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The Day My Music Died And The World Became Real… Walls and Windows

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Fifty-nine years ago this week, I can vividly remember…

… coming home from my Grade 1 classroom at Glen Echo School, and sitting in my family’s living room in Hamilton.

I sat there on the couch beside my Mom in silence, watching black and white TV coverage on the big wood-encased console TV that sat in the corner of the room.

Together we stared at the grainy images as a shocked world responded to the death of a man I had no idea existed before that day.

But many millions of others did know him and were dream-walking in a cloudy state of distress and disbelief. It was how the adults around me reacted to this that I remember most.

Mom sat forward on the couch, elbows propped on her knees, gazing intently at the screen. There were no tears, but I knew something wasn’t right.

What little I knew about the world was different from that day forward. An explosion had occurred and the world suddenly became real to a little 6 year-old… me.

The date? November 22, 1963.

Yes, I’m… ahem… old enough to remember the day of JFK’s assassination. U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

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Not to dismiss the deaths alluded to in Don MacLean’s classic song American Pie, my life hit its first wall of sorts on November 22, 1963, which in a way created my first window of memory, followed by a great number of other walls-and-windows-of-memory later on.

Memories are fascinating things, aren’t they?… how we experience thousands of moments each day, yet almost all hit a wall and slip quietly to the floor, never to be seen again. I typically remember very little within 24 hours without concentrated thought.

And yet…

… not everything strikes a wall and falls away.

There are also windows of memory, windows filled with remembrances that we see, feel, hear, and taste for the remainder of our lives.

Honestly, I don’t know the details of the complex brain chemistry that preferentially keeps and stores those visions that can feel “alive”, as if they happened yesterday.

I know it can all be explained by chemical elements, hormones, and synapses, still I find it a mystical part of brain magic.

With great detail, I can experience over and over the exhilarating births of each of my children, I can feel the panic of nearly drowning when I was about 7 years old and had stepped into an unexpected dropoff in a Parry Sound lake, I can hear the voice of my mother reminding me when I was 15 to apply for a McDonald’s job the night she died, I can viscerally feel the elated exhaustion as I crossed the finish line of a 1990 Ironman race.

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There are lots and lots of these vibrant memories, but they represent only a miniscule amount of the bank deposits that have been passed through my accounts.

Each of us possesses a myriad of wondrous memory “windows”… most are of great import to our lives, our formation… and strangely, a few minor episodes slip through, little escapees of the forgotten prison, for some unexplainable reason.

Walls and windows – blessings and curses, curses and blessings… are not only a part of our physical homes of comfort, but also of our inner mansion of memory comfort and discomfort.

JFK’s death was only the first of many windows constructed as I began building my lifetime home.

Childhood Solstice

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This week’s song lyric is a reflection on summer and youth …

… we all carry within us a trunk filled with sunny memories of long, warm, (hopefully) carefree summer days.

My early boyhood in Hamilton, Ontario was a mix of outdoor sports (football, baseball, tennis), mischief with friends, occasional flirting with a young crush, delivering newspapers, family meals … all within the milieu of a hot, humidity-soaked summer day next to Lake Ontario.

And of course, the bittersweet notion of summer solstice… that moment when the procession of long…  longer … longest days … comes to a halt and the slow slide towards fall and winter begins…

This 6-verse song – like summer wear – is going semi-naked … chorus-less and bridge-less. The rhyme pattern is a bit ragged but I’m OK with this… just because!

Most current songs you hear have a chorus with a distinct “hook” that makes the song memorable and humm-able – think of your favourite songs and how you often remember the words to the chorus but not the verse …

… which means that when I get to setting these words to music, each verse will need to have a catchy melody line with a sense of a “hook”.

music hook

OK, let’s go…

Here is this week’s song lyric:

CHILDHOOD SOLSTICE

First summerday breeze so stifling and damp
I have sunburns from the beach
grassy field stains on my pants
I have a laugh and a lust of playground flirting
Wallowing in my head, barely within reach

Lugging “The Spec’ from doorstep to door
I have the weight of canvas bag
black newsprint on my arms I abhor
I have the Scot’s brogue of Ogilvie sisters
Apartmentized pair of old tea-sipping crags

Then breath-sucking afternoon swelter
I have the sound of the truck chime
strawberry shortcake for a nickel or dime
I have Good Humour icy popsicle that melts
Syrupy orange on my face and sugary grime

The sun still high but here it is suppertime
I have Friday night eggs from the pan
Monday night chili made by Dad’s old hand
I have Sunday roast beef with everyone there
Tomato juice and steamed corn we eat with our hands

Nighttime flickering moths on streetlamps
I have chords of Paul and Carole and James
bouncing beats of Mungo Jerry
I have harmonic strains of Brian and brothers
Black and white Dick Van Dyke and The Dating Game

My head weighs down on this soft downy bed
I have baseballs and footballs thrown in my head
Mom’s amen kiss on my cheek cheeky-red
I have water sucked hard from a sprinkler
Glazed-over eyes playing hopscotch with stars

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