Just as Forest Gump asked his mama about his destiny, I’ve often whispered into the wind asking what destiny has been laid out for me. It’s hard to imagine what’s ahead because there are too many possibilities, and most often we can’t even fathom our true purpose in hindsight. But if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, we might just be able to see some hint of an idea. I envy people who are confident about their purpose and tackle it with all they are, all they have, and with their strength. For me, the things I’ve mostly done in my life were things I had to do, things that were necessary to survive. This has made me strong. I can look back and see a pattern, a foundation that has led me to the person I have become. Many times on that path I could have ventured into a different direction and ended at a different destination, but I am here. I want to be able to bring you here, to see what I see, hear what hear, understand the perspective from my point of view. So, let’s go back, way back to a different time, a different world, a different era.
Some people can’t remember much about their childhood. I’m one of them. My life is comprised of bits and pieces of splintered memories, glued together with facts and timelines. I often wonder how much is memory, how much is imagination, and how much is real. Regardless, the pain is real, the joy is real, the love is real, and the hate is real. So, does it matter? This is MY truth, and it is this truth that has made me who I am. So, as I filter through amber dreams, riding the waves of what was, my first stop will be a time of discovery.
I’ve always had a love for music, all kinds of music. There’s just something about it that moves me, touches my soul in a way that most people can’t. It’s always been a part of my life. I can hear a familiar song and am instantly teleported to a different time in my amber vault. I’m not always sure what was about that particular memory that attached to that particular song, but I just let it do what it’s supposed to do. MOST of the memories connected to music are good ones, but there are also nightmares and pain that make some songs hard to hear.
One such memory is back-dropped by Rod Stewarts, “If You Think I’m Sexy”. It was released in 1978, which would have made me seven years old. I can remember sitting in my parents’ dark red Malibu outside a laundry in New Caney, Texas. The summer sun colored everything in golden amber, shimmering mirages snaked across Highway 1485, and it must have rained the night before because a mud pooled just outside the back door. I sat in the front seat of the car, my small feet up hanging out the window, sweat trickling down my face as I pressed the 8-track into the player. The swilling of the notes of the song’s beginning instantly put me in chill mood. In one hand I had a sweating Sunkist soda, and in the other a half-eaten Chic-o-stick, as my feet moved to the beat. “If you want my body, and you think I’m sexy, come on Sugar let me know.” I had no idea what the song was about, but I knew I liked it. I liked his voice, I liked the beat, and I liked the way the song allowed me to escape the Texas humidity. Even at a young age I had a knack for song lyrics, for being able to pick out each instrument and follow its progression within a song. Rod Stewart’s raspy voice comforted me. I’m not sure why I needed comfort in that moment, I just know that after the song played for a few moments I reached up and wiped the tears that had snaked down my cheeks, because now I was lost in the song.
The rest of the memory is just bits of broken pieces, the sound of children playing, two little blonde babies running around in saggy diapers, another chubby kid with copper-red chair using a stick to dig for worms near the mud hole outside the back door and another skinny little boy begging me, “Sap, come play jacks with me.”
Sap. That was my name, or at least that’s what everyone called me. I’ll get to that story soon, as well as the moment I heard my real name for the first time on my first day of Kindergarten. There’s something about a name. There’s power to the names we are called, or by which we are known, just as there’s power in familiar songs. To this day I am still teleported to that memory outside that laundry mat every time I hear that song or Rod Stewart’s familiar voice. It seems to be a safe memory for me. Knowing the facts of where I was, what was going on at that age, I believe it’s good I have this memory.
Other songs that teleport me are Queen’s “We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions, and Another One Bites the dust.” These songs were recorded in 1977, so it’s still around the same time that I first heard them, although the memory of me hearing them didn’t take place in New Caney, but in a trailer park in Huffman, Texas, so this was before the memory above. There was this drainage ditch outside the trailer park that served as a border of where I was allowed to roam, but I never stuck to borders. Inside, the trailer had lime green carpet and orange countertops. I can remember lying on a linoleum floor, listening to Queen from a record player. It was one of those big stereos where the player was hidden inside a cabinet top. The sound of the needle when it made contact with the vinyl is so pronounced, and then the songs… the songs instantly took me away. The room grew black as my imagination opened and I entered into a fantasy realm filled with flying horses, talking bears, and a single apple tree on a little island. Island of the Magic Apple Tree was one of the first stories I ever imagined and ever wrote. For some reason Queen’s rock anthems took me to this place. Yet, for this one memory there’s also a dark side. As the song ended, the arm of the record player automatically lifted from the vinyl and returned to its dock. I looked around the trailer and saw ashtrays full of cigarettes and roach buds attached with feathered clippers, bodies lying around everywhere, some in bikinis, and some in cut-off shorts, empty liquor and beer bottles, and crying babies in a crib. I pulled a chair up to the gas stove, pushed away the bent spoons and empty needles to put a pot of water on the burner. While the water heated, I mixed powdered milk and placed the bottles into the water. That memory flashes every time I hear those songs, but so also the story.
There are many other songs that have both good and bad memories attached to them. Music is strong. Music is important. It affects me deeply. I listen to it, I play it, it moves my soul.
Well, that’s enough for today. But, I’m not done with the topic of music, and I’ve only just begun with telling the story of how I got my second name, Sap. Stay tuned.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray ©2017