Someone please read this to me in case I ever get Alzheimer’s, so I remember who the hell I am, a la “The Notebook” 😉
Also, here’s a tip. There are a lot…..a lot, of links in this entry, mostly on page 3. (Page numbers at the bottom. 🙂 ) And if you’re curious to know what the song is, but don’t want to click on every link, simply hover over the link and the artist and title will appear. 🙂
“My first music memory.”
I’m 8 years old. Saturday morning. Watching videos on TV with my big brother. (That was back when MTV actually played videos!) Some guy sitting on a chair in what looks like a gym. Glasses. Awful looking “salt and pepper” dye job with the grey hair. A janitor sweeps up papers and confetti, balloons and streamers, as the guy sits there looking at posters on the wall while he whistles a tune unfamiliar to my young ears. “Most likely to succeed.” “Most popular.” “Best athlete,” the posters read. I knew enough to know that was a high school reunion, tho it would be 20 years before I’d be invited to one of my own.
Suddenly, people start singing. No instruments. Just their voices. And snapping to a beat. “whoooooa oh oh oh, for the longest, for the longest time. Whoa oh oh….” It was so cool! Hearing what I later would learn is called a capella music. It was awesome! You could dance to it, you could sing along, you’d sing the various parts, from the words to the background music the guys were making music using only their voices. It’s my first memory of listening to music, really listening, and to this day I absolutely am captivated by groups like Straight No Chaser and Pentatonix.
(And I still know all the words to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and “Piano Man” too 🙂 )
“Thank you for writing the longest song ever, Don Mclean”
I’m 9 years old. Dad’s pissed off, yelling in the living room. I head to my room and close the door. Scared. I mean what the hell do I know, I’m 9 and he’s raging about car insurance. I nervously pace back and forth. I try to read a book. Take a nap. Plug my ears. Nothing helps. Then I start to sing. It’s 8 1/2 minutes long. And I knew all the words. (I still do.) “A long, long time ago. I could still remember how that music used to make me smile.” I get to the chorus. “Bye bye Miss American Pie, drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry….” Over and over I sing that 8 1/2 minute song for what seemed like forever. Until the raging went away.
(Sidenote: It’s been 30 years, he’s since mellowed, I went to therapy. We ku. 🙂 )
“Metallica understands. I’m not alone.”
I’m 15 years old. Just went through a third shunt revision for the hydrocephalus I was born with. Seems this one has plugged up with scar tissue from the last two surgeries. I’m so isolated. Sad. Scared. Not going to school because of all these surgeries and recoveries. Don’t really see my friends. I’d always been an emotional, sensitive young man. (Hell, I’m an emotional, sensitive adult!) And this, these surgeries, this pain both physical and emotional, the loneliness…..it was just more than I could handle. More than a 15-year-old kid should handle. Yeah “it could always be worse” but it still sucks. I should be starting junior year. Hanging out with friends. Getting ready to turn 16 and get a license. I shouldn’t be recovering from surgery after surgery, coming to school with a hat on my half-shaved head. That is, hat on my head on the rare occasion I came to school!
So I’d find solace in music. In my favorite band. They had pissed off, angry music. And that’s how I felt a lot of the time. Pissed off. Angry. Resentful. Wondering why God was letting this happen to me. But they also had one song that wasn’t so angry. Actually, quite the opposite. It was filled with melancholy. Sadness. Regret even. It had the lines, “I have lost the will to live, simply nothing more to give. There is nothing more for me, need the end to set me free” and “Death greets me warm, now I will just say goodbye”……but I never looked at it as permission/condoning suicide. Instead I felt comfort. I felt like someone, this amazing band, understood. They got it. The feelings of fear and loneliness, sadness and giving up on life. And I found that comforting. I wasn’t alone. Metallica understood my pain.
Years later, I found out the inspiration for the song was the fact that their equipment had been stolen! Terrible for them, but I’m glad they wrote the song. Helped get me through a horrible time when I needed it and they remain to this day the greatest band ever!
“She made me feel normal”
17 years old. Still having surgeries. Mostly shunt revisions with some other ones thrown in, also SB related, because screw you why not?! Really no social life to speak of. I had friends. People who were always happy to see me when I’d actually show up at school. I even had a girlfriend. God bless her, sticking by me through all this. But we never went anywhere, never did anything. I was too sick. Or had headaches, or recovering from something. Or having panic attacks that I didn’t actually know were panic attacks until more than a decade later, when anxiety and panic attacks became as much a part of my official diagnosis as SB and hydro were.
But there was one friend, a really nice lady, who truly cared. And she always went the extra mile. I’ve written about her in other entries on this site, and she’ll turn up again in this entry. She was simply a wonderful woman who appreciated her friends, and I was blessed enough to call her my friend.
And she invited me to a pool hall! Are you kidding me?! Nobody invited me anywhere! But she did. She showed up to my parents house that evening and I still remember exactly what she was wearing. Short black boots. Black jeans. A purple top. And a black denim jacket, all of which highlighted her long blond hair and the most beautiful blue eyes ever. We get to the pool hall and start playing. I suck at pool! Still do. My “strategy” is to hit the ball as hard as I can! Maybe it’ll ricochet and end up hitting something 🙂 This song comes on over the speakers. She starts lightly headbangin’. Singing along. “Smashing through the boundaries, lunacy has found me, cannot stop the battery!” Then she grabs me and swings me around. “Cannot kill the family, battery is found in me!” So fun! Such a good night. Yeah I ended up with a headache, something about staples in my head or something, but that….such a beautiful memory. My friend helped me feel normal. For one night, Crystal made me feel just like any other 17-year-old kid. I will never ever forget that.
It’s been since 2008 that they’ve come to town. Looking forward to the day thousands of fans will once again go crazy the moment they hear this song begin!!! \m/(- -)\m/
(EDIT: They came back!! The Hardwired Tour was in town summer of 2017! And it was amazing!!!!)
“Really, radio station that’s trying to figure out its format…..really???”
I’m 18 years old. By some miracle I graduated. The district had let the elective credits slide and I only needed to do the core class stuff. So I got to walk with my class at graduation. Later that summer, August, my aforementioned girlfriend and I were heading off to different colleges. Still in-state for both, but far enough away that I couldn’t just drive up to see her. She had stuck by me through all the medical drama. Sure it was more than any kid should go through for me, but it was also a lot more than any girlfriend should have to watch. But god love her, she stuck it out.
She came over a few days before she was scheduled to head for school. We hung out that day, that evening, into the next day. Laughing a lot. Just having a great time. It was fun. No tears. Um, until the following morning. She was getting ready to head out. Then we got to talking. “I’m gonna miss you.” “I’ll miss you. But you won’t even notice I’m gone. You’ll be busy too, going to college, making new friends. It’ll be ok.” In the background, this new radio station, Alice 105.9, is playing. They were still trying to figure out their format. It had literally just been created a week earlier. Playing everything from pop to rock to 70’s, figuring themselves out. We’re saying our goodbyes, trying to have “a moment” while Ace of Base plays in the background. Already we can sense what’s going to happen here. Little did we know what was coming, but this song was already emotional enough. “It’s tearing me apart that you’re leaving, I’m letting you go. But I won’t let you know.” It’s getting more and more difficult to ignore what’s happening in the background. “Don’t turn around, I don’t want you seeing me cry.” A single solitary tear drop falls from her face. More for me. (Toldja I’m a wimp.)
BUT THEN…..while that song fades out, keep in mind this station is still looking for an identity so this makes sense…..we hear the first few notes of the next song. And boy oh boy, do the tears start flowing! We sorta just lose it. No self-control. Just bawling. (I’m pretty sure she actually said, “Really, radio station?! Really?!”)
We broke up less than a month later. “It’s not you, it’s me” and “finding ourselves” and all that. We’d met at 12 years old and had been through so much. That one stung a while.
I’m a Bloggess fan… and also a HELLP Syndrome survivor. I accidentally deleted your Twitter follow request so could you please re-send it? I’m @khouriajen.
Thank you so much for sharing the story of your childhood pains! I could have used a friend like you when I was much the same age! I was rejected by my schoolmates because I was aways depressed and would cry in class. Anyway, I just wanted to connect with you and say to you, “Way To Go!”
Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed my (rather lengthy ☺) post and that you found it relatable. Comments like yours also helps me feel less alone, so thanks ☺
Might we continue to exchange blogs!? I Think that would be great!!
Chuck Smith II
Sure. I’m working on my own entry on mental illness. I always appreciate when another author can read it and give constructive criticism.
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I live this, being the same ish age these songs also spoke to me. Except Ace of base. But I can dig that too.
Ha! 🙂 Well ya know, they can’t all be winners 😉 Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂