Musical Memories

Dixie Chicks (2)

Several months ago, DJ texted me to inform me that the Dixie Chicks were playing at Walnut Creek Amphitheater in Raleigh on the night that she and Stephanie would be returning home from overnight camp.  I don’t think she asked me to buy tickets; she told me.

I know a ton of their songs, but perhaps the most widely acclaimed, Wide Open Spaces, was released in 1998.  That was a year after DJ was born.  It was also around the time that we purchased a brand new forest green Honda Odyssey minivan with a CD player right in the dashboard.  We had hit the Big Time!

Our oldest child sucked her pacifier to the beat of Where’s Your Trouble and Cowboy Take Me Away.

In the 90’s, I was not a fan of country music.  I was more Earth, Wind and Fire than Miranda Lambert.  But my wife, she liked country, and she made sure that her daughters did too.

As songs were played last night, DJ and I had a ride down memory lane.

When the much slower song, Top of the World, came on, my oldest reminded me that I did not like the tune.  “Remember dad?  You would always fast forward this one.”

“It’s depressing.”

“But I loved it!  When mom was in the car, she would make you play it.”

“I don’t specifically recall.”

Toward the end of the song, there is a long pause.

“And every time we got to this part, you would press the skip button.”

“It’s a long pause, I’m sure I thought it was over.”

“And then I would cry and mom would make you rewind so I could hear the end, which is the best part of the song.”

“I still don’t love this song.  Makes me want to cry.”

When they played Stevie Nick’s Landslide, I was reminded how Lisa and I got into a feud about whether they were singing the word “older” or “bolder” at a certain point in the song.  I did not recall this dialogue either.

“Dad, it was a big deal.  You were both insistent that the other was wrong.”

Isn’t it interesting what kids watch and remember?

Of course, I was too cheap to purchase good seats for the concert so we were on the lawn in beach chairs.  But I was glad.  The view of the open sky was amazing that night, and there was one star that shone regardless of where the clouds moved.  I think I know why.

Six and Counting

bruce and Lisa

It’s beautiful to remember the happy.

Six years ago today, our wife, mother, daughter, and friend died.  I want all who knew her, especially my girls, to remember the good stuff.  And there was plenty!

Her fingernails were impeccable.  She used gel.  It coats your fingers with some fake substitute for your claws, and it costs a fortune.  She argued that they last “forever.”  I don’t know what forever she was referring to, but in my book a couple of weeks does not constitute a lifetime.

One time the two of us cooked Thanksgiving dinner.  I thought the neck bone stuffed in the turkey’s cavity was his penis.  She didn’t know any better either.  We burned everything, except dessert which was grossly under-cooked.  Cheesecake soup anyone?  I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.

She was a sale shopper.  Problem was that she’d buy a blouse at a “great price” with no matching bottom.  When she died, I found countless items of clothing with the tags still on.  I’m sure she would have worn them, eventually.

She gave our girls wings.  When we dropped DJ off at four week camp for the first time, my daughter teared up.  I ran to the car to get the heck out of Dodge.  Lisa, on the other hand, gave her words of encouragement and distracted her with new friends.  “I am nurture,” I explained to my wife on our way home.  “You, you give them courage.”  I had done my job, she had done hers.

Fortunately, all got some of her bravery genes.

She insisted on matching dresses for the kids when they were younger.  In one Christmas photo, when DJ was about 9, she stood behind Santa in a dress that made her look like a prairie child.  It didn’t matter.  The whole family blended so well.

She once stood me up on an early date in our courtship.  I was so stinkin’ mad.  But apparently not mad enough.

We spent our first weekend together hiking on Grandfather Mountain, I flossed at the apex.  And she still married me.

Our honeymoon got cancelled on the night of our wedding because American Airlines pilots went on strike.  I’ll never forgive those greedy mongrels.

She once bought a rug for DJ’s bedroom that cost so much she never divulged what she paid.  To this day I do not know.

She built relationships with everyone she came in contact with.  She was as close to our babysitters as she was to her college roommates.  Her hair dresser was a confidante.  Those at work called on her to approach their boss, because he loved her to death.

She enjoyed a bit of gossip and was the last person to walk out of the church on any given Sunday morning, because she was talking.

She was a leader in our community and could organize a thousand high school kids, a Junior League Committee or a kitchen drawer with ease.  But she seldom lifted a finger until the day before a deadline.

I fell in love with her on a canoe at Camp Seafarer.  She got to me.  There was just something about that Lisa Tanner that I couldn’t shake.

I am thankful for the years we had.  I am thankful for these beautiful memories.

Pedro says…

sausage

Had a three-hour deja vu this weekend.

I dropped Stephanie and Michelle off at my parent’s house in Fayetteville, NC, and DJ and I headed down I-95 to South Carolina.  She’s a junior, and we’re in the hunt for a college.  We need one that she can get in and that I can afford!  The second part of that equation might be the most difficult.

My parents both grew up in Florence, SC, about 90 miles south of Fayetteville, NC.  As a kid we drove there multiple times a month to visit with my grandparents.  I don’t drive that route often anymore.

The South of the Border signs hit me first, there is literally one every five or so miles starting 100 miles from this teeny tiny, cheesy little theme park.  At ten miles out “Pedro’s” sign say, You never sausage a place, and there is a giant pork sausage glued to the top of the billboard.  If you pass the “amusement park,” there is a sign that says, Back Up Amigo, You Missed It (Pedro So Sad).

I used to try to count the billboards on the way to my grandma’s house.  But there were just too many and my attention span was just too short.

At one point on the far side of Lumberton, an odor crept into the car.

“Daaad!” My eldest assumed it was me.

“No! It wasn’t me.  This smell lives here.  It’s part of I-95.”

“Well it’s a nasty part of I-95.”

“I’ve been here before and this is what mile 28 smells like.  Mmmm.”  The odor was beautiful to me.

When the South Carolina Welcome Center first opened about 5 miles past Pedro, not only could you get a clean bathroom, but they also gave out free Crush orange soda and peanuts!  Imagine that.  Now you’re lucky to get a bathroom stall that doesn’t have someone’s phone number etched on the door.

My brother and I always tried to hold our breath when we crossed the bridge over the Great Pee Dee River.  I could never do it; but I wasn’t afraid to turn blue trying.

It gets easier with grown up lungs.

There was a motel on the outskirts of Fayetteville called The Palomino.  I always wanted to stay there because it had two enormous horse statues out in the front parking lot.  I shared my desire with DJ.

“Dad.  That’s one of those odd things that you think is good to share but after it comes out of your mouth, it just makes you seem even weirder.”

I have a plethora of third and fourth cousins in South Carolina but I don’t really know any of them.  My grandmother swore my Great Uncle James died of hook worm which freaked me out immensely.  I don’t even know what a hook worm is nor how it could possible get inside your body to murder you, but the images that have gone through my mind through the years about that subject could fill a large coffee table book.

And my mom recalls as a child going to the bathroom with her younger cousin and watching in amazement as a huge worm came out of her relatives behind.  As I passed by the exit for the small town they lived in I couldn’t help but recant our family’s history with invertebrates.

These feelings and the memories they conjure up make me feel both joy and loss.  How happy I was as a child.  How wonderful those adventures with my grandparents.  How sad they aren’t here now.

I wonder what my kids will remember.

Sunday Post 126: Feeling like a Superstar

I look at some people in my life and wonder if they have ever had the opportunity to really be a superstar.  Have they ever experienced the limelight?  Have they ever really felt special?

I had my day to shine!  It was early June, 1977.  There was less than a week left in 6th grade.  I was finishing up elementary school.

I wasn’t a popular kid – unathletic, bushy hair, wearing Husky jeans from JC Penney.  I was funny – a good line every now and then – well-behaved,  and made decent grades but nothing, absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.

As May approached, students in my class began to think about their acts for the end of year talent show.  Being insecure, it wasn’t an activity I had ever participated in; nor did I aspire to.  But this year, something was different.

I think Willamina Sparrow was the first to approach me.

“Danny, you’re so crazy!  Why don’t you do the Soul Train line with us in the talent show?”

“Willa, what makes you think I’d want to do that?”

“I saw you when we went to the zoo.  You danced to Ruth’s chant.”

“You mean Introduce Yourself?”

“Yeah.  Do it.”

Introduce Yourself was probably the first rap I’d ever heard.  While I was on the black top being lit up by Scotty Cannon’s German dodgeball throw, the girls were all in a circle near the jungle gym singing this song.

I was always willing to crackup a classmate so I obliged, clapping my hands and cutting the fool:

Introduce yourself, un huh, introduce yourself.

My name is Danny – check

They call me  crazy – check it out

My nickname’s Dan Boy – check

There ain’t no doubt  – check it out un huh.

“You crack me up Dan Boy!  Come on.  You can dance.  It’ll be fun.  Roger’s doin’ it, Ruth, Sabrina, George.”

All were African-American kids I’d grown up with over the past six years at Walker Spivey and Glendale Acres Elementary Schools.  I didn’t really have the opportunity to hang out with them after 3 pm, but I sure did enjoy them in class.  Earlier that year on the playground, Willamina had sorted out all the details for me to “go with” Joianna Spears.  I guess I sort of owed her one; Joianna was a hotty.

“Whatever.”

When the day came, I was told to wear a suit.  We were dressing up for this one. Mine was tan polyester with lapels as wide as Texas.  My shirt was silky with brown and tan paisleys, the collar pointed like the Pope’s hat.  Man I wish that style would come back.

We’d practiced twice, the song was Brick House by the Commadores.

The six of us had a standard step – five of us stayed in formation while the sixth moved to the front of the stage and did their own thing.  I was last.  When the Commadores hit Shake it down – Shake it Down Now, I made my way to center stage.  I moved a little to the left and slid back to the right, followed by multiple Elvis like pelvis thrusts.

When the crowd went wild, I did sort of feel like the King.

We were so good, the principal invited us to repeat our performance later that day in afternoon assembly.  My mom could hardly fit my head in the car on the drive back home.

I’m glad I had my day in the limelight, and I can pinpoint a time in each of my kids’ lives where they have felt at least that special.  I wish I could figure out a way to help everyone be a superstar, at least once.

Sunday Post 109: “What a Fool Believes”

It’s no longer a devastating pain.  It doesn’t burn to the soul.  It can’t physically take me to the floor in anguish like it did 3 years or even 18 months ago.  But February is my foe.  I guess I’ll battle with him every year for the rest of my life.

He’s cold.

Mid month he’s promoting love, and I don’t have that kind anymore.

From the 14th on, I can replay, day by day, the scenes from three years ago – the weeks before she died.

It starts out OK – just an extension of his cousin January.  But then “What a Fool Believes” comes on the radio, and I start singing like I’m Michael McDonald.

She’d laugh at that every single time – rolling those eyes.  “You do love that song don’t ya’ baby?,” her question would just add fuel.  I know I  have her attention now, I ham it up even more.

He came from somewhere back in her long ago

The sentimental fool don’t see

Trying hard to recreate what has yet to be created

Once in her life

I used to sing in laughter.  Now it’s through tears.

This year I made it until the 10th before I felt the hole.  No weeping at church until last week.  There is a circle of emotional instability that hangs in my core at this time of year.  It’s bigger than an egg but smaller than a baseball, right above my stomach.  I can take a deep breath, I can swallow and hold it down – most of the time.

Only one week and it’ll be over.

I hate you February.  I hate your guts.

Memories Sweet Memories

Although I do enjoy Christmas, I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I, better than anyone, like a great gift on December 25.  I’m even buying myself a few things this year since Lisa isn’t here to spoil me. But to some extent, the presents have become a detractor to me. I’m getting to the age that simple time with family and friends is the only gift I care much about.

When I was a boy, we always drove to Florence, SC, for Thanksgiving. Both sets of grandparents lived down there.

A perfect Day started at Grandmamma and Granddaddy Ham’s house. The woman was the best cook south of the Mason Dixon line.

She would shuck ears of white corn and cut the kernels off the cob. She’d add butter, salt and who knows what else. When you put the stuff in your mouth, it was like tasting heaven.

Her hand cut slaw had onions that would make the hair on your arms stand up straight – I get gas just thinking about it. Boy was it tasty.

My other grandmother, we called her Idee, never saw a vegetable that didn’t come from a can; but she was more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

One Thanksgiving afternoon she talked Spurgeon, my grandfather, into driving my brother and me back into the 100 acres of woods behind their house. There was a dirt road that led to a pond on the land which had been in their family for decades.

After a twenty-minute drive and a few stops to move branches, we arrived at our destination – picture a scene from the Andy Griffith show. As we got out of the car and headed to the small basin, my brother yelled out: “Snake!!”

It was not a snake at all – it was a frickin’ anaconda. At least six feet long, this diamond back rattler was meandering along the shore line. Two senior citizens and a couple of grade school kids weren’t going to interrupt his Thanksgiving stroll.

Papa ran to the car, opened the trunk and grabbed a shovel. Yeah, this 70 something year old man was going to whack this beast in the head with a garden tool. It was like fighting a dragon with a frying pan.

As the serpent saw him nearing, he coiled up and began shaking his tail. It sounded like a Cuban maraca band.

I immediately ran my behind to the car and locked the doors in the event my family was eaten and the slimy varmint decided my skinny brother didn’t fill ’em up. My grandfather was not deterred by my departure.

“Spurgeon, you are not going after that snake with a shovel,” my grandma yelled.

“Oh Ivy,” I’d heard that response before on many occasions. It meant, Don’t spoil my fun again lady.

“Spurgeon, you’ll get killed! Chad, so something.”

As Papa, who was a bit clumsy to say the least, charged toward Sir Hiss, my sixth grade older brother knelt in front of him causing him to stumble and fall to the ground.

My grandmother grabbed the shovel, “If anything gets beaten to death today, it’ll be you old man.”

He sheepishly stood up, a bit rattled but alive. Both the snake and my grandfather survived. Although Spurgeon had to go home with Idee, which for a few days must have seemed worse than a little venom in his blood stream.

Not all of my Thanksgivings have a memory so vivid. But some of the warmest internal feelings I own are of sitting at two formica tables in Florence, SC – one tan on the top with a black ring around the side, the other white speckled with chrome legs and uncomfortable chairs.

We drank a lot of coffee in those two kitchens, and I learned a lot about being a man.

Boy what I’d give to go back for just one more Thursday.

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