Chantal

A Winter Wonderland at Graceland
Chantal helped organize this year's TCE Flash Mob During Elvis Week 2012

I have met so many wonderful people and learned an incredible amount of information about Elvis from the Elvis Insiders forum, so I wanted to share my experience. In the year long process of planning the TCE Flash Mob, I was lucky enough to get to know several of the Insiders. Some would share with me their stories about how they became an Elvis fan. Some had remarkable memories about attending concerts and others of actually meeting Elvis. The fans who were too young to have this privilege had incredible stories of how Elvis touched their lives even 35 years after his passing. I wanted these stories to be shared so they could live on and help keep Elvis' spirit alive. I asked everyone to write their stories and memories down, I compiled them into a booklet and one of my Insider friends did the hard work of copying it for every single Insider who participated in the flash mob during Elvis Week 2012.
 

My Elvis story starts when I was three years old on August 16, 1977, the day of my father's birthday (huge Elvis fan). Some might not believe it, but I do remember that day like an old movie projector playing in my mind. It is one of the earliest memories of my entire life. We were parking the car at a restaurant in a torrential rain storm waiting for it to ease slightly. As we were listening to the car radio, the terrible news was announced and my father froze. I remember chatting away as any lively three-year-old would and my mild mannered father turned in his seat and hushed me. I was stunned into silence as the tears started flowing. My mother at this point was trying to avoid a toddler meltdown and explained to me that my father's favorite singer had just passed away. From then on I would always ask my father about him and would request his music on the rare occasions when it wasn't already playing in our household.

Believe it or not, as a teenager I became a fan of heavy metal, but Elvis was always there in the corner of my mind. I remember one Christmas, under the tree, among my teenager type gifts, I found a VHS tape of the '68 Comeback Special that my mom had ordered specially for me by phone - there was no ShopElvis in the early '90s. My love for Elvis came full circle when I visited Graceland for the first time in 2006 with my husband. The minute I touched those gates, I was overwhelmed with excitement and now Elvis is a part of my every day life.
 
My story is one of a magical experience during a night-time walk up at Birthday Week 2011. I made the trip to Memphis with my long-time friend, Lynelle. Many people left Memphis right after the Proclamation Ceremony on Elvis' birthday due to a forecasted snow storm to hit the next day. During Birthday week, Graceland opens the gates for night time walk ups to the Meditation Garden. For some reason, that little voice in my head said, 'Don't wait until after supper for the night walk-up today.' So we arrived five minutes before the gates were to open. The snow had been gently falling for about 30 minutes.

We stood waiting at the gates for the guard to let us in - five minutes go by, then ten and at 15 minutes after the gates normally open, I've started to panic! Then, out came the guard.
"Y'all waiting for the walk-up?"

Me: "Yes sir we are."

"Well I'm gonna let you five in and then I'm closing the gates right behind you. The ice and snow is a liability. We don't want no one slipping and hurting themselves."

I think he saw my face light up because as I passed him he said in a hushed voice, "Now take your time up there. No one is in any rush."

As we watched the gates close with us standing inside the grounds, the three other women had already run off ahead of us. Lynelle and I took our time walking up the driveway, experimenting with the best way to take our pictures to capture the falling snow and to absorb the serenity and the beauty. Even the traffic noise seemed to have stopped as soon as we walked through those gates. It was like with every step we took, time was stopping and fading away. As we were finishing with our pictures of the manger scene half-way up the driveway, we saw the three women shuffling towards us. They were already on their way out!

We were alone inside of Graceland!

We finally made it to the Meditation garden, and other than three little trails of footprints, everything was covered with a fine dusting of snow. We spent our time meditating and just enjoying the moment. It was so quiet we could hear sounds of the past. I then had the idea of drawing a heart in the dusting of snow and taking a picture. We just absorbed the stillness of the night. It was almost too surreal to register what we were experiencing. We were walking among ghosts of Graceland's past. After what seemed like hours, we started making our way back, pausing to speak a couple words of thanks to the shivering guards who stayed just for us. As we walked down the driveway, with every step we took, it felt like we were taking one step closer to reality. Every step, my jaw dropped just a little more at the thought of what we had just experienced.

When we reached the gates, I turned to Lynelle who had the same look of wonder on her face and I said, "Can you believe that just happened? DID that just happen?!?"

The full reality of it hit me and the tears started flowing - just as the famous Graceland gates closed behind us. It was such a magical experience to be inside the king's favorite place during his favorite time of year - covered in snow.