(Originally published at Pith and Vinegar: blog version.)
I had this moment last week where a song I hadn’t heard in ages came on the radio at a restaurant and I was instantly flooded with vivid memories. It was “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone”, and it played over and over and over at the little tourist shop where I worked one summer. Sitting there last week I could actually smell the clothing steamer, and my fingers were alive with the memory of folding a million shirts on my cardboard folding board.
Anyway, it gave me the idea of a writing exercise: think of an evocative song from my past, and write about the memories. I did my first one on the plane to Vegas. It’s a little clumsy and maudlin, but I’m out of practice and didn’t want to edit too much and air travel terrifies me. (Half writing exercise, half therapy!) With that in mind…
Joey, Concrete Blonde (1991)
It was Fall, I think. Cold enough to have to keep the heat running in the car, but not far enough in the year for jackets.
We sat in the car, Mom in the driver’s seat and me beside her. We were parked at the big recreation center outside of town, almost exactly halfway between our home and that of my boyfriend at the time. It had long since shut down for the day, and we were the only car in the lot.
She must have been driving me home. She had done it before, and it was always one of those awkward things. “So.. what were you two up to tonight?” “Oh, you know.. stuff. Watched T.V. Just.. stuff.” A pause would stretch into silence for the rest of the drive.
But not that night. That night she pulled over, kept the car running, and tried to explain all those things that Moms want their daughters to know and sixteen year old daughters are too smug to learn. She talked, I listened. The Concrete Blonde cassette played through twice, making that ‘clunk’ noise of the automatic side switcher every twenty minutes or so. Each time I heard that thunk I would inwardly roll my eyes and wonder when the lecture would end. Eventually I think she felt she had said enough, and with a sigh she headed the car back towards home.
I learned very little. How do you teach your daughter to never have her heart broken, to never be reckless, to always be loyal to herself? You don’t, of course. But I imagine sometimes one would get the urge to try, sitting in the middle of nowhere as slow ballads blend together in the background.