*Before you comment “this is long” or “what’s your point” or even the rude ”gee, you must like to hear yourself talk” – this is long and my point is I want to express some thoughts.
So please scroll on by if not interested – won’t hurt my feelings …
Childhoods vary as much as people themselves. For many of us, a trip down memory lane is a sweet stroll. For others, the journey is a more treacherous trek. Some tell tales dotted with precious rememberings of a happy carefree time. Some face a more sinister story laced with insecurity and sadness and shaming.
How much does the past shape us? Is the less than idealistic an indicator of what is to come? In the case of Elvis, how much did his formative years impact his adulthood? We know of his generous nature, his acts of compassion and kindness towards those in difficulty. Those stories are legion and make up part of the beauty of Presley. He possessed a tender heart and a gentle spirit that overflowed with care for those around him, whether friend or family, famous or common. But why?
Was it solely his memory of doing without? Was it the images ingrained of others in need during the intense poverty stricken years or his own? Was it the impression made by acts of kindness bestowed upon his family? Surely there had to be some instances where that was the case. Times were tough, tougher than most of us can imagine but if it was all he knew, did he just accept it as the way things were while dreaming of a “better land”?
Like the story (silly, I know) of the worm living in the jalapeño plant – sweetest place ever. But it was his frame of reference. Some times only after escaping from trials & hardships do you realize the intensity of the situation. The other side brings clarity. Not nearly the same, but growing up in Houston I’ve had people say to me “how did you stand the heat and humidity?” It simply was, never questioned it until long after I left.
Having a mother’s heart, I would imagine Gladys attempted to shield Elvis from dealing with grown up fears and worries as best she could. Later, especially after he lost her, I’m sure he reflected back on all she had to endure and it surely grieved him. He so wanted to give her an easier life but didn’t get the full opportunity. That reality is sad.
For all their faults and quirks and oddities, of which the Presleys appeared to have many – don’t we all – there is one shining structure that has always stood out. Right or wrong, too over protective or not, Gladys was likely the only person in whom Elvis knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, he had an unconditional love.
I’m not including his daughter as she was just a child. But imagine the strain of never knowing if you are loved and admired and cared for solely for yourself and no other agenda, no other purpose, no other reason. If he couldn’t sing a note and had spent the next 40 years driving a truck, his mother’s care for him would have never waivered. It’s how it should be. Sadly though, it often isn’t that way.
We read of his later relationships and opinions are mixed. The teams choose sides and are strong. It’s all speculation because we don’t know with certainty, but he did. I’m sure realizations hurt. Was he always searching for that connection or had he come to accept the way things were?
Please don’t tell me to let him rest in peace. Discussing opinions and thoughts don’t disturb his eternal slumber. It’s because we love and care so much for this man that we want to analyze and understand him better, all aspects, good and bad. Like his mother’s devotion, connected fans long to know the complete Elvis Presley as much as possible. The casual fan only wants the feel good Elvis.
There is no need to dwell on the negative but whitewashing the truth doesn’t erase the original canvas offering. The most ardent admirers can know certitude and still love, and can separate sensationalism from serious discussion without being sucked down rabbit holes into the abyss. Every minute detail need not be divulged but you can achieve a respectful balance. Truth will never change my feelings for this man.
So where I’m going with this may be up for debate. I’m reflecting on how people in general are consciously and subconsciously influenced and as in most discussions, my thoughts turn toward Elvis. As perfect and flawed, grand and defective, magnificent and fallacious, he was a dichotomy of the past and present – a blend of his DNA and his circumstances who bled red and shined like gold.
We speak of nature and nurture, of love overcoming all situations. There was a time I leaned that way when I thought in a more immature manner. I don’t believe love is the great healer of all things as I once did. It influences incredibly and is strongly necessary but that nature within is powerful too. The Presley and Smith genes, historically, were troubled. Bleak times enhanced their difficulties. Overall, Elvis did the best he could given the innate blend of all that possessed him. He never blamed his weaknesses on his only child impoverished upbringing.
I admire his generous spirit, his beautiful heart and his gorgeous soul. He gave much more than he ever received and I for one, am grateful to have lived when he lived. His flaws are his flaws. My feelings are my feelings. Neither can be swayed by discussion. The more I learn, the more I desire to know. The more I know, the better I understand. The better I understand, the more I love him. The more I love him, the greater my desire to learn.
Elvis was far from perfect and to suggest otherwise is a huge disservice. The “he’s so gorgeous” crowd is right but so is the “he had issues” crowd. Keeping in mind the man, the person, the image and entertainer is healthy. Those that deify him, and there are many, are wrong. He’d tell you so. So as we discuss and commend, let’s keep the total Presley perspective in view. We never walked in his shoes but it’s oh so lovely to travel close behind.