But none of these things - the flowers, the wrought iron, the mansions and their doors, the re-enactors - none of these things turned out to be the most memorable part of the trip.
Last year when we were in Savannah
we met a man, who spent many of his days in the park, offering assistance to tourists who needed help taking a group photo. He was polite, upbeat, funny and had a keen sense of where the line between "helpful" and "intrusive" was. He never crossed the
line. Sometimes people gave him a few bucks for his efforts. Sometimes not. It didn't seem to make much difference to him one way or the other. We let him take our picture. We had someone else take a picture of the three of us - Cindy, me
and Mr. Savannah.
When we came back to Savannah this year we didn't see Mr. S in the park the first few days we were there. Had he moved away? Was he sick?
No, he was OK and still holding court.
When we saw him this time,
we addressed him as Mr. Savannah and said we remembered him from last Spring and were happy to see he was OK. He was quite pleased that we had remembered him at all.
Then the strange and wonderful part happened:
He was genuinely perplexed as
to why we would call him "Mr. Savannah." I explained that I thought he was a great ambassador for the city and embodied many of the qualities that made Savannah the place that it was: friendly, open. light-hearted and willing to help. He, on the
other hand, thought of himself just as a guy in the park and that he really didn't merit such an honorific. After awhile, he had me stop calling him Mr. Savannah and asked that I just call him by his given name. So, I did. He seemed more
comfortable with that but I still called him Mr. Savannah once in a while. He never really objected.
We saw him just about every day we were in Savannah. He told us about himself and his family. About his plans for the future.
He introduced us to some of the regulars in the park. One of his particular friends (they both quite frequently made it known to us that they were most definitely NOT a couple) was a woman who wove palm fronds into what people in the area call "Savannah Roses".
She was pretty good at. She also had a lovely singing voice and would on occasion sing a few lines as the mood struck. Periodically she would also announce to the tourists in the park,"It's a beautiful day. I'm happy. You all don't seem that happy.
You should at least be as happy as me." She had a point.
The tempation is to call Mr. Savannah and The Rose Queen the happiest people we met. While they almost certainly were, I don't want to romanticize their situations. There were more
than a few times when both of them were obviously not so happy. They didn't need me or anyone else to tell them that they were living what lots of people would view as "marginal" lives. But in terms of appreciating what they had and being able to deal
with whatever, good or bad, they were presented with on any given day - we should all be so lucky.
So, my friends, thanks. See you next Spring.