Memphis’ Peabody Hotel Will Always Be My Second Home
A hotel for the generations.
I can never go back to my childhood home, but I can always check-in to The Peabody Hotel. Throughout my nomadic life, I have found a constant living room in its lobby. When I look up, I see the same ornate inlaid wood beams and colored glass overhead that I did the first time I walked through as a kindergartener about to see the famous ducks march into the flower-crowned travertine fountain. When guests push the button for the Skyway in the elevator, I wonder what it must have been like for my grandmother to walk into that same ballroom for dances in the 1930s—escapes from a transient, red dirt poor upbringing between North Mississippi and Memphis. When I sit with her daughter, my mother, sipping gin and tonics on the sofas near the bar she tells me stories of my then twenty-something parents and their friends convening for a drink there after dancing at the now-gone Circle Bar—my mother in a sequin dress clattering across the floor in high heels.
I remember all those stories, all those moments, again when I see the duck-bordered notepad at my desk; the three duck-sculpted soaps that sit in my medicine cabinet; the duck-topped plastic swizzle stick in the bottom of my tote bag.
Now as a travel editor, the routes of my road expeditions often lead me and my station wagon back to its doors. I still love to wander the open mezzanine level. I’ll walk past the Wes Anderson-esque line of rotary telephone booths to a room filled with old photos, vintage embroidered linens, Elvis Presley’s first record contract printed on Peabody stationery. I try to place my family within the hotel’s now 150-year-history, one filled with golden and blue day, closures and grand reopenings. Sometimes I stick around to watch the march of the ducks from overhead. New kindergartners crouch along the red carpet, and I wonder if someday they’ll find themselves standing where I am in 25 years or if someday I’ll bring my own kindergartner to watch the mallards hop into the fountain. What I do know: that neon red sign that electrifies The Peabody name over the skyline will always feel just as comforting as any porch light left on for me.