Well well well. We’ve had our share of new comers to the board since the summer of 2003. Lotta new faces I’m seein’. So, lemme introduce ya to this little column you’re reading. This is Soundtrack to Life. What’s it about? Simple really. Music is a big part of this community, and tends to play heavily into most young lives. Face it, every now and then you’ll be listening to the radio or playing through your old CDs when you hear a particular tune and harken back to when you first heard it. Maybe you remember that summer. Maybe it reminds you of someone. Or maybe you can remember an exact instance in which that song was being played. Much like in the movies, a lot of events in our lives just wouldn’t be the same without that score in the background. That’s what this column is about. The memories we attach to our favorite songs. Though in the coming weeks, provided you keep an eye on this column, you’ll be reading about some of the stories from my life and what songs I’ve attached to them. Everyone is welcome however, to send in their own stories, so hopefully it won’t just be me prattling on every week. Past guest columnists include Aki, Hawaiian Bryan, and Mike-O. If you want to remain anonymous, that’s fine, but if you want your name known, then you will be given full credit for your story. I just ask for something of substance. I don’t want any “This one time, I was fuckin’ this chick, and we were listening to ‘The Minute Waltz’, and it was great.” Silly, dramatic, serious, I don’t care so long as it has considerable substance and discernable link between story and song. On that note, let’s begin.
Soundtrack to Life
“As The Footsteps Die Out Forever” by Catch 22
The story I’m about to tell you is one I’ve never told before. Not to speech class, not to my friends, not in my blog, not even in my personal journals. It’s a world premier of sorts. See, I don’t like being an emotional guy. About the extent of my emotions I ever let show range from happy to pissed, that’s about it. I can’t really bring myself to discuss heavy emotion, especially in person. I do it mostly in my personal writings, and that’s it. Hell, I’ve never even yelled at anyone. Never cut loose. Raised my voice, and that’s about it. Then again, in this day and age, you’re hardly allowed those kinds of emotions. People don’t like emotional people. This story brings a lot to the surface. It’s a little long, so I believe I’m gonna have to do this in two parts.
I never liked playing excessively active games with the neighbor kids. As a result, I was a frequent subject to ridicule and taunting. When you’re young, you aren’t used to facing the injustices of the cruel world out there, so you demand things right themselves. For me, I was a bit of a tattle tale, and I always ran to Mom when the other kids picked on me. It earned me a nickname that you don’t want on the playground, not at that age, and especially if you’re a boy. Momma’s boy. I hated them for that label. Hated being called the Momma’s boy, and hated myself for knowing deep down that I deserved it. Today however, it’s a title I wear proudly.
Cynthia Ann Nichols was, in some aspects, what you’d call an ordinary mother. Great cook, loved to tend her flower and vegetable gardens, absolutely loved watching birds and coming up with ways to attract the rarer species into our backyard, and to a slight extent a Soccer Mom (yeah, I had soccer practice when I was younger, fuck off). Her knowlege of nature and plant life helped my brothers and I on numerous school projects, a lot of it I still carry with me today. All that and an excellent bowler and award winning pool player amidst the area leagues. It was always fun schooling my friends on the pool tables at the arcades and bowling alleys. Always when they asked how I learned to play, I’d tell ’em my mom taught me. Skating, nature walks, mini-golf, whatever the adventure of the day, my mom led the expedition.
One could argue I get my sense of humor from her. Always quick with a bad joke. Her and my dad both. It’s probably the reason they got along as well as they did when they met. She’d laugh at her own jokes all the time, Leo women tend to do that, but she’d also come up with absolutely bizarre ideas. Who’d think to dump marbles in the shoes of their eldest son after he’d passed out drinking that evening? Monty Python, John Cleese, The Muppets, George Carlin, M*A*S*H*, Letterman; all comedy that we shared a fondness for.
Her battles of wits with my little bro were often a topic of conversation. She had her “My Son is Crazy” picture collection of Tim. Boy can make the goofiest damn faces you’ve ever seen. Not just the goofy faces naturally, but the odd things he’d do often made him a target for Mom’s camera. Sitting in cooking pots, hanging a bean bag chair off his head, lord knows how many bizarre haridos. And she kept them all. All the pictures that could conceivably be incriminating, all kept in their seperate file. She had to have some ammo against his non-stop barage of “old” jokes. The classic we always mention, is when she walked into the living room and stopped.
“How did I just forget what I was gonna do?” she asked.
“I’ll take Because I’m Old for $500, Alex.” he snapped back, and took off like a shot.
It was right about the time that I entered Middleschool that the war began however……
Pat, being the eldest son, was often singled out by Dad. Dad berated him for his failing grades and lax attitude toward school time and again. It hadn’t really been note worthy before, but his tirades were becoming more and more frequent for even more insignificant things. I think Mom knew all along and she just needed another set of eyes to bring the problem into light. Pat had begun studying the effects of alcoholism on families, and ours was a classic case. Pat was the Scapegoat, the one for which all things are to blame. Tim, my younger brother, was the Mascot, the one who tried to keep everyone looking at the lighter side of things through bizarre behavior. Myself, The Refferee, the one trying to maintain peace within the family. And there was my mom, left to face a harsh fact about the one she loved.
The next few years were turbulent, at best. I watched my peers turn on me for being a nice guy, and my family was falling apart at the seams. Before long, my parents didn’t even share a bedroom anymore. My dad took the bedroom, and my mother quietly moved to the living room. They’d never talk unless it was to exchange orders and demands. My father had become the beligerent tyrant, and my mother the peaceful nurturer. The whole household had sided with her, as it was obvious that it was Father with the problem. He fired back with his own accusations, but they held little or no relevance. She fought back in her own little way, leaving library books on alcoholism lying about, researching it on the internet and printing it out, sniping all the small shots she could without a full blown argument. I remember 7th grade being the gift exchanging part of the war. Mom and Dad, vying for our favor with gifts and trips. I know a lot of you probably wish you got this kind of attention. The diversions were nice, but it was tearing me up inside. Mom didn’t have to try. I believed her. I knew Dad had a problem. It hurts watching the ones you love attempting to defame one another. But still, I always knew, even if the worst happened and they got a divorce, my mom would always be there to watch over us. She was the one whom we’d wind up with.
From grade 6 to my senior year this war was waged. That makes 6 years. It takes a toll on a fellow. I hated the people at school for just being jerks to myself and my peers. And I hated going home every day, afraid that I’d walk into another battle. But, in 1999, the papers were being finalized. I hated to admit it, but it was for the best that my parents were getting a divorce. It’s not a healthy environment to grow up in. Pat fell deeper into depression and became an alcoholic himself, despite his complaints about how what Dad was doing was wrong. Tim had taken to his own experimental phase. And I refused to even touch anything that might wind me up like any one of them. And there I was, once again. The Momma’s Boy. I stayed away from the partying, usually kept to myself, and my mother and I would exchange snide comments about the mess going on in the basement. She was my only ally in that house, and we kept each other sane. The divorce was finalized as of December 31, 1999.
(to be continued…)