Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Life with Jack and Jane: Prelude to a Story

“I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. And this is one: I’m going to tell it – but take care not to smile at any part of it.” Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

I was alone and scared, and desperate, living beneath the eaves of a great home, filled with young children and a loving couple, who gave me refuge within their castle. Cast away in the basement, I hid from shame, I covered my mind from fear, cowering at my present situation. I was homeless and penniless when it seemed just yesterday I was a princess in my own castle, with a family filled with love and warmth. But that time passed and I was alone and cold.

I would hear noises in the basement. They sounded like voices of demons and ghosts and they frightened me, but I knew it was just the air conditioner preparing to exhale. The basement was so dark I saw visions floating past me, but I realized my eyes were just closed and my imagination was catching me.

I couldn’t sleep for when I did, I was haunted. I would dream of her but she was unreachable. I dreamt we were at a large arena filled with familiar faces of everyday life. Sitting in the stands I was at the bottom of the bleachers searching for her and I spotted her way up top. I called out to her “Mom!” but she did not hear me. She was too busy talking to others. I reached out to her for one last embrace, to cherish her being, but the dream ended and she was gone. I dreamt this dream over and over, waking to tears flooding from me, dripping onto my already cold skin.

As much as I wished, and wrenched my heart wishing it so, those were days long gone. Instead I found myself alone, shunned from all I knew, knowing I must leave. "This is not my home. I am not a guest. I am a bum who has graciously been given temporary shelter. I don’t belong here and my welcome is a burden."

My wound still had not even begun to heal, and it was fresh, raw and hurting. The healing process had not even started. I wished I were a little girl again when my mom was there to hold me and make it all better. She would always say to me that the pain means, “It’s getting better, getting better” as she'd sing a little tune. And I believed it. But she was gone and the pain was getting worse.

My wound couldn't be seen, but my anger spoke of it, “Till it happens to you, you won’t know how I feel.” I needed to pull myself together, and I’d be fine. Hold my head up and be strong, I needed to get up and move on. But what the hell did I know?

Tears still poured from me. My fear of the ghosts and demons paralyzed me. My eyes clenched shut I prayed for reprieve, for an answer. And then my prayer was answered. I saw my grandmother, with her bright red hair, glowing skin, eyes filled with rays, her full and portly figure. I loved and missed her very much. She always had a smile on her face and gave when she had nothing to give.

She spoke to me, “Call your Uncle Jack.”

The next morning, light filtered in from the basement window well, reminding me the day was new. I called my Uncle Jack. I had a job offer in the big city but the pay was too little for me to afford rent. But it was a job. If I could find a way to make it work things would work out. Maybe if Uncle Jack would let me live with him and my Aunt Jane, things would be ok?

I dialed his number. The phone rang. My Aunt Jane picked up. Before I could even get the words out to ask, she said, in her Minnie Mouse voice with thick New York accent, “You come live with us.”

I asked him how they knew why I was calling. My Uncle Jack told me that he was at church one Sunday and this lady was in front of him. She had bright red hair, glowing skin, eyes filled with rays, and a full and portly figure. “For a moment, I thought it was my mother,” he said. “And when you called, we just knew.”

And just like that, I moved on.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Allman Brothers

“Lord, I was born a rambling’ man, Trying’ to make a livin’ and doin’ the best I can. And when it’s time for leavin’, I hope you’ll understand, That I was born a ramblin’ man.”

The Allman Brothers Band “Ramblin' Man”

The other night Magnum* and I had a lovely dinner at a local pub. We hopped in our car and headed home. We randomly popped in the first CD we grabbed (I know, who uses CD’s anymore?!). The Allman Brother’s Band began to play.

Instead of heading home we decided to go for a drive on a long, country road with nothing but the evening stars above us, farm fields beside us, and the open road in front of us. Traveling with the top down, cruising at 60 mph, the glorious sounds of the Brothers emanating throughout.

The guitar, the piano, the voices became intoxicating and hypnotic. Amazed at the talent of the band, we jokingly mimicked a fictitious account of their parent’s discovery in their children. Good Lord, their parents must have been proud. Their mama sure popped out some talented boys. Can you imagine, giving birth to these boys, washing dishes and all of a sudden you hear this talent coming from the garage? The conversation must have gone something like this:

“Mama, what’s that sound?”

“Papa I done don’t know but it sure sounds real good.”

“Mama, that’s them our boys. Well shoot, who knew they could play? I think we got ourselves something here.”

“Darn Papa, we sure do have some good genes. Let’s go make us some more.”

Well I did a little research and their mama was indeed referred to as Mama, Mama A to be exact, but their Papa died when they boys were very young. He was murdered. Then Duane Allman died in a motorcycle crash at the age of 25. Drug addiction, trials, stereotypical popular band tribulations…Boy I’m sure glad I didn’t know about this tragic history when we were cruising on the country road. That’s just darn near depressing!

Instead we immersed ourselves on an adventure, sheer joy from the Allman Brother’s Band guided us. My favorite Allman Brother’s song is Jessica. It’s strictly an instrumental song. Nothing but pure Southern Rock, interspersed with blues and jazz played out on an epic, musical journey.

Starting with the guitar, piano joining in, electric guitar, just riding along, happy go lucky, bouncing, little drum, then a little depth and soul climaxing back to the happy go lucky tune. Like climbing a mountain, or running a marathon, the instruments single out then slowly build, joining, teasing the listener, and then POW, the piano breaks out and WOW! It’ an adrenaline pumper for sure and it goes on and on for over seven minutes. It’s such a happy, confident, carefree, revolutionary tune. It’s genius. The antithesis of every wandering instinct inbred in man.

I remember the song Jessica playing in the movie “Field of Dreams” when James Earl Jones and Kevin Costner were cruising in their VW van to go find the ghosts of baseball past. There they were, two grown men, acting like kids, out on a country road, pursuing a crazy scavenger hunt to find The Babe.

Then my mind wandered to a more personal memory, back when I was a young teen, oh maybe 14 years of age. Summertime on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Hot, humid, salty, sailing and heaven. I was sailing on the Chesapeake Bay as part of a summer camp my grandmother had given as a gift. My cousin Jimmy would pick me up at the end of each day in his little, blue MG. And we would cruise back to our grandmother’s house on a long, 10 mile open road from Oxford to Easton with farm fields beside us, the bay beyond the fields, the blue sky with scorching sun above us, and nothing but youth in front of us.

Jimmy must have gotten that little blue car up to 100 mph. And Jimmy wasn’t and isn’t a reckless boy. Highly intelligent, calculated, cautious, play by the rules sort of guy. I don’t know if he was just showing off to his little cousin but we were flying and it was awesome! And Jessica came blasting on the radio.

Such freedom with carelessness abandoned, with the wind and the sun and the salt air, I was giddy as I felt my independence on the horizon, clueless to the impending finality of my childhood. We were young and the song sang out to our youth and rebellion. Such a fond memory immortalized by a song.

Magnum and I continued to cruise down the long, country road, living freely in the moment, with no destination, just enjoying the ride and the legends. Two crazy kids on the open road.

*Magnum is my husband’s character name. Any likeness to a similar character is strictly coincidental.