Wednesday, March 11, 2015

grow up, get rich



Will you meet me in the middle, will you meet me in the air?
Will you love me just a little, just enough to show you care?
Well I tried to fake it, I don't mind sayin'
I just can't make it


Well I keep on thinkin' 'bout you, Sister Golden Hair surprise
And I just can't live without you; can't you see it in my eyes? ...


...an upbeat seventies song, with the energy of sunshine inside the lyrics, and the power of summer inside of the notes -- "Sister Golden Hair" by the band America





There's a novel, published in 2014, titled Sister Golden Hair, written by Darcey Steinke.  


------------------- [excerpts] ---------------- Seeing my mother in such misery jolted my sleepy bloodstream like a candy bar.  My mind started to click down my well-worn list of ways I could help her:  (1) Write an anonymous letter about what a a great person she was.  (2) Spend my allowance on lottery tickets.  If I won, which I figured I was bound to do if I really concentrated hard, I could buy her the house she was always talking about.  (3) Run away from home so she wouldn't have me to worry about anymore....


My father continued to talk about the evil ex-husband.  I pictured him sitting in his pickup truck looking at the duplexes through binoculars and playing with his Swiss army knife.  He wore a red bandana on his head and mirrored sunglasses.


...To my mom, the intrigue with the woman was just another example of how our life was in decline, one more detail added to the long list of others, chief among them the fact that we couldn't afford to buy a house on my father's tiny salary.


*


Sometimes when my mother cried and said she wanted a house, Phillip, who was four, would rub her back and tell her not to worry, he was going to buy a big house when he grew up, and everybody could live there -- not just us, but all our friends, grandmas and grandpas, birds, all the rabbits and mice.  Even polar bears, if they promised to be nice and not eat anyone.


I'd had the same fantasy for a while, that I'd grow up, get rich, and buy her a house that looked like the Taj Mahal; to me the pink marble and deep purple reflecting pools looked like heaven. 


But I was getting tired of her endless longing. 


Wherever we lived wasn't good enough.  We might call it a house, and think of it as "our house," but to Mom no place we'd lived in was nice enough to be a house.  It was as if the walls had fallen down, and we were just camping out, completely exposed to the elements.


*


It rained all day Friday....


...When he told us his plan,  my mother had been folding clothes she'd just brought back from the Laundromat, a pair of my little brother's corduroys on her lap.  She looked up at him.


"That's you plan?" she asked.


In the last few days she'd rolled her eyes whenever my father talked about how much he liked his brand-new job at the VA hospital, or said something about the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.





Most of the car ride she'd been silent, her head pressed dramatically against the window frame, but as the car climbed the mountain and my father said we were close, she started to talk.  Her features became unfocused, and when she opened her mouth I knew she was going to say something about rich people.


"Did you know in Hyannis Port





the Kennedys keep a pony for the children to ride?"


"I wish we had a pony," Phillip said.


Between places, while we were in transit, she always went back to the Kennedys.  Once settled in a town she picked a nearby rich family. 


In Philadelphia it had been the Westerfields.  She knew the girls went to Emma Willard for boarding school and that they summered in Lions Head, Maine.  She knew that their house had six bedrooms and that each bathroom was fitted with





delft tile.


I was sick of the Westerfields as well as the Kennedys....The Onassis yacht had a hot tub and a steam room.  Then, as my dad tapped the brakes and took a left turn onto a road lined with freshly planted pine trees, she turned to new information she'd gotten out of the Roanoke World-News


She'd learned that the Vanhoffs were Roanoke's first family....The paper said Mr. Vanhoff had hosted the fund-raising golf tournament at the Roanoke Country Club while Mrs. Vanhoff had taken her children to the family's vacation compound on a private lake in Michigan. 


There they raised rabbits and took French lessons. 


While my mother spoke, I bent my fingers up and back so slowly I was able to slow time down, so the syllables of what she said were so far apart the words were unrecognizable.  ---------------- [end excerpts]
_________________________________


_________________________________
Well I tried to make it Sunday, but I got so damn depressed
That I set my sights on Monday and I got myself undressed
I ain't ready for the altar
but I do agree there's times
When a woman sure can be a friend of mine


Well I keep on thinkin' 'bout you, Sister Golden Hair surprise
and I just can't live without you; can't you see it in my eyes?
I been one poor correspondent,
and I been too, too hard to find
But it doesn't mean you ain't been on my mind


Will you meet me in the middle, will you meet me in the air?
Will you love me just a little, just enough to show you care?
Well I tried to fake it, I don't mind sayin' -- I just can't make it


Well I keep on thinkin' 'bout you, Sister Golden Hair surprise
And I just can't live without you -- can't you see it in my eyes?
Now I been one poor correspondent
and I been too too hard to find
But it doesn't mean you
ain't been on my mind


Will you meet me in the middle, will you meet me in the air?
Will you love me just a little, just enough to show you care?
Well I tried to fake it,
I don't mind sayin'
I just can't make it


Doo wop -- doo-wop...


______________________________


{Sister Golden Hair, by Darcey Steinke.  Tin House Books, 2014.}


{"Sister Golden Hair."  Song recorded by America.  Released, March 1975.  Album:  Hearts.  Label:  Warner Bros. Records.  Written by Gerry Beckley}