Pardon the crude title, but a writing teacher I heard once said no one wants to hear a sad story unless you've already bled, scabbed, and scarred from it before writing about it.
She wrote a book about her life that was tragic in many ways, an expert in how to write without depressing people. I valued her insight and it stuck with me ever since. That said, I'm still learning. Hopeful that this bit won't depress;
I feel I have scarred from the trauma of losing my closest childhood friend when I was 12. I see 12 year olds now... and the first thing I see is how real their feelings are, how they aren't just a pre-accumulation of adolescent hormones and potential between kid and teen awkwardness. They are capable of great joy and great, immense, paralysis-of-heart-kind of grief.
~~ The 12-year-old part of me has scarred since the paralysis-of-heart-kind of grief hit.
But even then, the reality of losing someone in early years is that every once in a blue moon, some random event has potential to feel exactly as it did as a kid. There are times I see the boys play that watching them actually turns into reliving a memory of play. Amy and I turning a tape on her brother's 'boom box' when he wasn't watching and lip syncing and dancing pretending we were famous. This was pre-so-you-think-you-can-dance-american-idol era. But we were definitely in our own famed world.
Moments like these make me grateful for the experience of the once 'tiny' moments that turn into museum of memory.
I happenstance sauntered into the memory museum when the TV came on today and Rattle and Hum...
…U2’s Rattle and Hum... mom took Amy and I to the movie theater, we had told her we were going to a different movie because both our moms had shot down our plea for the documentary due to our ages. At the time, we were in different schools, we were growing up at different speeds, I was 12 going on 10 and she was 12 going on 16. I was late bloomer; she had turned into a tall teenager with flow-y red hair rather than chaotic half-washed little kid hair like mine.
So we went rather defiantly, without remorse- we simply HAD to see U2, no one would stop us... it was MUSIC for heaven's sake.
Sat there in the theater feeling independent, feeling the imperative and urgent need of seeing Bono, Edge, Adam, Larry... up close and personal-on a stage-on a screen. It was like my first real music experience, I felt the rhythms and experienced the lyrics in an inexpressible way. Amy was moved similarly by music. As kindergartners we loved to sing and dance, as middle school-ers we were moved by Rattle and Hum. So little had changed in our decade as friends.
back to present: Here I am today watching the same documentary with my 7 year old commenting on wanting to grow his hair out like Bono and asking why Edge is named that. Involuntarily tears come and go. down my cheeks and then stop, harmonica strikes classic Bono moment, emotion seeps out of Edge's guitar, Adam's silver classic spectacles and swagger, and Larry Mullen Jr.- drumming his way into my heart, becoming my first musician crush at age 10. I don't know if my U2 nostalgia and passion is wrapped up entirely in the music or their mid-80's hotness, or their passionate political soliloquies, or Sunday Bloody Sunday ringing in my ears through math and Latin, tapping my pencil to the metronome in my brain.
memory: A huge part of U2 is wedged in my heart somewhere between my seat and Amy's in a movie theater that doesn't exist anymore. We sat through Rattle and Hum like it was a solstice between childhood and grownup hood. We sat through Rattle and Hum getting a high off Rock songs that read to us like lullabies and made momentary sense of the coming angst of teenage-hood.
We said little, we melted, we promised each other when the credits rolled we would start a band, and write our own songs, and play them and change the world. And even more so- because we were girls. We were unstoppable. We listened to the chorus, "In the name of Love"... MLK... shot rang out in a Memphis sky... drums and mass of voices singing Bono's part in unison...
She went home that day to her growing up quickly world that awaited her, she went home from Rattle and Hum humming the songs, waving goodbye to me, she was waving goodbye to the comforting simplicity of kid-ness. I was still Alice in Wonderland humming those same tunes as we parted ways. I didn't know how to grow up yet, I didn't know how to feel anything but the pulsing pushing melodies of a song, didn't know the real life lure of first love or lust or whatever it's called then...
I waved goodbye with memory in tow and feeling happily rebellious for the first time, with a secret my family wouldn't know until Amy and I would form our band and change the world just like U2, but even more since we were girls... the future felt like it might just be bright-
The shot rang out in an Oklahoma sky and Amy's breath disappeared as quickly as the credits to the documentary rolled. Amy was gone. She didn't get to grow up, and her melodies went with her to the grave. I bled, and scabbed, and then bled again. I was 19 when I decided not to feel guilty anymore for living through my teens and my firsts and my dances and even brief cheerleading stint to KLF, a song I know Amy would have danced to much better, she was a natural born performer.
Today I watched and hummed and answered Luke's questions about U2, and let quiet tears fall when i felt the sting for the first time in a really long time of the empty seat next to me in that AMC Theater.
And then the songs ended and the credits rolled, as they had 21 years ago and I felt a satisfied sense of gratitude. The passion brought on by a simple documentary and a friend has shaped the way I teach my boys about the inspiring and complex nature of music to move the soul. The memory has shaped the way I encourage tears to roll down their faces rather than hide them when they remember my grandmother whom they miss.
The memory has shaped the way I encourage them to do whatever the cuss they want to do because they CAN and life is too short to not live it fully and appreciate things, the good the bad and the ugly.
The memory has shaped the way I see many things, ways I mother, ways I grieve, ways I let music take me to places of bliss when the moment hits, ways I let moments usher in feeling a past memory for the sake of healing and hopefully helping someone else know that loss doesn't last forever, and that moments made with loved ones can becoming the motivating force behind a dream. We won't always bleed when someone or something's been taken away. We won't always scab and worry something might rip it off when we least expect it. We'll scar and scar profoundly because there will be a story behind it that changes the way we see the world if we let it-
This is not a sad song I’m singing today;
as I close this and turn off the documentary, I hear Luke in the other room making up his own song with C G Am and D, just like Bono and B.B. King's-- i hear him, he's singing lyrics he remembers from an Emmylou Harris song, a seven year old with the heart of storyteller allowing himself the freedom of feeling the connection between chord and pulsing beats and lyrical words...
Beauty out of ashes, that's what my mom always taught me.
I knew I could believe in God, if She could make something beautiful, as beautiful as a moving melody, out of something as awful as death, I could believe.