Yesterday, August 19, 2013 (at 2:18pm, if you want to get really precise) I turned 40. I'm happy about it.
I'm thankful that I survived my twenties, a very difficult decade for me (I'm hardly alone on that one; most people my age say they hated their twenties). It wasn't all bad; I did have some great times in my twenties. But I wouldn't want to go back.
My thirties were decent overall. Things started out crappy. I had a few minor nervous breakdowns between the ages of 30 - 32. But by the time I was 33 (2006) I'd hit my stride. I was feeling happy and confident, and had finally landed a job I enjoyed. My love life was spotty--as it often was back then--but I had some great adventures. Even with all the mistakes and missteps I made during my thirties, I don't regret a thing.
So now I've made it to age 40. I'm a published author, I'm happy, I'm content, I'm married. Comfy home, purring cats, fantastic friends, great husband.
It's all good.
Now for some fun.
This milestone birthday has got me thinking. I've been writing a lot about my early childhood, and I'm amazed by how much I remember, especially about 1970's pop culture. I was born in 1973 and was only seven years old by the time 1980 rolled around. But, as I've discovered, I've retained a lot from that decade.
My mom was a housewife (I guess "homemaker" is the correct term now) for a good part of my early childhood. She kept a small transistor radio in the kitchen of our house in Greensburg, Indiana--this was before we moved to "the big city" of Indianapolis in late 1978--and my first memories of pop music involved Paul Simon, The Carpenters, and John Denver, piped through that little radio in the kitchen.
The song: Paul Simon 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.
The memory: I was about four years old and my mom was standing in the kitchen, making me a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. She was singing along to "50 Ways" as it played on that little kitchen radio. When it got to the "Hop on the bus, Gus!" part, I collapsed on the floor in a fit of giggles, picturing a little man named "Gus" hopping up and down on top of a school bus. My mom started laughing at me while I laughed my crazy little "Snoopy laugh" (as she called it), and the more she laughed, the more I laughed, and the longer the song played, the more we both laughed until she had to sit down on the kitchen chair and I was rolling around on the floor and my stomach hurt from laughing but I couldn't stop so I just laid there, all giggly and out of breath. It's one of my favorite childhood memories.
The song: The Carpenters Top of the World. (Oh man. Watch the video I linked to. It's adorable. Why can't we all be sweet and innocent like that again?)
I loved this song when I was a wee one, even though I didn't quite have a handle on the lyrics, as you'll see.
The memory: My dad worked in advertising, and occasionally his colleagues and their wives would come over to our house in Greensburg for dinner and/or cocktails. I was about four or five years old, so naturally I took it upon myself to provide the evening's entertainment whenever my parents had "company" over.
The grownups would be sitting in the living room, enjoying cocktails and smoking cigarettes and talking about Billie Jean King or Barry Manilow or the energy crisis or whatever grownups talked about in the seventies. The living room was in full view of the staircase that led up to the bedrooms. We had this giant brown leather beanbag chair, and I'd drag it over to the bottom of the stairs, climb to the top of the steps (it was only about seven steps--we had a split-level home) and shout:
"I'm on the top of the world, looking down on creation, and the only essplanation.....I CAN FLY!"
Then I'd take a running leap and cannonball down the seven steps into the big brown beanbag chair, to the delight of (most of) the adults. Their applause and laughter were like catnip to me, so I did it again and again. After about my fourth encore, my dad would say, "Okay, you're getting all wound up now. Time for bed." And then my mom would shepherd me to my bedroom even though it was WAY before my official bedtime and I hadn't even had dessert or watched Donny and Marie or anything. (Shut up. I liked The Donny and Marie Show). So unfair.
|Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.|
Alas, my parents didn't heed that advice, and so I was doomed to a childhood of anonymity.
The song: Any and all John Denver songs prior to 1982
The memory: Jeez. So many. My mom loved John Denver, and his music was ubiquitous in our household when I was a little kid. He was almost like a member of the family; the sweet hippie uncle I never had. (My mom's brother is a very nice guy, but he's a rich Republican--a white sheep in a family of black sheep.) I was devastated when John Denver died. It really was like losing a relative. I wish he was still around. I think he could have had a career resurgence, now that the Baby Boomers are all old and nostalgic.
If I could narrow it down, I'd probably say my favorite John Denver-related memory happened in 2000, when I was 27 years old and in love with a sensitive artist type, a 23-year-old painter who ate, drank, lived and breathed 1960's and 70's acoustic folk music. He loved the Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkel, Peter Paul and Mary, Don MacLean, Jim Croce, and John Denver. This guy--okay, let's go ahead and call him Louis, since he was the inspiration for that character in my novel and he's also very unlikely to read this--was the only person I'd met outside my family who shared my love for John Denver and his music. Louis and I drove from Indianapolis to Shades State Park in the summer of 2000, singing along to John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" on the tape deck for much of the journey. Yeah, that was a good time.
I kinda like writing about this music/memory stuff. I'll be posting more bits like this in the coming weeks.