I just reconnected with my Aunt (Mum's youngest sister) on Facebook this morning. I've been estranged from her entire family since Mum's funeral. Long story. Messy. Old. Just starting to not care about it anymore. So I added one of her sisters and two of her brothers to FB.
Janet, the youngest sister is only 4 years older than me. Mum was just 16 when she had me, so for the first years of my life, Jan and I were more like sisters. We fought like sisters, we played like sisters, we loved like sisters.
And we endlessly sang (to death, and I'm sure, our parents dismay) songs into hair brushes. Our terrible, off key voices belting out Minnie Ripperton (really, noone should sing Minnie Ripperton. Certainly not 2 scrawny white girls from Brisbane. Probably not even Minnie). But there we were, belting out "Loving Yooooooou" and "La la la la la. La la la la La. La la la la la lah, la la la lah, Doobie doobie do dooooo.....screech a few notes...". You know how it goes (Please tell me you know how it goes. Don't pretend you didn't just sing that in your head).
Go the baby's breath!
Anyway, I was reminiscing with Janet about some of the songs we 'sang' most often. We loved performing, no idea how terrible we sounded.
The first one was easy to remember. Sheena Easton's Nine to Five, (which we knew as "My baby takes the morning train"). Even now, when I hear it, I'm in the back yard of their house in Dayboro, half an hour out of Brisbane. It was an old (tiny, in hindsight) country house in a little country town. A couple of old cars (like, really really old. Similar to the old De Soto my father kept later, waiting for the chance to lovingly restore it) in the back. Long grass. The tennis court next door.
The smell of grass and sunshine and youth - I was purely happy. We had no money, and I'm sure this wasn't a happy time for my mother. But oh, these were some of the happiest, most carefree days of my life. There was nothing I loved back then, more than spending time with my grandparents, Uncles and Aunts out at Dayboro. With the most beautiful dog there ever was, an old Red Irish Setter called Jake. All dogs for the next 30 years have been measured up against Jake. Few have come close.
This is the soundtrack of those days.
I was trying, desperately to remember our other favourite song. It was there, brushing against the periphery of my consciousness. But I like the last vestiges of a dream, I couldn't grasp it. It faded away every time I tried to reach out.
So I grabbed my phone, not even thinking, about to ask Mum. The rock settled into the pit of my stomach and I blinked back angry tears. Not anger at her, though there are moments. No, anger at myself for forgetting, again. Beacuse it's certainly not the first time.
In fact, in the last 6 months, more than any any time since Mum's death (or perhaps ever), I have questions. Queestions about my earliest years, before she married Dad (who has a woeful memory anyway). My first 8 years. Questions I thought only she could asnwer.
And then, there it was. Janet's 'voice', from a thousand miles away, this is the song Melissa. An answer, when I thought there would be none 'til it woke me from a dream at 3 in the morning. She remembered it right away. And as soon as she said it, I knew she was right. How could I have forgotten this one? It was our favourite. The one we just about wore out. The one my mother teased me about for years (Well. No. She teased me more about trying to hit the heights of Minnie Ripperton more. One gets the feeling that was truly painful for everyone who heard it. Perhaps now listening to my own darling tone-deaf boy is my 'reward').
Could it be that some of my questions will, in fact, find answers? Do I dare ask? Do I dare let myself open up to them again, after a decade of no contact at all? Is it worth opening myself up to that again? Do I need answers that much?
Suddenly, the "No" I've been telling myself all of these years is not as strong as it once was. Not as defiant. Not nearly as sure of itself.
For Janet, and some amazing memories. And for Mum, who had to listen to this song a million times.