“Okay I really need to get some studying done”, I thought to myself. I had a somewhat productive morning, picking up some laundry off my bedroom floor (I call it cleaning). My intentions for the weekend were not big since I had just treated myself to some sassy new red highlights for my hair (no I am not trying to cover up my aging head), but I knew I had to get a little classwork done. So with all the reserve I could muster, I pulled on some of my favorite comfy denim jeans and headed off to my favorite people watching/studying spot, Caribou Coffee in Buckhead. As I was puttering (speeding) down GA 400 in my ever trustworthy maroon Saturn. I started thinking about all the places I still had not experienced in Atlanta yet. One place that popped into my mind was Oakland Cemetery. Ok, before you start hitting the “delete” button as my Facebook friend or thinking Kristin needs to take some more medication, let me give you a brief explanation why. I enjoy history thoroughly and love taking pictures. To me old historical places like Oakland or Bonaventure in Savannah, give a small snapshot into the people who have shaped our cities and lives as we know it today and to gain an appreciate of what the city is and will be. I hope with this brief explanation, you will understand why I paid my 50 cent toll and proceeded down to the southern part of Atlanta.
I arrived to Oakland noting the stark contrast of the old brick gate against the steel high-rise buildings in the skyline and the rumbling of a train in the short distance. I had no idea of what I was going to see and had some second thoughts as the nipply cold January air pricked through the little holes on my sweater (see how prepared I was). I smiled and gave some passing by visitors walking their little black spaniel a warm hello and started my little journey. As I started down some of the paved brick paths, I began to see purpose all of all the folks who had once called Atlanta home in their earthly life, some who will forever be in the annals of history and some whose lives will only be known in the family history. With that thought, my imagination began to ponder over the lives of a handful of people who impressed me as I wandered quietly along on the pavement and browned winter grass.
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”, a quote that will be forever associated with Atlanta and its beloved citizen and author, Margaret Mitchell (Marsh). Although we will never know if Rhett had ever gave a damn about Scarlett, Margaret’s ambitious storytelling captured the sentiments of a bygone era, the hearts of a city still healing from the ravages of war, and the imaginations of future readers who have never or will experience a token of this time period. On an interesting side note, on a trip the Margaret Mitchell house the tour guide had mentioned that the character of Scarlett was thought to have been based on Margaret’s grandmother who grew up during the Reconstruction period and was a shrewd/selfish businesswoman who was prone to consumption of spirits. Interesting, how one person’s history enabled another person to make history. Even though, Margaret will always be known for her novel, her everyday life changed the regular citizens of this southern city. The novelist involved herself heavily in charity work at Grady Memorial Hospital and a major non-profit organization for disadvantaged children of Atlanta, Sheltering Arms.
My second stop a along the way was to a tiny tombstone of Maynard Jackson. Mr. Jackson was Atlanta’s first African-American mayor, quite an accomplishment and redemption for a state who once treated its people unequally and at times brutally simply for the color of their skin. I honestly did not know much about what he accomplished for Atlanta until I read more about his tenure his mayor. Under his tenure, the modernatizaion of what is now Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport occured , he also helped secure funds for the city’s future public transit system, and set the groundwork for Atlanta to host the 1996 Olympics.
After, I had viewed these two prominent Atlantians, I decided to continue my adventure in my car…48 acres is a bit much to cover on a cold Saturday morning. As I drove around I noticed about a couple of acres of symmetrical marble stones no more than a foot high lining the hills. I stopped the car to further look at them. This section was where all the soldiers, both Union and Confederate, had been laid to rest after the Battle of Atlanta. It is hard to fathom that these young men, many in their teens and early twenties, sacrificed their life for a way a of life they believed in (whether it was right or wrong). Humbling, to think almost two centuries ago our country was at war with itself, brother against brother, an issue that you tend to think happens overseas, not within the peaceful confines of this nation.
My last little stop was outside the visitors center. A very simple family plot for Mr. Claude Buchanan. Mr. Buchanan lived a life well into his 80s. I am pretty sure a man who had experienced eight decades of life delighted in hours of adventures with his childhood friends, fell in love with the woman of his dreams, and expressed his the love for his wife through their offspring. Mr. Buchanan also experienced the unimaginable heartache of losing his “only son” in the 1930s to only God knows what. My heart who could only dream of the sadness that he must have felt standing over that grave knowing his son will never experience the joys that God privileged his life to and to later stand in that same area a few years later to bury his wife. I don’t know how he lived his life or if he has family still in Atlanta. But, the simple epitaph on his stone said spoke volumes, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Although you will not see Mr. Buchanan’s name next to Margaret’s or Maynard’s name in history books, but he did help write the history of his family, his friends, and colleagues.
Although this was a pretty random Saturday experience, it makes you realize how much my life or yours can shape history. The majority of us will never have our names in lights and people will not stop and gawk just because of who were are and what we do, but that is alright. However, what we do with our lives and how we treat others matters. Thank you Margaret for inspiring imaginations, Maynard for overcoming obstacles, soldiers for their ultimate sacrifice, and Mr. Buchanan for just being reminding me to just be myself.