[Abby’s Road] A sonic childhood revisited

Grandmother Lois: top row, far left. Great aunt Gladys: top row, third from the left. My father: bottom row, far right. I’ll allow you the pleasure of figuring out the rest.

(Note: This is Part II of what will eventually be a three-part, Summer 2010 Youth Series. Part I arrived at Knox Road yesterday.)

Those of you who pay attention to my ramblings every fourteen days or so may have noticed that I am a soul steeped in nostalgia. I’m not overtly living in the past, however. I throw out a healthy cup of reflection, yes. But I’ve also said the following when discussing the 35+ crowd attempting to pull off the American Apparel catalog at a Hot Chip show: Sad but true, the day comes when your ass has to be covered, even if you can bounce a quarter off of it. I’m realistic.

Youth. I’ve been thinking about mine a lot lately. I find it curious how memories of my childhood multiply exponentially immediately upon learning about the death of a family friend or relative. As of this past Wednesday, I lost my great-aunt Gladys, the matriarch of my father’s side of the family (in my lifetime, anyway). Gladys was my paternal grandmother’s sister. My grandmother, whose name was Lois, I never met (but with whom I share a profile and long, slender fingers). She, technically, was a single mother of one but had lots of help from her parents, her brother and her sister’s family. When grandmother Lois succumbed to illness while my father was in university, her sister, great-aunt Gladys, took over as his surrogate mother, never missing a beat. Although she was my aunt, Gladys played the only “grandmother” role in my life from my first breath until her passing. She out-lived my father. She was a beautiful woman, a magnificent singer, always matched her shoes to her handbag and cooked the best stewed hamburgers in Pennsylvania.

I’m of the opinion that teenaged years are selfish ones. For me: show-going, discovering music and cutting my teeth in the romance department. It happened. Fun was had but it wasn’t beautiful. The rock and roll/lovey dovey bits are good for reminiscing, but the gilded memories, the really meaty ones, come from the days before realizing I was going to become an adult. Before I knew what a pimple was, before I knew about death and taxes and abuse. Being 7 or 8 years of age when I sleepily grinned upon awakening to rain pounding on the roof and looked forward to squirreling away in my beautiful bedroom, nose in a book all day. The days of climbing a hillside and unearthing rocks to find gemmy salamanders or crayfish which, after being traumatized and carried home in a baby-food jar were (after my father’s instruction) released into the great wide open. I look back on my general childhood with fondness on a daily basis. The super colorful memories, as of recent days, materialize in a stream-of-consciousness sparked by the thought of loved ones passed who played a major role in my life as a child (and on into adulthood). It’s a bit morose but lovely all the same.

Two records entered my life recently, one beauty I mentioned yesterday (see above) and one not yet released that I’ll remind you about in the next days. Both, succinctly, speak volumes about youth and being a kid, evoking in me many of the same memories I just gushed on about. In the past I’ve mentioned lyrics being secondary when it comes to my affinity for a song or an artist. I’ve also written about perfect lyrics and songs which, in a few lines, can paint such a brilliant picture of my history that I am moved to tears. When artists find a way to remind me of the pleasant path my size-3.5 shoes walked decades ago, it’s worth passing along with hopes that a few others might experience the same.

Happy weekend.

[Abby’s Road is a Knox Road feature published every other Friday.]

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