I’d like to share a happy memory with you today. Like many of the children of the mid-70’s and 80’s, and many, many more today, my parents split when I was very young, six actually, so that would be around 1979-ish (yeah, I’m getting old, what can you do?). Back then divorce still had a stigma, an “aww… poor child” tag that was put on my sister (she was just a baby) and me (there was even special counseling back in my elementary school, I think there was about 5 of us in the “group”). Anyway, that’s not the “happy memory” so let’s continue, we moved back and forth and back and forth between the madre and the padre, and I’m not going to go into the “whys” of all that (that post could be a whole goddamn book) but I will say for a brief period we didn’t live with either of them, for a few months (I think) of that brief period we lived with our grandparents.
Now, it wasn’t all macaroni & vittles with our grandparents, they were old southern Floridians, so things were they way they saw it and that’s it, the whole “spare the rod” mentality (or, in their case, spare the belt spoil the child) was in full force, and yeah, they’d drag us to their preacher-who-speaks-in-tongues sermons on Sundays, and they had us sit through more than enough Hee-Haw episodes (I can still sing the “And Plbbb! She Was Gone” song), but there was a little memory that stuck with me.
They were meager, down-to-earth folks who had done decent enough in grandpa’s construction business and every evening when grandma was done making dinner, all four of us would sit in the kitchen at the table, TV off, of course, grandma would put on an 8-track or a record on the old player in the kitchen over in the corner, (besides a radio in the living room, I think it was the only thing that played a tape or anything in the house), and Charlie Rich or some other gospel & country singer would fill the room while we ate the green beans I helped snap on the gazebo earlier that afternoon, the one that grandpa built, with a side of some cube steak, some corn, and always a small bowl of lettuce (our salad).
Weird, right now I can remember the smell of their house, of dinners, or sitting in the living, or being in the back room where we slept. Wow. Anyway, the routine felt good, and for a little while things felt a little normal. After dinner, sometimes grandma would give us a little cup of coke (usually root beer) with some ice cream on top. Man, I loved those things….. Mmmm…. happy thoughts.
Don’t really remember what happened after living with them, who we lived with or what, but that memory’s still there, lodged in, hopefully for good and forever. Listening to The Handsome Family’s Honey Moon, it popped out of the back of my noggin’ and filled my mind & senses with that time and that place, long gone (all of it, the home, the gazebo, grandpa, and now grandma’s mind).
But for a little while today, The Handsome Family made it all there again. The smells, the tastes, the sounds, the warm feelings, the recliners they’d fall asleep in during baseball games, the cylindrical ottoman I’d turn on it’s side and play on until I got yelled at, the river I’d go cane pole fishing with bread and would one day catch a 6 or 7 inch big-mouth bass, all of it. Their traditional-style brand of modern americana triggered just the right chemical reactions and fired the perfect neurons to make it all real…. and that’s pretty damn special.
Thank you Handsome Family. Your turn, enjoy…
Oh you little sparrows on a swaying
singing to the cars up on the overpass
When you fly away from here
take me with you when you go…