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Courtney Eldridge

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Scene: Saturday afternoon, Renee’s sitting at the kitchen table, reading a magazine, and Thea walks in.

Mom, look what I found, I said, opening my hand and showing her the two pins.
She looked at them a moment, like she wasn’t sure what to say, and I was afraid she might be angry, and then she held out her hand, smiling, so I put them in her palm.
Where did you find these? she asked.
In a box of old tapes, I said, shrugging.
Which box?
I don’t know.
You can tell me, she said, taking one of the pins and looking at me.
Sad Songs Make Me Happy, I said.
Ah, yes, she said, smiling like she was going to laugh, but she didn’t.
Do you have Punk Songs Make Me Cry, too?
Yes.
Have you listened to the tapes?
Some of them, I said. Is that okay?
It’s fine. I’d forgotten all about them, she said.
Were these yours, then?
One of them. Your dad bought them and gave me one.
His-and-her punk pins?
Those were the punk rock days.
You want them back, Mom? I asked.
No, no, you keep them, Thee. They’re good memories, she said, putting the pin back in my hand, and closing my fingers in a fist. She looked so sad for a moment, then she smiled and got up, ruffling my hair, before walking out of the kitchen. It was so strange, I just stood there for a moment, thinking, What just happened? What was that?

One Comment

  1. Sleeping Giant
    Posted November 14, 2009 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    C. This is an excellent exchange. Beautiful torch passing. Speaks volumes about the parents.

    My father had all these Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins records when I was a kid. I loved the cover images. Photos of J.C. and M. R. dressed as gunslingers or soldiers, in danger, heroic, stoic. Or J.C. as an American Indian, feather in his hair, war paint on his face. I was fascinated by these images. Even more so than the music.

    My dad also had these reel to reel tapes and player. Beautiful tape player, wood and steel, upright. He had Hendrix, CCR, Leadbelly and a variety of other pirated recordings from that era. But the tape that I repeatedly asked him to play was a recording he made when he was serving as a Marine in Vietnam, back in ‘68. It was during a morter attack on his base. He pressed record just after the shells started coming in. You can hear a whistle and then the heavy boot footsteps as he ran out of the barracks (hootch) toward the foxholes outside. You hear the slamming of the screen door. You hear the muffled impact explosion and dirt and rocks raining down on the corrugated metal roof overhead. This goes on for about 5 minutes or so. After a bit of calm you hear the screen door squeak open and about 8 heavy footsteps as someone crosses the floor. Then comes another morter whistle. 3 lunging footsteps and back out the door. After a few more minutes of shelling and then silence the door opens and the footsteps return , crossing the floor, getting louder as they near, and then the recording abruptly stops.
    My dad told me that a soldier on the base died that day. Morter landed right on tip of him. His remains fit in a coffee can.

    I was fascinated by it. My imagination ignited. The mystery, the bravery. It also gave me a feeling of deep connection to my dad. Thinking maybe one day I would be brave and strong like him. Maybe I’d be a soldier or a cowboy. In those recordings were something we both found special, something in our blood.

    About 6 years ago I was at a family reunion talking to my dad and younger brother, Prescott. I asked my dad if he still had those records, or more importantly, the reel to reel.

    No, ha, couldn’t haul all that weight around anymore.

    yeah, dad let me play frisbee with all those old records. I smashed them against the side of the garage. Just exploded all over the place.

    Got rid of all that junk years ago. Threw out the reel to reel and gave the player to the Goodwill I think. All that stuff was just holding me back. Sometimes its just time to move forward.

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