It’s raining in Montgomery. The Hank Williams statue downtown is getting his picture taken by tourists.
Teens huddle at the statue and holler, “War Eagle!” for a camera.
I visited Hank’s grave yesterday. A high-school choral group was there. They sang a rendition of “I Saw the Light” for a kid holding a cellphone.
I met a boy at the grave, too. He had Down syndrome. He spoke with labored tongue.
The man who was with him was older, white-haired. He was friendly. He told me about the boy.
“His mama was a friend of my sister,” the man said. “She just up and got rid of him. I told that judge he needed to give me and my wife that baby, we wanted to love him.”
I should’ve asked more questions. But it was their day out together.
Good barbecue isn’t as easy to find as you’d think in this town. At least not according to Laquina, a hotel maid.
Laquina made suggestions for lunch.
“There’s Dreamland barbecue, downtown, but it ain’t great, too dry. Go to K&J Rib Shack. They got good ribs.”
Laquina is raising three kids with her mother’s help. The father of her children is in a correctional facility. Her oldest is going deaf.
Tonight, she’s got choir practice.
“I take my oldest to choir so he learn all them good songs before his hearing is gone.”
She’s right about K&J Rib Shack. The fare is fall-off-the-bone good.
Only three miles away—one hundred years ago—Nat King Cole was born. Today, Nat has a colorful painted mural on Maxwell Boulevard.
I visited the mural. I met a young couple there. College age. We endured the light rain together, admiring art.
They told me they’re photographers.
“Mostly, we do weddings,” the girl said. “Which is funny, ‘cause we haven’t had an actual wedding of our own.”
There’s a story here. Last year, they planned their big day, and were going to pay for the shindig themselves. They scheduled a florist, a caterer, a preacher, a band.
Her parents refused to attend because they were against the marriage.
“So we called it off,” says the girl. “We did a courthouse ceremony. We saved our money, put it into savings.”
They sank their nest egg into photography equipment. Business is booming.
She touched her belly. They just found out they have a tiny photographer on the way.
Tonight, my wife and I ate an early dinner. I visited the Hank statue again before heading to the hotel. Hank didn’t notice me. His bronze face was too busy watching the city.
I’ll bet he sees a lot from where he stands. The whole world, maybe. I’ll bet he sees lots of people who think they’ve been forgotten. People who wonder if anyone sees them at all.
People like Laquina—working her knuckles raw for a son who’s losing his hearing. Or young couples with parents who are against them.
Or a boy with Down syndrome. A child who wore a big smile while observing the tombstone of an American icon.
Earlier, that boy asked me which Hank Williams song was my favorite. You’ve never seen a more radiant child, his face lit up the rainy day like a sunrise.
“That’s easy,” I said. “‘I Saw the Light.’”
“Why?” he asked.
Because today in Montgomery, I saw it bright and clear, inside all kinds of people.