Dedication: To My Mom (Or Why A Rock & Roll Baby Has Country Roots)

Saturday mornings at 2045 N. 63rd Place.When my siblings and I had squeezed all the possible life and enjoyment out of non-cable kid-oriented programming, it was time for chores. We'd shuffle and lollygag like any children might, I guess, but eventually (around 10:15, maybe) we'd find ourselves with our little shoulders to the wheel.

I can't recall anybody having specific, regular chores we did every week. But I remember feeling like I did a lot of dishes. Standing on a wooden stool, up to my elbows in soap suds, and with the belly of my shirt getting progressively wetter, I usually passed the time imagining myself horribly misused, like some nine-year-old Cinderella. The kitchen faced eastward, toward the back yard, where four citrus trees- tangelo, lemon, tangerine, grapefruit- stood in a row along the cinderblock wall on the other side of the lawn (and in the summertime, the above-ground pool), punctuated by a sandbox and swingset on one end, by a trampoline on the other. My parents basically built the landscape, front and back, up from the wild wild western nothing, and the backyard was everywhere to me- it was Africa, it was Floren, it was the doomed Titanic, it was New York City... and it shimmered and mocked me behind the window where I was slaving away over dirty dishes.

My fantasies and daydreams had to fight through one significant distraction: Mom's music. The stereo supported six CDs and I do believe we listened to the same handful of albums every week (except at Christmastime) for seven or eight years. Creedence Clearwater RevivalVan MorrisonSheryl CrowStingChris Isaak, and Lyle Lovett were the voices of Saturday. This was before I even liked music, much less knew the difference between thumbs up and thumbs down over it. And they also had to fight over the sound of the vacuum, or over the sound of Mom singing along.

There are minutiae-sized holes in the tapestry of the memory that bother me, like what all was on the windowsill of that kitchen window, or what kind of dishes I was washing, or what anybody else was doing (although I can tell you we preferred sectional couches in the family room- first a smushy second-hand brown one, then a mottled multicolor/green one). But all I really need to remember is the most poignant part of Saturday morning chores: Mom.

Sometimes she'd stop whatever she was doing and shout for us all to come join her, and she'd turn up the stereo and sing and dance to "Brown-Eyed Girl". Being old enough for this moment to brand itself into my memory, I was definitely old enough to think I was too cool for dancing in the family room with my family. I was still young enough to not notice that Mom doesn't really sing that well, though- a nonjudgment that persisted with me for a long time. After all, what child, having been born of goodly parents, does not think of being sung to by Mom as a distinct pleasure in life?

Anyway, I think usually I stayed right where I was at the sink, imagining myself the only one who did any work around here, while my hoodlum family played and frolicked (and maybe half an hour later I'd be done with the dishes). I wish I hadn't. I wish I'd gone running to Mom then as I did to Dad when he came home and showed her I loved her by dancing with her and singing out loud too. At risk of waxing sentimental, I wonder if she didn't stand at the selfsame kitchen window more often than we were aware, watching over us through our treacherous journeys through Wonderland or Oz or wherever the backyard was that day.

I can say this: my mother's everyday efforts made my childhood idyllic, safe, and happy. She taught me, she loved me. If I didn't know it then, I know it now. To this day when I do dishes, by myself, I sing "Brown-Eyed Girl" and hope that someday I will have a household just as warm, lively, and rich with love of the Lord and of each other.

It was both Mother's Day and my mom's birthday this month, and though it's late, I hope you don't mind the proverbial trip down memory lane, but this merited a double LP-style list called M<3M.

Side A: Our Old Playlist (Sounds of Saturday Morning)
1-3. Creedence Clearwater Revival: "Susie Q", "Lookin' Out My Back Door", "Hey Tonight"
4-6. Van Morrison: "And It Stoned Me", "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You", "Brown-Eyed Girl"
7-9. Sheryl Crow: "If It Makes You Happy", "Maybe Angels", "A Change Would Do You Good"
10-11. Lyle Lovett: "Don't Touch My Hat", "Fiona"
12: Sting: "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You"

Side B: Our Karaoke Music (Sounds of Sharing Music with Mom)
13. "Delta Dawn" by Tanya Tucker
14. "I'm Trying To Be Like Jesus" by Janice Kapp Perry
Ok, so we didn't hear this one on the radio but this is one song I loved to hear Mom sing to me.
15. "Sold [The Grundy County Auction Incident]" by John Michael Montgomery
16. "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)" by Trisha Yearwood
17. "Real World" by Matchbox Twenty
18. "Everybody's Free (To Feel Good)" by Sun Tan
19. "Lucky Denver Mint" by Jimmy Eat World
20. "Bring Me To Life" by Evanescence
21. "Bubble Toes" by Jack Johnson
22. "The First Single" by The Format
23. "Pepper" by a band with a distasteful name (sorry guys. that's what you get)
24. "Selfish Man" by Flogging Molly
25. "Life Less Ordinary" by Carbon Leaf
26. "Mama, I'm Coming Home" by the Vitamin String Quartet

1 comment:

  1. I love this, mostly because I come from a similar background. My music of choice leans toward Zeppelin and the Decemberists, but I know every word to every country song that came out in the mid-nineties and a surprising amount of older stuff (Patsy Cline and Roger Miller and the like). We're just well-rounded. :)