When I’m feeling blue, I watch a Hallmark movie.They are satisfying and predictable. You know there will be a chance meeting, or a combative meeting, (verbal wit and cleverness) or an arranged meeting by some well-meaning friend or family member. There are always some misunderstandings, some harsh words, but in the end, the couple kisses and we assume a happy-ever-after for them.
Then there are the Lifetime movies. Betrayal, revenge, and sometimes violence. Broken hearts, broken friendships, broken bones. These movies are populated with what my mother used to call, “no-goodniks” out to ruin life for the good guys. Some people watch these movies because they want to see a life that looks worse than theirs. Not me. They make me sad, especially when they mirror the real thing.
Last week was tough, as I worked through the fact that it was the first year of fifty years when I didn’t hear my daughter’s voice on her birthday. It was the first, in what could be the forever of our relationship. The stark reality of separation set in. I rode the wave and held on tight, with a prayer that all storms pass, and there is always a chance to meet when the sea calms.
This shot was taken from the shoreline in Malibu. I remember that visit. I remember the beach walks, and talks, and those moments when things were good between us. We watched one lone surfer, catching a sweet wave. Others behind him hoping the next wave will bring a chance to ride to the shore, balanced, poised, unscathed by the beating surf.
I bought a pair of “good white pants” this spring at DB Designs in Roaring Gap. Over the summer I dribbled blueberry juice in my lap, splashed an entire iced tea down my leg and everywhere else, (no longer welcome in the Atlanta Bread Company Smyrna location) and smeared my butt with road dirt while the trunk door was open. They are great pants and did not disappoint. Each assault on their whiteness came clean in the wash.
Mary’s Mermaids showing off our whites! L-R Ginger, Vicki Maynor, Sandy Sutherland, Mary Mellis
With Charlie Lovett at Bookmarks in Winston-Salem. I later dropped raspberry vinaigrette just short of the napkin and onto the leg of these pants.
My reputation as a spiller went on but I was undaunted. Unless it was raining or tragically gloomy outside, I wore those, (or other) white pants all summer to take full advantage of the short period between Memorial Day and Labor Day during which the whitest of whites is seen as appropriate attire…at least in the world where I was raised.
It may sound silly, but I really like the constraints of limited wearing time between the two holidays. It’s “seasonal” just like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. You wouldn’t wear a pumpkin embellished shirt in May, would you? Or, maybe you would, and therefore fall into the, “I’ll wear what I want, when I want” school of thought.
With Tyler Wilmoth at the Elkin Library. This is when I rubbed my white-panted backside on the car fender while fetching posters from the trunk.
But for me, I’ll go white for three months, and promptly switch back to khakis and black tights on the first Monday in September, for fear of hearing Mother’s words in my head. That exasperated tone I remember so well, stripped of all hope she would ever get the daughter she wanted or expected after all her hard work in the child-rearing department.
I wear white as she would have wanted me to, between Memorial Day and Labor Day. I do it out of respect for her attempts to turn me into a proper lady. And while I do, I’ll work to grant myself forgiveness for all the years I exhibited those same maternal behaviors.
From the big box of endless pictures.
1952 – Topless in Toledo! Can’t believe I found this picture. Can’t believe my mother let me out without a top. I don’t remember my friend, (on the left) but I do believe I was showing a greater degree of modesty!
1950 – Wearing white and practicing my public speaking.
I wrote this early Monday morning. I “let the cookies cool” as Ron Houchin says about first drafts, and went in for edits this afternoon. When it felt good enough to pass on, Melvin read it for his approval. This one passed, barely. I might be willing to recount an evening with airplane bottles of rum stuffed in my shirt to prepare for a concert, but the hub gets last look and sign-off on what goes into print. Essays and memoirs…fiction, too.
Preparing the post I decided to add videos from YouTube, but only if they were clear representations of the scenes I described from memory. They magically popped up on the second key word, and, in the case of that Jewish boy from Long Island, he was exactly as I remembered. Exactly.
I really do love music!
You will rarely see me at one of our local outdoor music events. I have never been to the Blue Ridge Music Center, except for a quick run-through with my friend Martha on a sunny afternoon Parkway drive.
You probably won’t see me at the indoor music events, either. Maybe a Camerata or the Symphony, but not the mountain roots music so prevalent in town. It’s just not a draw for me. It isn’t connected to anything I know.
And yet, I really do love music! Singing around the house is the norm. Lyrics embed in my mind and I’m compelled to vocalize. Always harmony. Especially strong with twangy, country duets like Love Can Build a Bridge by the Judds, or anything from the Eagles or Doobie Brothers. The draw for me is the memory it provokes. I like music that takes me on a ride back in time.
Walking through a store the other day, I caught the tune playing on the stereo in the background. I had to force myself from diving into the harmony with Billy Joel singing Piano Man. “And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar, and say man, what are you doing here?” But, I wouldn’t pay money to see Billy Joel in concert. The 2018 Billy Joel is not what I want running through my memory. Still a dynamic performer, yet not the Billy Joel I remember performing “Always a Woman to Me” on Saturday Night Live, some smoky night in 1979.
I watched from my spot on the carpet at Mary and Steve’s apartment in Westerville, Ohio. Our group met there weekly as the last stop of the evening, the place to gather with a date, after a date, or as the first venture out for the day. We watched Saturday Night Live together, our whole crew snugged into a sofa and two chairs, with the others resting their backs in between. Drinks were fresh, mostly sweet things like Tia Maria, or Baileys, or Drambuie. Nightcaps. Matches were lit and ashtrays settled in communal spots. No one was asked to step outside and smoke. Actually, not sharing was considered rude.
The focus was on the television. Laughing at Belushi and Ackroyd. Since I went by Barbara in those days, there was always the residual Baba Wawa joke after Gilda Radner did her anchorwoman skit. Then Billy Joel sat at the piano. He wore white. He had those big eyes and that strong voice, and all of us girls wished we could be the one he met backstage after the performance. Christy Brinkley got that gig.
There were the times I flashed my Marshall University Journalism press pass and got back stage at the Dick Clark traveling Bandstand. Got in, got an interview, promised to send a copy, never did.
The most memorable of that era took place at the Memorial Field House in Huntington, WV. Probably around 1966. My friend Jane and me were “chaperoned” by two black guys we knew from Marshall. It was the visceral experience of a lifetime. Two white girls in a sea of dark, learning what integration felt like.
But, it was “cool”, because everyone was there for the same reason. James Brown, with Ike and Tina Turner. Yes, James Brown and his Band of Renown, on stage with Ike and Tina, in front of a crowd of maybe 1,000 fans. Remember, it was the mid-sixties, and a gathering that size made up of mostly African-Americans was not a common occurrence in Huntington, West Virginia. That’s why Jane and I wanted to be there. So we could say we were there. So I could write this story fifty years later.
We stood on folding chairs and watched James Brown sing, “Please, please, baby please don’t go.” He collapsed, men ran out with the shimmering cape to scoop him off stage, only to see him throw aside the cape and do that signature strut back to the center microphone. The building reverberated and the crowd roared. Slim pints of gin and whiskey were passed along the rows without a thought of the dangers in communal drinking. Take a drink, pass it on. We’re all friends here. To prepare for the evening, Jane and I refilled minis bottles and stuffed them in our bra. The rum was warm but it was 150 proof, and we were set in case a stray Coke was available.
Then came skinny Ike on guitar, with that lower-than-low bass voice. Next to him beautiful Tina swirling in an orbit of fringe while her arms churned, “Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river.” The backup singers with thighs like cheerleaders and voices full of growl and three-part solidarity.
It was an electric night and it’s where I go when I hear Private Dancer or What’s Love Got to Do With it. It would never cross my mind to go see her in concert today. I agree, she is still amazing, rocking those heels and swinging that hair, but I don’t want to replace my 1966 Ike and Tina memory.
Showing my age?
Concerts just aren’t for me anymore. I’ve become impatient about the traffic, crowd, and noise. I’ve seen Bowie at Wolf Trap, and danced through the early 70’s with Bachman, Turner Overdrive, Three Dog Night, and Fleetwood Mac. So, I’m good. I’m sure I’m not alone, but sometimes feel that way in a community hard-wired for the “get up, get out, and listen to the mountain music,” crowd.
So, to my friends in town…don’t think that I am shunning your efforts to bring vitality to Alleghany County. They just aren’t my thing. I’m focused on the alternative. I’ll do my part to promote art and community culture by focusing on our writers, helping them develop the art and craft of the written word, and offering a performance venue at the Horizon Bistro. Local talent, regional names, and national bestsellers. That’s what gets me up and out!
I’ll keep my treasure chest of musical memories and let the written words in my stories be the lyrics, while I hum along in harmony.