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Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Day The Music Died

It was early 1970 something. I was in the very back of a green station wagon with my sisters....maybe a cousin or two. The windows were down, blowing warm summer air in while cigarette smoke swirled through us, refusing to be blown away. "Don't stare at the man driving the car behind'll make him nervous." My Dad informs us of this from the front seat, which seemed a mile away from our cubbyhole with no seats in the rear of the station wagon. I remember how the whole presence of the moment always felt different with the lack of females(meaning mothers) in the house...or in this case, the car. All I could see was the back of my Dad's head as he talked of men things with my uncle. The men never did "watch" us as closely as the Moms. They were always a little more lenient, which might explain why we were allowed to pile in behind the seats instead of on the seats...though we wouldn't have been wearing seat belts even had we been there. As the smoke swirled and the men's voices hung in the air...with the wind blowing through us and me trying hard not to make the driver behind us wreck, we all started singing along to the radio.

Bye Bye Miss American Pie
I drove my Chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
Them good ol' boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing this will be the day that I die

Pure happiness and freedom, elation, and adventure....then......................................
One of my earliest memories of carsickness.
Suddenly, the warm wind blowing over me was like a blanket trapping me inside with my stomach screaming for everything to stop....stop the car...stop the smoke from swirling around me and inside of me.....stop the good old boys from singing about wine and death. Then, it was my sisters screaming for the men to stop the car so someone could clean us all up after my stomach won the battle.
I don't remember everything coming to a halt. I vaguely recall the sweet release that follows throwing up, but do not remember the details that followed. My mind does not see the car pulling over and my Dad getting out to clean me up.....does not remember arriving wherever my Mom was. I don't remember the song ending or what came on after it. It wasn't was there but only as an afterthought...the epilogue at the end of a book that had already satisfied the reader without it.
Is this how all of our memories present themselves? When I think about my childhood, it is as looking at a painting.....a canvas colored beautifully with my life as I remember it, but if I look more closely I see that it is actually thousands of tiny pictures...bits of memories... that, when squeezed together, form "the big picture". In one corner I see Vicki and Lori beside me in the back of the truck playing "One Tin Soldier" and Lori teaching us dances in front of the record player. There is Daddy with a hammer in his hand building the home that we grew up in and Mama taking care of me when I had the mumps. In another corner there are holidays and vacations...trips to our grandparents and the dusty road that led us home. These are the things that I see if I look closely, before I step back and see it as a whole picture.
I heard American Pie on the radio today. That song has always pulled me in for all of its random thoughts that make no sense if one attempts to understand them separately. However, I can't help but sing along...the best that anyone can possibly sing along to it.....because I know that it all comes together as something that I can understand. It is American Pie....a classic that takes me back to that hot, summer day in the back of that green station wagon. I don't have to understand the separate parts of that song anymore than I do the fragments of my childhood... fragments that present themselves as separate memories only when they are pulled away from the whole picture for a moment.
I always return the fragments to their rightful place. Not every fragment is without blemish, nor does every one depict a perfect moment in my life, but together, they form a perfect picture....a picture of my past...a past as only I can see it.


Blogger Stephanie said...

Beautiful post!

American Pie has been ruined for me though by Weird Al. Well more like my son's love for the Weird Al version of American Pie

Bye Bye Mr Anakin Guy
Maybe Vader someday later, but for now a small fry.
kissed his momma goodbye saying, "Someday I'm going to be a Jedi."

7:13 AM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Your writing is beautiful Sherri, even when it's about throwing up. :-)

4:21 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

You seriously should write a book! Seriously! Great memories, right there. Thanks for sharing and giving me a vivid image of a moment of your past.

6:49 AM  
Blogger Vicki said...

You are a beautiful writer. I just read it to Lori and we both love it. I remember everything you wrote except the cigerette smoke. I love how you compared the song with memories of childhood...brillant!

Love you and love how we have the same memories :-).

4:52 PM  

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