Mark Ballard

Driving down memory lane, creating new memories as I go

SPECIAL TO THE TELEGRAPHMark Ballard and his sister Denise attend Mark’s recent art show, “The Mark of a Pencil,” at Macon Arts Alliance.
SPECIAL TO THE TELEGRAPHMark Ballard and his sister Denise attend Mark’s recent art show, “The Mark of a Pencil,” at Macon Arts Alliance.

Being in the presence of someone or something from our past has the power to awaken memories that have long been tucked away. My one-man art show, “The Mark of a Pencil” opened last Friday night at the Gallery at Macon Arts Alliance and provided many opportunities for memories.

My sister Denise decided to come for the weekend to attend the opening. An avid supporter of mine since childhood, she was thrilled to be a part of my art showing. Denise and I had a wonderful childhood with the greatest parents in a small neighborhood where everyone knew everyone else. Love and laughter always surrounded us as many memories were made.

We decided to go to the neighborhood where we grew up to visit one of Mother’s dear friends who still lives there. Driving through the streets where we lived and played flooded both of us with wonderful memories.

“Do you remember when ...” began every sentence and each story triggered another one. We turned into small children again, barely taking a second to catch our breath.

Driving down the streets, I noticed the trees that were once small had since formed lush canopies over most of the homes. I pointed to a hill where I wrecked my bicycle as a boy and then to the scar I still have to prove it.

When we arrived at the house in which we grew up, the front yard seemed smaller and the driveway not quite as steep. We brought the car to a stop to take it all in. We became quiet allowing memories to come to the surface.

Because of the art show and the people in attendance, the weekend was extra special to me. However, some of the key players in my life weren’t there. The little boy in me yearned to have his parents attend to see what their middle-aged son had accomplished. Unfortunately, that was not to be because they passed away years ago.

Another person I wished could have been there was my private art teacher, Houser Smith. I spent every Tuesday afternoon with him from third grade to high school graduation. My artwork today is a culmination of the vast amount of knowledge and skills he shared with me. I could just see Houser and my parents standing together with big smiles on their faces had they been able to attend.

I did have the privilege of giving my third grade teacher, Miss Coleman, a private showing of my recent artwork. Words can’t begin to describe how one feels to be an adult in the presence of their favorite grammar school teacher -- especially one who had such a positive influence on me. Miss Coleman studied every detail of my drawings -- as you would expect a teacher to. After her raving review, I jumped on cloud nine for a ride.

Facebook has been an extremely effective tool for me. I’ve been able to reach people with my columns and artwork I could have never imagined I would. A lady from another state befriended me several years ago. We met in person when she and a group of her friends drove more than six hours to visit Macon and see my drawings.

One drawing in particular captured her attention. It was a cheerful bluebird that she had taken a photo of in her garden. It had caught my attention on her Facebook page and she graciously allowed me to use it as a subject in one of my drawings. Meeting her and her group was very special to me. I hated for the weekend to end.

Before my sister left, we decided to meet for breakfast. When the waitress approached us to take our order, Denise said she would be having the senior stack of pancakes.

“What’s that?” I asked Denise.

“You have to be 55 or older,” she replied.

The waitress then asked if I wanted the same thing. “No,” I answered. “I’m not 55!”

“But you’re close enough,” my sister gleefully added. I looked at the waitress without blinking an eye and said, “I’ll take the regular stack!”

Isn’t that what life is all about? Being able to cherish the memories from our past while continuing to make new ones each day. Sometimes I find myself remembering parts of my childhood “bigger” than they probably were. I suppose that comes from experiencing something with a child’s mind and then remembering it as an adult. What I do know is that I’m sure I’ll remember this weekend as really big because that’s how special it was for me! Thank you to everyone who helped me create this special memory.


“The Mark of a Pencil”: Mark’s first one-man art show in 25 years is on display through Aug. 28 at the Macon Arts Gallery, 486 First St. Gallery hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Free.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email; follow him at; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.