Sunday, July 06, 2008

Memories of a Summer Past

June was a very busy month. My coworkers and I spent several weeks busily putting the finishing touches to a huge first-time ever event, finally reaching the culmination point of months and months of work at the end of June. An event that turned out to be more successful than we had dared to dream.

But, prior to the event, I didn't know it would end successfully. There is an old maxim, "Too many cooks spoil the broth." So true. I was in charge of one half of the event we were planning. As the date drew nigh, and stress levels rose, several well-intentioned people wanted a hand in my portion of the planning. I cannot count the number of times I told everyone, "It's going to be great, I've done things similar to this for years." Sigh, they weren't very good at listening. The more "ideas" that were thrown at me, the higher my own feelings of stress would rise. Near the end, a few days before the event itself, all the good intentioned interference became rather overwhelming, I began to feel as if it were all going to fall apart. On this most stressful of days something occurred that I eventually viewed as quite serendipitous. It had me remembering, and with the memories, my self confidence came back.

Memories that had me dancing and singing at my desk.

And...I have X.Dell to thank for it.

Several weeks prior to this rather stress-filled June day, X.Dell had begun posting several entries on his blog about the songster Sam Cooke. After reading his essays, I had added a Sam Cooke themed station to my radio stations. That morning, as is usual on the days I am not on call, I opened up Pandora, and left it playing quietly in the background, listening to, but not really hearing the songs being aired.

By about midday I was feeling lost, feeling as if my project had been jinxed by all of the negativity surrounding it. When suddenly I became aware of the music emitting from my speakers. Long forgotten memories poured out. Memories of a small slice of time when my world was filled more with innocence and joy, than worry and fear. A time when life was just life, each day was simply...a new day to experience.

Get Ready by The Temptations had begun to play.

Suddenly, I was transported back to the summer of 1969.

A summer of changes, a summer in which for the first time in several years I could be a child free of her very real fears, a summer that had profound effects on the developing me.

My family had recently moved to Bloomington, Indiana. Our new home was only a few short blocks from the downtown area, and, only a few more blocks from the University Campus. Even at the ripe young age of 'almost' ten, I could sense the differentness so often found within certain college towns in the Midwest. There was a feeling of freedom inherent in that small University town, one that had not been apparent in the previous small town I had lived in.

At that age there was very little I was aware of outside my own immediate family and small circle of friends. Yet the aura of the sixties, and, the change in attitudes wrought during that time period, had permeated my life. There had been a lot of changes taking place in my family in the months prior to the move. Changes in the young woman that was my mother at the time. Changes that are more easily viewed historically than when actually living them. For a few brief years,(I now believe), my mother 'lived' her life as who she truly was, instead of the way she (and society) thought she should. In this brief spate of time, my mother had lost her father, and, my parents had separated and divorced. I can only surmise that the first event precipitated the second. In losing her father, she found her own voice, and she listened to it, (for a few short years anyway). In the interim she had opened her own home business, and had openly taken a lover. Gone were her days of emulating Jackie Kennedy, the days when she wanted to live the "Father Knows Best" lifestyle.

We also had neighbors that were different than what I was used to, they were the now stereotypical 'flower children' of the times. What I remember the most about our neighbors, was the long beautiful golden hair of the young women and men that were always coming and going, the psychedelic rock music emanating from their open windows, and paper mache candle wax covered Chianti Bottles. Being only a few months shy of my 10th birthday I had no clue they, or we, were living against the then middle-class norm.

But, the most important influence upon me that summer of 1969 was Belinda. Within hours of moving in to our new home, Belinda introduced herself to me, and into my life. She was a year older, and so much more sophisticated (in my mind anyway). I thought Belinda knew everything! She had much older siblings, and was ever eager to emulate them.

All I learned that summer of 69' from my worldly best friend set the stage for my later teen years. Her influence allowed me to let go of my shy little girl ways, and even some of my tomboyish ways. Belinda taught me how to freely and courageously walk the streets of a small city, ( prior to this time, my family had almost always lived in the country, or very small sub-divisions several miles from whatever small town we lived near). She taught me how to dance uninhibitedly, she taught me about boys, and how to flirt. Our friendship, and the times, opened my young spirit up again.

Right before our move, my mother had purchased a new/used console stereo, and along with it came stacks of LP's. Overlapping, and blending with all my memories of Belinda and the summer of '69, are... The Temptations. One day in our search through my mother's albums, we stumbled upon their album, Get Ready. The two songs which strike deep into my memory are Get Ready, and Say You. After we discovered the Temptations and Get Ready, we listened to practically nothing else the rest of the summer. I still remember a day (or it could have been many days) my mother begged us to play something else. We tried, but, sooner than my mother liked, The Temptations were back on the turn table.

There was just something about The Temptations that struck a chord within us both. Our days would often start with a walk uptown, but every afternoon, we would be drawn to the living room, and the huge stereo cabinet set against the wall. With supreme reverence we would slip the record out of its sleeve, gently place it on the turn table, flip the switch, and take our positions on the front porch. Then we danced.

We danced, and danced, and danced. I don't remember ever tiring, just dancing. Dancing until it was time for Belinda to walk back across the street to have dinner with her family. I didn't recognize the feelings then, but looking back on it, I see it, I feel it, we were experiencing the budding into womanhood, we were reveling in our very femaleness.

My Summer of The Temptations. A summer of pure feeling. A summer like no other.


X. Dell said...

(1) Congratulations on your successful event.

(2) Much obliged. For some reason, I notice that when people tune into Sam Cooke, their lives become more pleasant, if for no other reason than the music.

I'm glad of the timing, though. No one wants to have the responsibility for producing what you did, but they'll sure ashell want to take charge (and get credit afterward). Sounds like you're getting a better feel for yourself, and gaining more confidence as time goes by. Congratulations for that too.

(3) I also made a major move in 1969, from the inner city of Columbus, Oh to the suburbs of Cincinnati. We immediately went from extended family, to nuclear family all within the span of two days.

We had plenty of Motown in our house, including the Temptations. But for us, Sly & the Family Stone served as our rallying music.

Sunny Delight said...

1) Thank you. 2)Very true, for me at least. It's rather interesting, now that I think about it...all those that were so worried my portion of the event would be a bust...were quite pleased it wasn't, but no one really said.."Well done, I knew you could do it! Although I did receive a small merit raise afterward...maybe that was supposed to give me the message. 3)Funny, I went from the burbs' to a more urban environment, and was closer to extended family than we had been for many years. Your move was the opposite...I imagine that was rather difficult to lose that closeness with family. 4) I have always been rather dissatisfied with myself as I usually have a hard time remembering music...but I guess its all in just takes certain songs to nudge it out.

S'mee said...

Another great, and thought provoking post Sunny.

Spent some time in the small hours thinking about my early years. Life was so much simpler then.

First L.P was John Barry's Beat Girl. All black leather, slicked back hair and ton-up motor cycles. Don't think I ever got over it ;-)

Word verification LIXIT!

Sunny Delight said...

It's amazing to me how many different things can stir up memories. Whether it be someone else's story that sparks our own memories, or things such as scents, music, photographs, even the shadows formed by sunlight shining through the leaves of a tree.

Like the word verification too! ;-)