Dreaming of Harbor Town

by C.J. Kirkland

On the eve celebrating Halloween, hundreds of children and their guardians descend upon our neighborhood to Trick-or-treat in what they deem is a safe, friendly area whose residents will have a surplus of candy to hand out. They come from “across the bridge”- and some aren’t too happy about that. Most embrace it.
When the warm sun broke through the unseasonably cold streak here in Memphis last Sunday a caravan of cars drove “across the bridge” and many of them parked in one of the public lots adjacent to the Mississippi River Trail. Families tumbled out of their older model Buicks and Chevrolets and walked along the river, looking across the street at the million dollar homes with the multi-million dollar views that line the entrances to our neighborhood. I remember that walk, accompanied by the thought that maybe one day I would call this place home.
My first trip to Memphis was the result of my husband and I negotiating a deal with his cousin to take over the car payments on a Nissan 240sx and drive it back to Los Angeles, where we had been without reliable transportation for several months. We scraped together the last of our meager checking account funds (there was no savings account back then) and brought in the New Year on a Southwest flight to BBQ Capital, USA. We landed early morning and by late afternoon I had driven through a neighborhood that became a part of my dreams. I hoped one day to move there. My husband promised me one day we would. And we did.
Our neighborhood is described online as an area that “caters mostly to an affluent, younger crowd.” I’ll agree, for the most part, with that generalization. But that statement describes the “now” and doesn’t offer a back story to the “how”. My husband grew up in poverty (though he didn’t realize it at the time) in a small, segregated Arkansas town less than an hour from Memphis. He would have been one of those children who excitedly crossed the bridge with his grandmother to fill his bag with the best Halloween treats and see how the Other Folks lived. My private school education in the Bahamas masked the true story of my humble home, wherein my grandmother worked several jobs to pay for that privileged learning environment. She cleaned toilets on Saturday and on Monday I sat amongst the offspring of the Who’s Who learning fractions. I would have been one of those children who tumbled out of the car, walked along the river, looked over at the magnificent homes and dreamed.
Sometimes when I’m walking with my son down our pristine streets, past the ponds and ducks that happily inhabit them, I’ll see a young couple heavily engaged in conversation, pointing at the homes and all the beauty that surrounds them. Once in a while our eyes will meet and I smile, knowing deep down that they are doing exactly what I did: dreaming. And I also know deep down that if they work hard, don’t give up and don’t allow humble pasts or difficult presents to dictate their future they won’t have to walk across the bridge anymore - because they’ll live across the bridge.  In this beautiful, picturesque neighborhood I now call home.
C.J. Kirkland is a freelance writer currently based in Memphis, TN.
Call (901) 267-5287 or email cj@cjkirkland.com