Editor’s note: Originally published July 1, 2019, this little gem of an article, which seems to harken back to a bygone era, was written by our neighbor in Central Gardens a year ago as part of our inaugural Page One Writer’s Workshops.
By Candace Echols
It was the dog with the top hat on that caught my attention.
He didn’t seem to mind it. He may have even liked it. That’s how dogs are in Midtown on a regular Tuesday, but on the Fourth of July, the dogs are running the show.
And what a show! Central Gardens on the Fourth of July is just that. If you’re asking yourself, “Who lives here? Is it families? Millennials? What about empty nesters?”
“Or those older ladies who watch your house for you when you’re out of town? Are there babies? Will I feel awkward if I wear a top hat like that dog?”
Listen, just come on and see. There is no such thing as awkward in Midtown, Memphis and that’s what we all love about it.
Halloween in Central Gardens is magical. Christmas is dazzling. Spring is like a kiss from God and fall, sigh. . . fall with its crisp air and bright oranges and reds from street to street is the answer to what you’ve been looking for in that perfect pumpkin spice latte, but were never able to find in a cup.
But the Fourth of July. The Fourth of July is honestly why I live here. There is something of Heaven in it. It’s a coming together of all the folks with all the opinions to celebrate where we live. . . Together. Like we do. Everyday.
Children decorate everything they own that has wheels or four legs. Grown-ups throw on every red, white, or blue thing they own just so they can jump in on the parade instead of standing on the sidelines. Not that it’s bad to stand on the sidelines, but this is a parade you want to celebrate from the inside looking out. You never really want to be on the outside looking in when it comes to Central Gardens. Once you’ve lived here, everywhere else really does seem a bit sleepy.
It’s funny, we’ve been told our whole lives to love our neighbor as ourselves. The idea seems vague and hard to nail down, like an amoeba. How? When? Who even is my neighbor? Then it’s mid-summer again and you’re on Carr Avenue again and you see the Sanders, the Brubakers, the Nashes, the Williams, and those people in the blue house who always wave no matter what type of hat you’re wearing at the moment. Suddenly, it just comes and you find yourself loving your neighbor. Wishing you saw your neighbor more. Wondering if they wear that shirt with the firecrackers on it any other day of the year.
Suddenly, you realize that there is a happiness in that “Love your neighbor” thing that seemed like a burden when it was an amoeba. But now, at the parade when you are not just celebrating with your neighbors, but you are actually celebrating that you are neighbors, you find you love them. You get the feeling they love you too. And there’s a New Orleans jazz band playing in the background to solidify the moment.
This is Central Gardens. This is what I like most about it. This is why anyone, man or beast, should tip his hat to it. <>
Candace Echols is a Central Gardens resident, wife and mother of five. Her article appears here as part of StoryBoard’s Page One Writing Workshops. https://storyboardmemphis.org/product/page-one-saturday-writing-workshops/
Puppy in top hat from a Rawpixel image