Crazy Like an Elephant in Tennessee

Lucky Stop Gas Station in Crossville, Tennessee, Exit 311 on I-40. I headed west to revisit my heart in Memphis for my Bartlett High School 50th reunion. Who knew—50 years doesn’t matter at all.

I just had an ethereal trip to my 50th high school reunion. I drove from Raleigh across North Carolina across Tennessee to Memphis. When I crossed the border into Tennessee, I had a memory surge of my childhood in Nashville. I attended junior high and high school further west in Memphis and completed a bit of college at Memphis State. Then I returned to Memphis years later after living in Australia, Singapore, Baltimore, and completed my college degree at 45ish, reconnecting with my dearest friend Brenda and her son John, who loves to boogie and dances with me anywhere. Grief flooded my heart as I paused for a potty break at the Tennessee-flagged rest stop. I walked the parched lawn and thought of my high school friends who had died. I remembered my parents Earl and Ruth, my sister Mary, and her son Matthew, who were all deceased. I started talking to my sister and my parents—because I am crazy and I embrace it. I asked them if there was a heaven and if I would see them there. “Yes, you will be with us, but heaven isn’t like all bizarre gold streets and a gatekeeper. It’s easier and smoother. Sort of like now. Like how we’re just with you.” Of course, I doubted that this voice (or voices) was my sister, mother, father. “Show me a sign that you’re here and that I’m supposed to be going to Memphis.” Mary said, “Go over there by that tree. Hug it. Turn left and look down.” And there, of course, was a/their/my four-leaf clover.

I stopped again near Crossville for a pee break, choosing the kind of funky looking gas station over the spiffy Exxon. In the toilet there was a sign that bragged about the store’s freshly popped popcorn which of course is my favorite food. A sign right? Then I met Jignesh, who was tending the register and beaming joy. He was named after Ganesh, the mover of obstacles. The elephant is my totem. Another sign right?

  Well , then we just struck up a lively conversation about elephants and four-leaf clovers and popcorn. “Yes, my logo is a four-leaf clover, ” he said as he pointed to a once live, now pressed one on the countertop. “What amazing energy you have,” he said. “I am so glad you chose my gas station today.” “I’m so glad that I did as well.” I smiled. We obviously knew each other from many past lifetimes. We started talking about food, other than popcorn. Delicious Indian and Southern vegetable concoctions that had some similarities. Okra was a hit. I mentioned the recipes in my recent memoir and he said he would like to read my life. I mean book. So I gave him one.

I asked him to text me a recipe. “Go get a big bag of popcorn,” he insisted. As I left, snack in hand, I took some pics of four-leaf logos and Ganesh. My text pinged. From India, NYC, Nashville, to Crossville, Jignesh now keeps bees that enjoy the plateau. And his customers come back again and again, for the popcorn and for his wisdom. “Most of the time we think we decide everything in our life, but we don’t—our destiny decides.” I’m glad my destiny crossed yours, Jignesh.

Ganesh is the Hindu God who removes obstacles, providing success and prosperity. A shaman, after a lot of spiritual chanting and sharing special smoke, revealed to me that my totem was an elephant. (I really hated that news at first because well, elephants are big.) Elephants are strong and dependable. I needed strong, brave, big for this trip to Tennessee. Other words that popped up in my Google search included: wisdom, vitality, loyalty, majesty, nobility. Hey, I could get into elephants—sounds queenly.

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