Wrecking the kitchen. That’s what my wife says, when Daddy does the cooking. I’ll admit to using a lot of pots and pans. She gets a rare break from making dinner, so she does her best to hold her tongue. She sews masks at the kitchen table, she’s made a few hundred now for local school kids. She hasn’t sold one yet, some great local folks have donated piles of fabric, and she sews them for free. The Discount Retail sewing machine has held up pretty well. A lame gift from her practical spouse, I wasn’t sure it would see much use. Cautious and wary at first, like her husband, she’s not big on reading directions. We celebrated discoveries. It’s got a backstitch lever!!
She pushes it lately, mashing the chintzy treadle switch like a teenage driver on a gas pedal. The mechanical whir of high speed sewing gets looks from the kids. Turn it down, Mama, it’s too loud. I expect to see the junior machine give up the ghost any day now, in a cloud of foul smelling electrical smoke, with just a hint of melted plastic. It should be interesting, little Ollie’s kindergarten class is learning about fire safety this week. Something to look forward to. She’s definitely ready to sew at the next level. Maybe Santa will bring her an upgrade for virtual Christmas this year.
We enjoy our time together, no matter how hectic. Alexa plays in the background, she’s not my favorite DJ, but tonight she’s spinning some classic rock. Each song triggers stories the way that a picture might, it’s been a sweet stroll down memory lane. I’m surprised at the variety of destinations.
‘Seasons In The Sun’ by Terry Jacks. The first song that ever made me cry. An inquisitive 7 year old, my throat would lump up every time it played on the radio. All of the old Country songs were pretty rough, with lots of drinking, cheating and leaving. Dying was taking it up a notch, saying Goodbye to everyone that you love. The singer has the perfect sad voice, like he’s almost choking up, with every line.
I remember lying in my little twin bed, staring at the dark windows, pondering the wonders of Creation.
I still do, on occasion, but I have a way better bed now. King size.
‘Fire On High’ by ELO. If you live around here, this song takes you right where it took me. Funtown. The Astrosphere carnival ride. I think it was 5th grade, when six or eight of us piled into the back of a pickup truck to get dropped off at the amusement park in Saco. The Astrosphere is a domed in Scrambler ride, with a lightshow, and cranking music. I made a valiant effort to kiss Julie Parker while slinging around at full speed during the stomach wrenching finale. I shouldn’t have waited so long, but I was a little nervous. She was a good sport about the whole ordeal.
‘We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions’ by Queen. Takes me to Camp Hinds, with the Boy Scouts. My brothers were the campers, I wasn’t quite old enough. I’d never miss a ride, the drop off and pick up, in our old Volkswagen Beetle. We went back midweek for a family campfire night. I remember the young faces clearly, Craig Allen, David Gray, Blaine Clay, and a bunch more. I have no idea why this song brings me there, but it never fails.
I’m at kind of a classic age myself, if you haven’t factored that out already.
‘Start Me Up’ by the Rolling Stones. Roller skating at Happy Wheels, in Westbrook. Tagging along with big brother Edward, and a few of his Bar Mills pals. Ed wasn’t real big, built like a runner, but he had a double helping of scrappy. Our Irish blood, perhaps. Some Scarborough kid gave him the stink eye during this song, and it was on. Mick was still belting it out when we were asked to leave. Kicked out for life, again. Mark Fields had a carful ahead of us, and we would attempt a circus clown fire drill at the next intersection. It went sour halfway through, but we still made a spectacle. Good times.
‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ by Journey. Mr. Porter’s wood shop class in high school. He was a cool teacher, music would play in the work area. Good music. Unfortunately, I don’t remember a lot about his class, beyond this particular song.
‘Jump’ by Van Halen. I had to throw this in, a tribute to the memory of Eddie Van Halen. As for the band, I was never a big fan, but I respect Eddie’s supernatural guitar skills. The goofy grin, he was easy to like. This brings me back to the high school as well, drafting class this time. I sat behind older kids Earl Long and Kris O’Malley. She was a huge VH fan, and the 1984 album had just come out. ‘Jump’ was the big single, played almost steadily over the popular rock stations. Kris was livid, claiming that other songs on the album were far superior. I see the disgusted look on her face every time I hear the song.
‘One Way Or Another’ by Blondie. I had her poster on my bedroom wall. I have no idea why, but this one makes me think of Victor Cipriano. He stayed with us for a while, he and brother Corey were on the school wrestling team. I was a few years younger, and small for my age. We had many impromptu wrestling matches right in Mom’s kitchen. Corey was good, undefeated one year, but Dad would always tie him up in knots. He would get so mad, but it made him try harder, I think. I used to be a test dummy, for Corey and Victor to practice with. They took it easy on me, so I’d keep coming back for more. I paid attention. One fine afternoon sparring with Victor, he was having trouble pinning me. He outweighed me by quite a bit and he was frustrated. He changed his hold and I was ready for him. Off guard, I surprised him by squirming out of his grip, and we both flipped over. With Corey and Mom watching, by chance, I pinned him. Fair and square. I felt like Andre the Giant. I see his red straining face whenever I hear this song.
‘Lookin’ Out My Back Door’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival. This one was our travelling song on family trips to North Carolina, visiting brother Edward. A trek we took many times over the years, to the point where directions and routes were familiar. Still, Mom always liked to be the navigator, riding shotgun. My seat was usually behind the wheel. Driver gets to run the radio, and my CCR cassette eventually grew on Mom. When I hear this ballad I picture Mom with her sunglasses on, tapping her toe to the opening riff. I’m trying to merge a 27 foot Winnebago into 6 lanes of slow moving traffic in Hartford, Connecticut. Mom is watching her side, telling me I should have room to change lanes. She thinks. But Hurry. No! Wait! Hold on. OK GO! GO! It still makes my stomach sink. A low point of the voyage, but apparently saved on my personal hard drive.
There are a few sad ones, of course. A ton of music that makes me miss my Dad. So many memories.
‘Closing Time’ by Semisonic makes me remember Tammy, my late ex sister in law. I had a job wrap up, in Kentucky, and decided to pop in on Edward before heading back to Maine. I remember being impressed while driving through Charleston, West Virginia. You can almost feel the history. I had to stop and ask for directions at some Carolina convenience stores, a great experience in itself. The accent barrier was thick. I always came away smiling. Ed wasn’t home, when I finally arrived, so I rode into nearby Sanford to get a bite to eat. Tammy happened to work at the first steak house I happened upon. Pretty long odds. I didn’t get to talk to her that night, but she stopped by Ed’s the next day, to say Hey. And How’s your Momma and Daddy? In the Southernmost of accents, I had to really pay attention. I think the song came over her radio, as we briefly talked in the driveway. She mentioned that it was her new favorite. I would never see her again, but this song pulls up that tiny moment of my life. Every time.
The last one is offbeat, and self inflicted.
‘Three Days’ by L7. An all girl punk rock band singing a classic Willie Nelson song. This was the theme of a whole album, ’Twisted Willie’. I have the CD in my car, down between the seats, where I’ll have to fish around for it. Coffee gets spilled on it. I pull it out once a week or so, giving Pandora a break, and taking myself back in time. Corey was a talker. Intense, when he was on point, it was hard to get a word in edgewise. I played my new CD for him when he stopped to visit one evening. It might have been a cassette. He went back to talking right away but this particular track made him stop. Not for long, but he paused, and commented that it was pretty good. He went back to talking. I was leaving soon for a job in California, and he was concerned that I might never return. I assured him that Maine would always be my home, and I had a young daughter, I’d be flying home every few weeks to visit. He wasn’t convinced, and we ended up arguing about it. That was pretty rare, for us. He left with hard feelings, and I never saw him again. You can’t fix that stuff, you have to live with it. This song is one of my faithful links. That sticky CD will always be within reach. It’s another one of those sad country ballads. Fitting.
Three days I dread to see arrive.
Three days I hate to be alive.
Three days filled with tears and sorrow.
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
There are three days I know I will be blue.
Three days I’ll dream of you.
It does no good to wish these days to end
‘cause the same three days start over again.
That’s enough for today, thanks for sharing these little parts of my life. Pieces of me.
I’d sure hate to live in a World without music.
Every song should take you somewhere.