So you're thinking, that is just too (yawn) interesting. Please tell me more.
But here's the thing.
She might as well have told me she had moved to Never Never Land. Or Camelot. Or Flatland. Or Tatooine. Or Oz.
In my mind, Benton, Kentucky isn't the sort of place that a real person can move to. It doesn't exist in the same universe as say, Chicago, London, and Yellowstone National Park.
When I was growing up, my dad usually took his vacation to paint the house or work on cars. Boring, responsible stuff. But two or three times we took a mythic journey in the green Oldsmobile to visit my brother's family in Benton.
Happy memories. Eating watermelon with my nephews and niece down in the creekbed, so we wouldn't get hopelessly messy. (We did anyway.) Visiting a crazy, colorful, and wonderful assortment of aunts and uncles. Splashing in a washtub outdoors. Picking blackberries. Eating catfish at the Pelican in the Land Between the Lakes. Riding a horse. Lazy summer days and sparkling nights with singing crickets and shooting stars. Shopping in Padukah. Aunt Wid's best-ever bean soup and Aunt Luna’s pies with golden curls of meringue. (Even the names are crazy and colorful.)
And through the years there would be other Benton memories, not all happy. Funerals for many loved ones who died. The day my boyfriend found my college class ring in Kentucky Lake after it had slipped off my finger. Making my wedding dress on the sewing machine from hell, while I stayed with my dad in Benton for a few months. A baby shower my sister-in-law gave for me, where people I didn't even know knit booties and brought gifts. And for funerals, they came with pies and cakes and sandwiches. A neighborly place, Benton.
|Dad with Cousin William's tractor, in Benton|
Benton memories are few and far between, but they are all special, all infused with an other-worldliness, with great sorrow or great joy. Whenever I went to Benton, I left this world behind.
I suspect that we all have mythic places in our lives. Places that loom large in our imaginations. Places we can never quite explain to "outsiders." Sometimes we long to return, as Adam must have longed to return to Eden, but the entrance is barred. The house has been sold. The people have died. The landscape has forever changed.
Most places we've visited, most places we've lived, are stored in our minds, but mythic places are stored in our hearts. We can visit them only in dreams and memories. And yet, no bulldozer or tornado--not even the slow but certain ravages of entropy--can destroy them.
In mythic places, the dead still walk and talk in all their endearing quirkiness. What we felt is more important than the facts. What we remember matters more than what really happened.
|At Dad's house in Benton,|
my brother and sis-in-law with my first baby
And though we can never really return to a mythic place, maybe we don't need to. We carry it with us always--it becomes a part of who we are. And likewise, we become a part of the place, a part of the story.
As King Arthur sings to a boy at the final curtain of Lerner and Lowe's Camelot:
Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment
that was known as Camelot.
We remember, and we share the stories. That is how mythic places live on.