In the summer of 1964, a sixteen year old invited me to a Beach Boys concert. My mother drove me from one end of Kansas City to the other. In the car on the way to my date’s home, I imagined myself in love, but by the time we arrived, I went mute.
His mother, a petite cotton clad homemaker, known for doing her part in a solid marriage, invited us inside. At more than six feet, my mother towered over most people, especially her. Their difference hurt my eyes. Mom had on what was then called a squaw dress: bare shoulders and swirling skirt with rick-rack on the edges. (Still under wraps except in our household: my dad was nowhere to be found.)
As Mom walked to the car to leave, she casually said, “Goodbye, cruel world.” I was used to her final proclamations, and assumed I would see her after the evening ended. But I didn’t know when I would see my dad, if ever.
Settled at the concert like two opposing magnets, we sat behind a girl who scratched at her face and bawled at the first note from the band. As her frenzy progressed, one scream at a time, the buttons down her back came undone. The first one exposed her bra. I noticed right away that only one of the two closure hooks was fastened. A teenager’s bra hanging by one hook meant my date avoided looking at her, and I averted my gaze from his.
At the end of the last song, when the girl stood to go toward the exit aisle, her friends discovered her bare skin. With only the top button remaining closed, once again, they hit the high notes of hysteria. Someone threw a coat over her, and then stared at me like I might have done something to help. But I was impervious to her scorn, to the music of The Beach Boys, to my date’s attention. The only thing on my radar the night of my first concert, was an unraveling. And I was helpless to change it.
Passage in time helps us to sort out the awkward moments of our formative years that made no sense at the time, perplexing family issues and navigating peculiarities in this existence. Perhaps we are all time travelers who have done the journey in different times and places with more grace than ones such as the girl’s frenzy for the boys in the band done in such earnest she popped her buttons. Even as a young adolescent in that era, I always pondered the most peculiar behavior that many screaming young women seemed to think was the way to show appreciation for men.
It was such peculiar behavior, especially to a girl trying to hold it all together in an unraveling life.
The stunned silence you felt comes through, what a turning point in your life.
It surprises me that that story was really about my mom because when I first wrote it, it was about the girl, her gyrations, and her blouse. That’s what writing does: help put the pieces and the feelings together.
Oh my goodness Stephanie. If this was the first page of a book I’m hooked. I want to know what happened on that journey home from the concert, I want to know how you got home, if there was a kiss, if your mum was even going to be there, what was the foreshadowing comment about your dad. Absolutely brilliant writing my dear friend.
much love Fiona
PS: Assuming you’re still taking clients I need to come and see you probably for one final time in person 🙂 Maybe sometime after the holidays.
Oh my goodness, yourself! If I ever make a book of these shorts, can I use your comment as a review? ‘
I would love to see you after the holidays! I’m so happy you are planning this new chapter .
nice. there is something about early recollections at a pop concert … very nice.