Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Two-Track Tuesday: Reflections

I cried a tear.
You wiped it dry.
I was confused.
You cleared my mind.
I sold my soul.
You bought it back for me.
And raised me up
And gave me dignity.
Somehow you needed me.

Thus begins this 1979 K-Tel compilation of pop ballads. Reflections is most likely the oldest cassette tape I own and probably the first pre-recorded tape I ever purchased.

I listened to the entire tape again over this past week, and the sound quality is fairly good for something so anachronistic and obsolete. I guess I'm lucky to have one of the last Camry's with a standard tape-player.

It's difficult for me to remember who exactly I was when I saved enough money to buy this at Perry's, the dime store in the next town over. I know that I was a fan of this first song, "You Needed Me" by Anne Murray, as well as a fan of the two songs by Barry Manilow: "Even Now" and "Could It Be Magic." These songs were some of the first pop songs I learned to play on the piano after I started lessons at about the same time this cassette hit the market.

I was far too young to have understood anything about love or sexual relationships, but I sang along with each song as if I indeed had suffered the tragic heartbreaks sung about by these (more often than not one-hit) pop stars. To some extent, the translation to what passed itself off as religious devotion back then was easy enough; hell, I had even heard Anne Murray's hit sung in a church or two. But, of course, with the subjunctive adverb, "So high that I could almost see eternity," changed to the declarative, "clearly." Such things impressed my far-too-easily impressed mind back then.

Now at 40, I don't recognize the part of me, then at 11, that would've wanted to spend his hard-to-come-by cash on such a compilation. Each song comes across to me now as pure kitsch, even the Chopin-inspired introduction to Manilow's "Could It Be Magic." Even Chopin comes across to me as kitsch these days, though. Each song's hook had gotten caught in the impressionable, overwrought, and melodramatic heart worn too openly on my sleeve.

That melodrama, I do recognize at times, especially when I try to feel what it was I felt back then. I'd like to be able to cling to this music as to an emotional life raft once more. I deeply mourn the loss of such naïveté: it was such a huge part of my childhood and early adult life. But I'm faced with too much truth about who I actually was at the time and its conflict with who I thought I was.

I played the role of the wounded lover, the unlovable, at 11 because I had been conditioned by generations of abuse and neglect to never accept love. My angst was too much a manifestation of the pain heaped upon my too young and too sensitive mind. I no longer need those ghosts to keep me company. That little, sad boy is no more, not even the man I am today.

What could I say to that kid now? Can I just casually toss that cassette in the recycling bin and forget it (and he) ever happened? Not likely. But I also don't feel the need to hang on to something outgrown like a pair of shoes, two sizes too small for a heart that has expanded in the past three decades, so much so as to totally embrace such a scared, lonely boy, to hold his hand in the dark places of the world, but also to let him go when it's time.

It's time.

1 comment:

  1. Let him go, yes. But the trace of that little boy, the referent that preceeded the man, remains, because he, in part, made the man.

    And it's the unfinished, unlimited totality that I love: the trace of the little boy in the man.