Old School Soul Hole

Last week I learned via a post from Reggae Steady Ska that May 29, 2019 was dubbed (see what I did there?) The Specials Day in Los Angeles, California.  Now I was a little confused as to why LA would honor a band who hails from the UK, but then again, I am a white woman in RI who listens to reggae, rock steady, and ska.  The idea that The Specials themselves and the themes of their music exemplify and encourage diversity is what drew a Los Angeles councilwoman to hold them up for the city to see.  It drew me to my CD rack (yes, I still own those) and The Specials album I hadn’t listened to in far too long.

As the bright beats of trumpet danced above the driving guitar, the music swelling from the speakers and spilling into the corners of this room and the next, I realized the deep hole that is left inside me when music doesn’t play.

I have four children.  My house, my life, my mind is very loud.  The last few years I’ve taken to not turning the radio on at all in the car because, there is enough noise in there already.  The power button on the radio is one level of sound on which I can hit the kill switch.  About a year or so ago, on a return drive from ‘the city’, about an hour away from home, I got through more than two thirds of the trip before I realized I hadn’t even turned the radio on then, when I was by myself.  The cacophony in my head was complete if I couldn’t even partake of music when I could listen uninterruptedly to what I chose.

And that’s so sad.

Most of my memory has an overlay of obsession with music.  So many genres and artists.  So many generations and styles.  I’ve imagined the soundtrack of certain parts of my life and relive other parts of my life through song.

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In August 2017, 95.5 WBRU, the local modern rock radio station I had cut my anti-establishment musical teeth on, closed up shop.  (Well, they were sold to a Christian rock outfit.)  I still had the CDs, I still had internet access, I still had the memories – if I dare be so dramatic – but I mourned the loss of that running record of new and individualistic music as if someone close to me had died.  Still, nearly two years later, I wax nostalgic if I happen to catch the low-power signal they sometimes broadcast on.  I still post from time to time about how much I miss the station when I find a song they used to play on YouTube.  I was getting to the point where even I was wondering what was wrong with me.  Why was I so attached to a freaking radio station?

The obvious answer is because its going off the air was a death of part of my youth.  BRU’s Retro Lunch was the soundtrack to the lunch we all had at my house before Junior Prom.  Their Screamer of the Week was something I talked about with the guy I’d just started dating.  Their Friday Night Countdown was what I recorded onto a cassette and mailed him when he went away to Boot Camp and we were still dating.  So many pivotal moments of my coming of age were backed up by the beats of WBRU.

And research shows that songs elicit the same emotions we experienced when we first heard or listened to them most frequently.  If I loved that part of my life and its soundtrack was now going away, it was almost as if that part of my life was dying.  A leap, yes.  And yes, I can cue up any of those songs on a streaming service or ‘go down the YouTube rabbit hole’ as I say my husband does of an evening every so often (He likes to relive the days I made him all those mixed tapes – yes, we married), but the spontaneity of what would appear next, the destiny of your song coming on at just the right moment, the discovery of something new you’ve never heard before, or hearing it at the moment of its release – that magic of the broadcasting universe is gone.

That radio station represented my teenage self thumbing my nose at the world.  It signified my independence, culling my own style, my own voice, my own philosophy.  I started listening to it when I was first heading out into the world.  Its closing reminds me that I’ve been out here some time now.  Not hearing it makes me suddenly wake up from the melodious trance and notice all the things I wanted to do, but haven’t yet.  I don’t know really any much more than I did then; I am really no happier than I was then.  The teenage angst has been switched out for that of the existential sort.  Only now I can’t blare the radio and rage.

I think the closing of BRU was also the death knell of something bigger in my life.  The joy of music I once had.  The carefree release of a rollicking rhythm.  Now I think too much about heavier things.  I have too much to do.  I don’t have time to pop in the CD or turn on the radio before I rush on to the next thing.  I really feel adrift when the only two stations that play anything remotely my style of music either are out of range or on commercial.  There’s probably a part of me that figures it’s so different, so lesser, then why bother trying to find the music at all.

It’s no secret that I hate change.  I dig my heels in and get drug along unwillingly more often than not.  I’m trying to open my heart to grace, allowing the full potential of situations, my life unfold.  I know reopening my heart and soul to music would only make the journey that much richer.  It’s just sad when you’d found your canon and reveled in it – and now it’s gone.  But I can always use signs from the universe – like FB posts read in RI of UK bands being honored in LA – to signal it’s time to break out those old albums.  And there’s always Pandora.  But if it’s not painfully apparent already – I’ll always be hopelessly old school.

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LA Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez with Horace Panter and Terry Hall of The Specials

Two to Two

I went to sleep in the springtime
I awoke in summer

A riot of green,
a vibrant rush,
an air of energy

My body reclaimed and yet not my own
Inside out
the protective covering of conception gone

Gaunt fingers and ankles
ghosts of padded appendages
no longer needed to sustain life
for two

Whole again
and yet suddenly separate
A new path split
in two

You Can Tell a lot about a Man by the Car He Drives

“And there were very likely people who thought one could not interpret men’s feelings by the cars they drove.

But when they moved onto the street, Ove drove a Saab 96 and Rune a Volvo 244. After the accident Ove bought a Saab 95 so he’d have space for Sonja’s wheelchair. That same year Rune bought a Volvo 245 to have space for a stroller. Three years later Sonja got a more modern wheelchair and Ove bought a hatchback, a Saab 900. Rune bought a Volvo 265 because Anita had started talking about having another child.

Then Ove bought two more Saab 900s and after that his first Saab 9000. Rune bought a Volvo 265 and eventually a Volvo 745 station wagon. But no more children came. One evening, Sonja came home and told Ove that Anita had been to the doctor.

And a week later a Volvo 740 stood parked in Rune’s garage. The sedan model.

Ove saw it when he washed his Saab. In the evening Rune found a half bottle of whiskey outside his door. They never spoke about it.

Maybe their sorrow over children that never came should have brought the two men closer. But sorrow is unreliable in that way. When people don’t share it there’s a good chance that it will drive them apart instead.

Maybe Ove never forgave Rune for having a son who he could not even get along with. Maybe Rune never forgave Ove for not being able to forgive him for it. Maybe neither of them forgave themselves for not being able to give the women they loved more than anything what they wanted more than anything. Rune and Anita’s lad grew up and cleared out of home as soon as he got the chance. And Rune went and bought a sporty BMW, one of those cars that only has space for two people and a handbag. Because now it was only him and Anita, as he told Sonja when they met in the parking area. ‘And one can’t drive a Volvo all of one’s life,’ he said with an attempt at a halfhearted smile. She could hear that he was trying to swallow his tears. And that was the moment when Ove realized that a part of Rune had given up forever. And for that maybe neither Ove nor Rune forgave him.

So there were certainly people who thought that feelings could not be judged by looking at cars. But they were wrong.”

– from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

The Alpha and the Omega

There are moments when I catch glimpses of the mother I used to be.  The one I was when I had one baby.  The one I was when I was more frequently in a good mood or less stressed out.  The goofy one who sang silly made-up songs.  The one who danced with a baby on her hip till her legs gave out.  The one who wasn’t so beat down she just tried to get through her day.  The one who could spend time with her children rather than refereeing them.

I see her in the smiles of my children.  The looks of surprise.  The glances at each other and back at me before cracking up.  The silly giggles that roll from their bellies and out through their lips.

I see myself in the mirror and I see a girl child who somehow ended up in charge of three of her own.  A girl who still sees herself as growing and learning.  A girl who still wonders at the dynamics of her own mother/daughter relationship as she builds ones up with her three.

Will they see me for who I am?  A person, who in motherhood and life, often makes it up as she goes along.  Someone who loves them fiercely, but wonders how she loses herself from time to time.  And who opens her eyes from time to time to see the true incarnation of who she’s supposed to be – to them and herself.

Yes, the image will change.  The lines will deepen, the colors fade.  But it should only be a deepening, not a swallowing, a sinking.  The original image is in there somewhere.  A fire in the eye, a shape, a sparkle of laughter.

How do I flow gracefully into the deep while allowing the light bubbles of my past to filter through?  How do I get from the beginning to the end and honor both all the way through?  How do I reconcile the woman and mother I’ve always wanted to be with the being I’ve become?

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