Hub has asked me many times through the years exactly why I am not more disgruntled about my childhood. It wasn’t a good time by many standards. We were poor, my parents’ house was foreclosed on, we moved in with neighbors, and then finally in to a large apartment above a pizzeria in the Polish section of The City. Our clothes were hand-me-downs, food often came from the food pantry, and I have vivid memories of standing in line for cheese. We only sometimes had a car, sometimes had cable, and rarely had anything extra.
“But your mom always had cigarettes and booze, right?” Hub reminds me. And she did. But we were always warm, never hungry, went to Catholic school, and it always seemed like enough. When you’re a kid, normal is whatever your experience has been. It was normal to walk to the grocery store and push a cart home. I didn’t know any better, so it was fine. And later when I was 11, when we moved to a far off suburb because my parents were doing better for themselves, and I started going to public school, I learned what it felt like to be seen as different and not enough. It didn’t matter that I was clean, or that I was nice. It mattered that my clothes came from layaway at Hills and that my white high tops were knockoffs. And that my perm and my olive skin made me look “mixed”. Things that never mattered before mattered now. And that’s when I started to grow up, and continued to grow, and try to be just like everyone else. From the time I was 11, until about the age of 14 I tried really hard to be one of those girls. Saving my babysitting money to buy better clothes and better shoes. Going out of my way to prove that I was just as good as everyone else. And I was miserable. And then high school came, and I settled in with my group of friends as myself, and I never looked back.
That was a bit of a digression, I suppose, but in my long and drawn out way, what I was meaning to say was that when times were “bad” I was happier and better adjusted than when they were ”good”. Then, I had no idea that my mother was drunk; she was just Mama. Everything was as it always had been. Normal. We might not have had luxuries like designer clothes and name brand cereal and it never mattered. Something we always had though, were my dad’s records. And boy, did he ever have a lot of them.
My parents were old school in their musical tastes. If we weren’t listening to “oldies” on the radio, we were listening to my dad’s rock albums from the 70’s. Queen, Yes, and Meatloaf to name a few. And if we were in a mellow mood, my mother had Cat Stevens, James Taylor, and one of my favorites, the soundtrack from The Sound of Music. And really, music was what we did on the weekends. We would crank it up, and dance in our family room like it was nobody’s business. And these are the memories that I have from my childhood. Dancing my fool head off with my parents and my brother like nothing in the world mattered. Because really, it didn’t.
So without further ado, I give you my 2 favorite songs of all time. The first, my favorite long before it was a karaoke staple: Meatloaf, Paradise by the Dashboard Light
And the second, long before Wayne and Garth headbanged to it in the early 90’s: Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody
Though I’m always adding songs to the list, these have been my songs for more than 20 years. Do you have any songs that have stood the test of time?