Not long ago, I was in my car, zapping through every radio station on the FM dial, just looking for one single song that didn't suck. I landed on a commercial, so I decided to wait and see what would happen. Maybe they'd play the elusive Song that Doesn't Suck. It happens, right? Not that often, but it happens. The song was Paul McCartney and Wings' "Band on the Run". This isn't a favorite song for me. It isn't even top 20. But I hadn't heard it in at least ten years, and it caused a memory rush, including a detail that I had forgotten completely.
In 1973, my grandmother took us to Ocean City, New Jersey for a week in July. It was the first time I'd ever spent more than a day at the beach, and it was the best week ever. We stayed in an apartment about a block from the beach, on the second floor of a three-story building. I don't remember much about the apartment, except for the shared outside shower where we all washed the sand off every afternoon. What I do remember is my favorite childhood bathing suit, possibly my favorite EVER bathing suit. It was a one piece tank suit, made of stretchy orange crushed velvet, with a satin applique of an orange. My sister had the same suit, except hers was purple and her applique was a bunch of grapes. I remember filling buckets with water and finding the water filled with tiny minnows. I remember butterscotch ice cream, which is very hard to find...go ahead and try to order butterscotch, and you'll be offered butter rum, butter brickle, butter pecan, but no butterscotch. I remember the Fore and Aft Restaurant. My aunt, who was 10 and precocious, had a crush on one of the waiters. But what I had forgotten until I heard the song was The Glass Menagerie.
The Glass Menagerie was not a Tennessee Williams play. It was a little box of colored glass pieces (that was the Glass), stick-on googly eyes, and felt. You glued the pieces together to create animals (thus the Menagerie). My grandmother bought them for us on the one rainy day, and we spent the day at the kitchen table making tiny glass cats and bunnies. We treasured those little creations for a while, and then we forgot them. I remembered them only 36 years later, listening to the radio in my car.
The little glass animals weren't the thing. The memory was about more than the toy. It was about a time when I didn't know what I didn't know. I didn't know enough to worry. My mother wasn't depressed then (or maybe she was, and I just didn't know). It wasn't long after that that I began to understand that things weren't right. But that's a story for later, and my mother is fine now.
Not long after "Band on the Run", my children were watching their beloved Spaceballs (which I know is not appropriate for a 7 and 4 year old. Talk to their father. I disclaim all responsibility for my children's love of "Spaceballs"). As you probably know, "Spaceballs" is a very broad spoof of "Star Wars", with some other space-themed movies thrown in. There's a very funny scene in a restaurant, where the diners at the counter watch in horror as an Alien-like creature bursts out of the abdomen of a screaming man. The creature looks around at the terrified witnesses...then it pulls out a hat and cane, and starts to dance and sing:
"Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal! Send me a kiss by wire, baby, my heart's on fire! If you refuse me, honey, you'll lose me, then you'll be left alone. Oh baby telephone, and tell me I'm your own!"
My four year old thinks this is the funniest thing that's ever been recorded on film. When my seven year old saw it for the first time, he said "hey! Mom, you used to sing me that song! Right? Right?"
Right! I did used to sing that song, but I hadn't sung it since he was three or so...when 4yo was born, I started to sing "Disco Inferno" (another story for later. I made up new lyrics) and they both loved that song, so "Hello My Baby" was forgotten, just like a glass bunny.
Some things run in families. I'm luckier than my mother was. There are lots of medications that make the fight with the black dog a pretty fair one. Sometimes I feel wrong about taking them. I should be stronger, right? I should just try to push my way through it. But I don't want "Hello My Baby" to remind my son of the last time that his mother was well, and that things were OK.