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Elvis was born on this day. Bowie was born on this day.

On this day I think of Mark.

Priscilla thinks that had he lived, Elvis might have traded in his rock-n-roll cred for the pulpit. This morning I watched her on the Today Show as she chatted with Matt Lauer from a room in Graceland. I have no doubt this conversation played out across several networks--Elvis is always a draw on these early January post-holiday mornings--and while it might be fun to fixate on her musings about her dead ex-husband's potential life path, I find myself mired in contemplation of her surroundings. The backdrop, that room trapped in 1977, has been with me all day long. I tell my husband about it, about Priscilla and the news show and the room that's trapped in time, and he reminds me that the South likes to cling to the past, that it is, after all, obsessed with reenactments of battles in a war lost (or won, if, like me, you consider the freedom of your ancestors a pretty good outcome, even if it was followed by years of systemic continued oppression).

I'm reminded of my childhood, of hearing Elvis' music on the popular radio stations and knowing that he was the King because society told me so. I remember the day that he died and how sad the whole world seemed about his inability to face his future. Today I think of Priscilla in that room, and she becomes the emblem of that song Elvis sang so poignantly, the one that calls this crippled chunk of the still-United States to "look away." A still beautiful, but aging, woman imagines a glorious future for that which has already gone on: she encourages us to dream about might have been.

Bowie, on the other hand, is still alive and kicking, still looking ahead. My nostalgic memories of him propel me to visions of a future entirely at odds with the themes that shape the culture in which I grew up and still live. I didn't really get who Ziggy was when I was young--he was a not-man from the stars, subversive, different, playful, mournful--but today I think of him as but one stop along this mad journey into what could be, Bowie's role in music and culture as one of pushing past boundaries. He seems so solid and stable today--long term marriage, wildly successful career. I see him as living the future now.

I suppose it's clear that I'm more inclined toward the Bowie half, but as I grow older I become increasingly aware of the lure of tradition and of the seduction of might have been. My son Mark wasn't born today, but today, as every day, I think of his future. Born in and likely to be raised in this part of the world that favors Elvis and tradition. Born to and reared by parents who embrace sensibilities closer to Bowie's, having been molded and shaped ourselves in his cultural moment. I think about Mark's future and realize that now, at age 40, I've hit the tipping point of my own life, that I'm no longer looking toward my own future but wondering how my past will shape his.

Somewhere in all this tangle of thoughts about things long past and distant futures, I look at my surroundings, the collected detritus that physically defines my life, and I see that one day my son may be in Priscilla's role. Not being interviewed by the next Matt Lauer--I have no such pretensions--but seated in a room stopped in time, sifting through the objects of my adulthood and his childhood days, and wondering what I'd be doing at just that moment were I still around.

This post was written in response to the Week 9 topic for [ profile] therealljidol.

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