Thursday, June 13, 2013

"I Like It!" The British Invasion

I was born in 1983, so my most memorable growing-up years were in the 90s. When I was about 10-years-old, in 5th grade, my bubbly, freckle-faced, red-haired best friend, Kristina handed me a black cassette tape -- sometime after lunch and before recess. "Here, take this home and listen to it. It's great!" I looked at the white label she had stuck on and her familiar handwriting. It read, "Beatles Mix."

I admired Kristina. Her parents were teachers, and she had a dedication to school life and hobbies that I envy to this day. I was a good student, too, but it came easy to her. She was focused. Only now do I really understand the work that she put into recording that tape. Her parents had a record collection, so she must have had to sit and record each of her favorite songs, one at a time. I didn't realize it then, but the songs span all 10+ years of the Beatles' career. The songs start with the early years, from "What You're Doing" to "Lovely Rita" to "Bungalow Bill," and if I remember correctly, a few Abbey Road songs thrown in. She also made her own cardboard tape-insert and diligently listed all the songs as she recorded them.

While she was making this tape for me (which I still have, though the label has started to fall off), I was at home dancing with my little sister to "Dreamlover" by Mariah Carey and a collection of New Kids on the Block tapes, in leggings, a sundress, and a sunflower hat not unlike my idol, Blossom.

The Beatles Mix changed everything. I got lost in the sound, wandered through it, and didn't come out until about 6 years later. My life casually revolved around Beatles music. Birthdays brought t-shirts and, later, CDs. Friends found records at garage sales, my parents found an old player for me to use.

As I grew, I meandered through the Fab Four's career and let it grow with me. Every song is tied to a memory -- the adolescent kind -- awkward, heart-soaring, and heartbreaking memories. And others are just simple -- the easy, up-and-down melody of "What You're Doing," tumbling out of my speakers, as I clean my bedroom. It makes the memories crisper, clearer. Sometimes, too clear.

I've somewhat resisted exposing E to the Beatles, and I can't fully explain or even understand why. Sure, I hummed her a few tunes when I was desperate to get her to sleep or to hush her cries in the car. I sang a few rounds of "Yellow Submarine" in the middle of the night. The majority of my brain's filing cabinet is filled with Beatles songs, so when I search for a song in a panic, it's no surprise I find myself always back at the "B" folder. But still, I resist.

I think it has something to do with the "too clear," not wanting to take on the emotions of my past, while I'm a bit overloaded with the ones of my present, my future. Maybe I just didn't want to force it on her. But yesterday, as E screamed in the car for "crackers" that I didn't have, I all of a sudden broke out into song, letting go of all the stress, all the frustration. And for some reason, it was (the Beatles version of) "Clarabella."

Well, I've.... got a baby!!
(deep breath; pause; E got quiet as I kept driving)
Crazy for me!!!
(gulp; Yeah, I can do this; E waited expectantly)
Yeah, I've got a baby!!

(Then, the main melody -- it falls then rises unexpectedly, raw and beautiful...)
Who won't let me be... Oh, baby, baby... Clarabella, baby, baby!
Clarabella, baby, baby...! Whoa, whoa... yeah.

Ahh, that felt great! E clapped in the back seat, and soon we were home.

And, this morning, back in the car on the way to day care, when the scene repeated itself, I dug into the pocket of the passenger side door for my old CD case. My actual Beatles collection is in storage, but I have a homemade "Beatles For Sale" album kicking around for emergencies. I bravely popped it in the car CD player, ready to face all the dimensions of my life that are literally swimming in these songs.

Maybe it's no coincidence that I've always kept this music, literally, within an arm's reach. It has always been both my permission to let go and my safety net. I know that. But part of me (and is it okay to say the best part of me?) believes that the music somehow takes on a mind of its own -- that it waited for me to come back to it, that it whispered to me to keep it close.

And, is it a coincidence that, it's the same music that lulls E to sleep, makes her kick and laugh in the back seat? Most other songs get a "No, no, no," but, this morning, she gave the Beatles a round of applause and an "I like it!"

"Me too," I said, happily.

Is it just good music? Or, was she born of my heart and my soul?

Probably both.

Anyway, she's hooked, and I'm preparing myself for the British Invasion. Again.

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