concert, when my family spent weekends at the lake on our boat and winters snow skiing, when my sister was still alive, when my parents and grandparents were living, when my mom sat at the piano and played Elvis songs and sang in her beautiful voice, when we played hit-the-deck until the streetlights came on, when I sat for hours in my room listening to Elvis albums, when family came to town and gathered for the holidays, and laughter and love enveloped the air. I melted into the days gone by so I could face the days to come and find a little piece of the person I had tossed aside and forgotten to make important, and unwisely, let others devalue. 


And between all the sightseeing, I wrote and wrote, and with each word I typed, I restored a piece of myself others had tried to destroy. Hearing my parents' voices in my head urging me to keep going, that I was worthy. I reminded myself that we all have a right to be on this earth, to be treated with respect and dignity, and enjoy our time on this planet. And that we all deserve to be loved fully and wholly, including me. And even though I never met Elvis in person, I extended a quiet thank you to him for accompanying my family during all those happy moments I enjoyed when I was growing up with his silky voice floating through our home. In the end, throughout my journey of writing Finding Elvis, the truth is, I found myself again, and happily, I'm here to stay.


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