Solar Production 2016 and 2018

Solar Production 2016 and 2018

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Hey Jude

Road Trip questions…..what was the first song that was yours, not something your parents played?

               The summer I was eight, my parents parked the camper in my aunt’s driveway for a month while the truck had some repairs done. We were about to travel across the country and the suspension system was questionable. They slept in the camper; I preferred sleeping in the house with my cousins. The boys slept in one room; I had a cot with my cousin Sherry, four years younger, in the adjoining room. We were all sent to bed at the same time; the parents were clearly done with us by about eight o’clock. Sherry and Steven went to sleep quickly. Roland, the eldest by a year, did not. He loved baseball, so he took a small radio to bed with him to listen to the Red Sox games. Most nights, I slipped over to join him. We would listen to the game, to the sound of our parents talking, drinking beer, and playing cards in the kitchen, and chat. No one cared. We were quiet. Every night that summer, the radio played “Hey Jude” at the same time, a few minutes after the game was over.  We waited for the song to begin, sang along softly, and then I would head back to my cot and sleep.  We did not quite understand the longing in the lyrics, but it spoke to us. And, oddly enough, I never heard the song during the day, when the radio was dominated by “Honey, Honey” and “When the weather is hot, you can do what you please.” It was a night song.

                Four years later, back from the cross country adventure, we moved in with my cousins again. The house was bigger—my parents had a room inside—another child had been added to the mix, but the situation was the same. Kids formed a pack that ran around just beyond the gaze of adults. On Saturdays, we were all left alone in the house while every adult went to work. We argued over whose turn it was to change Kevin’s diapers (he was only house broken for my father), watched bad television, went ice skating until we froze, and listened to music. Roland had acquired the Beatles compilation albums for Christmas and we played them over and over. Once again, we sang along to “Hey Jude.”  It was not my favorite song—the ending refrain went on too long in my mind—but we were loud.

                Three years later, Roland convinced our mothers that we had to go to Boston to see Beatlemania, a group of musicians who performed the classic songs, in authentic costumes, with a slide show.  Going to a show in the Big City was not common at that point in time; I doubt that he would have succeeded if the women of the house had not wanted an evening out, perhaps at the new Hyatt hotel on the waterfront. Whatever argument he used, they agreed. We drove into Boston, bought scalped tickets, which felt unbelievably adult, and went in. Our mothers drove off with specific pick-up instructions. (I believe they were late getting back…) The show was transformative. I understood, watching the slides and listening to the music, the connections between popular culture, current events, and music—something I was only just beginning to consider. And it was sad, too, to watch the group disintegrate over time, which I only sensed then and learned the details of later. I was transfixed. And so was my cousin, who always tried to be a Bad Boy, to be hip and cool. In that context, “Hey Jude” took on a whole new meaning, the longing to do well, to reach for something more.

                This was the last time I spent any real thoughtful time with my cousin. We were on separate paths by then. I was the Good Girl, the smart one, who took Honors English and read piles of books on the side. He was a Bad Boy, skipping classes, smoking across from the bus stop, messing around with girls. He did not graduate. At the time, I don’t think the adults really understood the problems that could cause; they had all done pretty well without high school diplomas. They would not be so causal now.   We all wanted something better; we just did not know how to get there. “Hey Jude” was written as a guide, if we only listened.  I still don’t think “Hey Jude” is the best song they ever wrote—but it sends me back to my roots every time.

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