A Love Letter to Memphis: Kelli Cook

A Love Letter to Memphis: Kelli Cook

Dear Memphis,

Our love has always been a complicated love.

I came as a toddler, then left shortly thereafter to try my luck with another. I came back again and stayed awhile. I came back to you as a college graduate, then decided there was more to explore.

I tried my luck with some other loves, some other homes, but nothing compared to you. Every time I thought our love affair was over, you would always lure me back.

My new “loves” would often ask what made you so special. Well, that was easy.

It’s the way the sun would rise over the mighty Mississippi river as a riverboat makes its way majestically down its waters.

It was a night of dancing, sweating and laughing the night away on one of the world’s most famous streets.

It was the immense pride you feel walking through an old motel highlighting the civil rights heroes who changed the scope of this country.

It’s a “hey baby” when you walk into a soul food restaurant. A “hey mane!” when you see an old friend.

You and I always had our own way of talking, showing each other love. But maybe our love goes much deeper than that.

Maybe it’s something ingrained in me.

Maybe what I love is the same thing that drew my grandparents, Jerome and Agnes, out of the rural counties of Mississippi and into your loving arms. Maybe those gorgeous massive trees that turned into a golden autumn wonderland were too much to ignore.

Or the hypnotic beats blaring out of blues clubs that seemed to speak to their everyday struggles. Maybe you represented the chance for something better.

Jerome and Agnes would soon find each other, marry and eventually become my grandparents. Maybe those two also loved the twist and turns of your love as well.

Nothing about loving you is simple. You always keep me on my toes.

You’re grit and grind, sweet and savory. Hot, sticky summers and ice storms in January.

You’ve taken us to the mountaintop with a single speech, then to the lowest of lows with a single bullet.

Cotton festivals and auction blocks.

Sweet tea and a cold craft beer on Beale.

You’re Tigers and Grizzlies battling on the hardwood, plus sweet little ducks waddling about in a posh hotel.

A grand pyramid welcomes guests from the west, but it’s a shotgun house in South Memphis that housed a future queen.

Thank you for Aretha and all your other lovers who became known worldwide on a first name basis.

Elvis.

B.B.

Penny.

Like I said, you and I have a complicated love. But it’s always love. And don’t you ever forget it.

Love always “mane,”

Kelli Cook

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