I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio in a single parent home, 2 older sisters, one younger brother. My mother worked hard to keep us together, this was a time when divorce carried a stigma of ugliness for woman. I remember my mom going to court to try and get Howard (a man who never deserved the title of Father) to pay child support, the judge told her to leave him alone and go find another man.
I remember when our electricity was turned off in the middle of a cold northern winter and my sister went to Howard’s place of work and asked for help, he refused.
I remember waiting for him to show up on my birthday, he didn’t. My brother and I needed braces and my sister dental work, he refused to help.
I remember my mom reaching into the bill drawer each month and pulling one out saying, “this is the one I’ll pay.”
I remember never asking for anything, refusing a birthday party because I knew we didn’t have the money. I remember my oldest sister wanting make-up and my mom telling her that if she wanted it so badly, to go find a job (my sister never forgave my mom for that).
I’m kind of stuck on these thoughts as I’ve been working on new music for a country music event, I booked it before I knew they wanted country music. My style is more blues, folk than country; I just don’t have that “twang” to my voice that makes it sound authentic. For me, performing a song requires “falling into it”, getting inside of it, finding it’s truth before sharing.
My struggle has been that my mom loved country music and therefore, as I grew up listening to the likes of: Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Porter Wagner and Tammy Wynette. Their songs were of heartache and break and it made me sad, a cheating heart, man long gone, standing by your man. As a result, I rebelled as soon as I could afford my own 45’s, replacing her country songs with my favorites: Queen, Elton John and Blondie. Back and forth we’d go, trying to beat each other to the stereo, filling the house with our music, shaking our fists to the heavens as we were forced to listen to each other’s music.
Revisiting country music these past two weeks has brought back a lot of memories of my mom, funny how music transports us back in time. It forces the present and past to meld into a strange, awkward place. I’m doing a two-step dance competition with each song, one step in to learn, one step out into memories, my goal is to get into a line dance with each song. I’m trading my tennis shoes for boots for this gig, but just can’t bring myself to wear a cowboy hat, a girl’s gotta do what a girls gotta do.
I realize that it’s not country music that I don’t like, it’s that time of my life that brings a struggle to my world. It’s tough being a kid, watching your mom struggle, powerless to do anything more than ask for little, as to not add to her emotional, spiritual and financial burdens. It brings back memories of one person who should have loved you, leaving, while the other stays. Memories of not feeling lovable, being replaceable and simply not good enough. I remember in grade school, one of the student’s fathers died, they held a school rally for her, saying it was a terrible thing for a girl to lose her dad, I wondered if it wasn’t easier for her to have her dad die, than to watch him walk away, leaving her for a different life. My 8 year old self was jealous, angry, confused and sad.
It strikes me that despite years of therapy, thousands of hours and dollars that some wounds simply never heal. Guess, I’ll go write a country song about it.
My favorite song so far is: “Bring My Flower’s Now” by Tanya Tucker, grammy winning song of 2019, what’s yours?
Today’s Musing: If you talk bad about country music, it’s like talking bad about my mama. Them’s fighting words ~ Dolly Parton