Sky Rockets in Flight

April 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Well, I guess I’m old,” I tell Jeff.

“Why?” he says.

“I can’t stop listening to the oldies station, you know, the hits from the seventies, eighties, and nineties?” I say in my smooth radio announcer voice.

“That’s just good music,” Jeff says. “Everything on the radio today is shit. It doesn’t mean you’re old.”

Jeff and I discovered this station accidentally. We are normally NPR junkies, which I suppose could peg us as even older, but we left the clock radio turned to the station the Duke game was on and woke up one morning to Peter Frampton. You know the talking guitar thing: Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa? We sat in bed for a while listening. Now, I listen to it in my car, especially on days I want to avoid the news. I was ashamed for a while—dear God, I might as well move to Florida, the land the seventies never left. Now I’m wondering how bad that could be. Some parts of my brain, my connection to music in particular, were formed with these songs. I know the exact place it started:

I am in the back seat of our Mercury station wagon, the yellow one with the wood grain side panels.  My tiny thighs are sticking to the tan vinyl seat. It’s July in Kentucky and everything is sticking to everything in the humidity. I am not wearing a seatbelt, no one in the car is, and my head is tilted toward the breeze from the open window, where I watch the patches of light flash through the thick canopy of trees. It is the summer of 1976, so I am wearing a sundress, elasticized at the chest, a blue printed patchwork of calico. My hair is wavy and wild, probably hasn’t been brushed since school let out. Maybe I am wearing shoes.

We are driving out to the new house, down the curvy, rural Armstrong Mill Road. There is a hill that mom always takes too fast, and my stomach jumps when the Mercury pops over it. This is when I hear the first song I ever remember hearing on the radio: “Afternoon Delight.” I have no idea what the lyrics mean, but I like the sound of the words sky rockets in flight, afternoon de-li-iiight. I also hear a song about a baby writing a letter. The house is unfinished, and we walk through it.  I play in the fields around it. Each of our rooms has a unique color of low shag carpet. Katie and I, who are seen as one person sometimes, have apple green. Jenny has light blue, Michele has yellow, and Leigh Ann, of course, has a silky pale pink, which will eventually almost mat. A-a-afternoon delight!

Fast-forward a few years, to New Year’s Eve. It must be the eve of 1980 because I am in Leigh Ann’s pink room, sitting on her brass bed, listening to Casey Kasem counting down the top 100 songs of the end of the decade on her clock radio. Maybe she just got it for Christmas? We know so many of the songs! As you can see here the list begins with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and ends with “My Sharona.” Who can argue with that?

Those days in that house in what used to be the country are tied to the songs I now hear on my own clock radio. My love for that music may mean I’m old, but Jeff is right, it’s good music.

My childhood is locked inside it.



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