Photoshop and Memories

Amy greeted me warmly at the coffee shop.  “Oh my goodness, look at your belly!  You really have popped since I saw you last!”

It was true.  The last time she’d seen me was late October, when we’d driven seven hours north to Omaha to see Corey Hart open up for Celine Dion in concert.  We’d had nosebleed seats, it had been a long drive for me with my burgeoning belly.  It was now early December, and I was very obviously showing.

I hadn’t made a lot of friends in Stillwater.  We’d gotten here in April, and the first month or so I’d spent unpacking boxes.  I spent the next month doing everything I possibly could at Zach’s school; payback for five years of schooling during which I could never volunteer because I always had a classroom of my own to tend to.  I had hoped that while shelving books at the book fair or holding the tape at the end of the fifty yard dash on Field Day that I’d meet a few other mothers.  But so far, I’d not bonded with any of the few that I had met.  And then I’d gotten pregnant; a few months were spent sleeping and just barely keeping up with my tasks around the house.  I’d felt better in the fall, but I was now immersed in working on Rick Springfield’s website too much to go looking for new friends.

It was a good thing I had Amy.   R might not like that the base of our friendship was our mutual adoration of rock stars, but he recognized that she was a liferaft in a sea of unfamiliarness.

“So tell me about Chicago,” she asked after I’d ordered a herbal tea and had the steaming bowl sized mug placed before me.

In addition to our Omaha trip, I’d also flown solo to Chicago in November.  R hadn’t been pleased, but when a Chicago TV station had contacted me via the fan club website and asked if I would be able to round up a group of fans for a TV show taping while Rick was in town.  Would I?  I immediately contacted Vivian and we put the word out.  It was my job to keep track of who would attend and create the guest list.  I could hardly miss going since I was doing so much legwork; two concerts and a TV taping?  I booked my own flight out of Tulsa on Southwest using an online service called Travelocity.  I didn’t even need a ticket; they gave me something called an “e ticket” that I could print out and show at the airport.

“It was a little nuts,” I started to tell Amy.  “The shows were at a bar, with no seating.  Probably not the best place for someone who is in the second trimester of pregnancy.  It was like a mosh pit during the shows.  But there was a little balcony area where they put me and the fan club VP so I wouldn’t be caught in the fray.  Which was good.”

Amy looked at me impatiently.  I knew what she was waiting to hear.  Were there any good stories to tell?  “Did you get to talk to him at all?  Or was it too crazy?”

I thought back to the soundcheck Vivian and I had attended on the first day.  All of the other shows I’d been to, when fans had been allowed at soundcheck, it was a group of ten or so of us.  This was different.  It was just Vivian and I.  I was surprised to find that the other band members had far more to do during the process, so Rick sat down on the side of the stage and talked to Vivian and I.  We told him about the new mailing list we’d set up for the fan club, an idea for a chat room that I was researching that would allow us to host “moderated” chats with him; fans could see him typing answers but couldn’t enter the room.  He told us about the live CD they were recording here at the shows, how excited he was to be working on it.  It was just an easy conversation back and forth, and once again, I’d quickly forgotten who I was talking to as the time moved quickly.

“Yeah, he talked to the fan club VP during soundcheck.  He seems to like the direction we’re going in with all of the online components, which is nice.  He made a big deal about me being pregnant and that his sister in law was about as far along as I was.  She came to the show that night; how she wears high heel boots at this stage I’ll never know.”

Amy listened, with the proper amounts of ooohing and aaaahing in all the right places.  As the story started to lag, I realized she had her laptop with her.  “What’s doing on the computer?”  I asked.

She opened it up.  “I wondered if we could maybe talk about this new website someone wants me to do.  I have so many ideas but I’m not sure how to make them happen.”

I nodded, eagerly, looking over at the screen.  It was beautiful; how did she create this amazing graphic?  I couldn’t do anything like it with the software I had.  “But I’m not sure how to work with this…what software do you have up right now?”

“Adobe Photoshop,” Amy answered.  “Are you familiar with it?”

I wasn’t.  But I would be.

Another Try

R had been none too happy about my summer of music.  In addition to the three Rick Springfield concerts I’d attended, my new friend Amy had convinced me to take a three day holiday to Montreal, Canada to go see Corey Hart in concert.  Corey Hart had released new music in Canada, having done some touring there to support it, and was planning on headlining a summer music festival.   She coached me as to which summer day camp would be able to accomodate Zach so I could attend, and told me her husband was donating frequent flyer miles so she could make the trip on the cheap.  R had reluctantly done the same, but was nonplussed by my absences from home, even after a rock star had asked me to work for him.

“Do you think you can come home without stopping by the airport this afternoon?” I asked him on the phone one afternoon.  R had been taking flying lessons at the local airport; he’d always wanted to try them, and we lived literally down the street from the local airport.  R had become friendly with the office staff, helping out with their computer glitches and accounting problems, and often went over there now after work.

“I guess I could come home first,” he said.  “But I’ll have to go over there later, they need me to figure out what is wrong with the fax machine.  It sends but doesn’t receive.  Why, is something wrong?”

No, nothing was wrong.  I hadn’t even noticed, at first, when I’d packed a box of tampons for our trip to Montreal and they had gone unused.  I was horrible at calculating my cycles, and even worse since the miscarriage last winter.  I was usually so regular that I hardly ever had to pay attention.  I hadn’t remembered exactly when my period was due, but I didn’t want to get caught in a foreign country without supplies, so maybe I was just being overzealous when I’d packed the Tampax.

But then I’d vomited on the plane ride back.  I never threw up on planes.  At first I thought it was because I hadn’t eaten much before the flight, but then I started counting the days.  It didn’t take me long to surmise that I might be pregnant.  I stopped for the test on the way back from the Tulsa airport, and had watched the second line form on the stick a few hours later.

I was happy, of course.  But somewhere in the back of my head I was a little sad, too.  It was July.   I should have still been pregnant from my miscarried baby; the due date had been late August.  Maybe it was a little bit of cosmic justice somehow, helping me to get through what promised to be an awful month by giving me the hope of a new life.

“No, nothing is wrong,” I told R.  “I just have something to talk to you about, and I’d rather not do it on the phone.”

There was a silence on the end of the line before the words rushed back at me:  “You’re pregnant!”

I laughed.  So much for drama.  “Yes, I am.  What do you think of that?”

R laughed also, and the tension from the last few weeks disappeared.  “Well if it comes out playing guitar or holding a microphone, you’ll have some ‘splainin’ to do.”

I wanted to be irritated, but I couldn’t be.  R was joking, and the fact that he was meant that everything was fine between us.

Another baby.  Another try.  I was nervous, but hopeful.

Going Crazy

“So what are you doing tomorrow?” R asked as he took another helping of homemade macaroni and cheese.

It had been two weeks, and I thought I was going to go crazy.  I’d painted the china cabinet, unpacked every box, made homemade meals every evening, kept the house neat as a pin, planted flowers that I’d never even heard of,  and volunteered for the book fair at Z’s school.  I did everything that I thought stay at home mothers did to reach out and become part of a community, but so far I’d felt far away nods from the other, much older mothers and not much else.

R had introduced me to some of the people at work, but similarly, I found myself awkwardly much younger than them and floundering in where to fit in.   They were older than R and I, with much more money, and more established homes and families.  I felt insecure and inadequate in the role of the corporate wife, not having a clue how to conduct myself at dinner parties or backyard barbecues.

I had found myself spending more and more time on the computer, where I still communicated with some of my old friends from Michigan, but also the Rick Springfield fans that I’d befriended years ago through the Springfield Connection weekends and my Tucson trips.  They were still the same as always, available on the computer to discuss the merits of this song or that song, or this life event from Real Life.   I sent out questions to them:  who lived in this area?  What kinds of plants grew here?    Where did people shop?   Why did they say “sack” and not “bag” here?  It was as if one part of my life was able to stay the same; the friends I had made on the internet.  And more and more, I found myself turning to them as a way to feel like not so much about my life had changed.

“I’m actually meeting that girl Amy I told you about.  She knows this coffee shop downtown that is supposed to be really cool,” I answered R as the warm breeze blew in through the open window.

“Amy?  How do you know her again?”  R’s face was blank; he had no idea who I was talking about.

“I actually met her at the Corey Hart concert I went to in Toronto with Dawn a few years ago.  She’s a Rick Springfield fan too.  Amazingly, she lives here in town; what are the odds of that?”  I had been dumbfounded when I’d sent out one of my “all call for Oklahoma and Kansas” email to fans to discover that one of them, one that I had actually met in person, lived right here in Stillwater.  I remembered her being fun and friendly, and was glad that it was someone I remembered liking.

R made a face.  “Great, one of the groupies.  Still, I’m glad you’re meeting people.  I want you to be happy here.”

I nodded, reaching for another spoonful of the macaroni and cheese.

“Me too,” I said, trying to cover my malaise with a smile.

Circles

I was sitting on the edge of the curb, watching Z get suited up for this summer’s sport, roller hockey.

Z loved hockey; living in the Detroit area, one thing you couldn’t escape was hockey, especially when the Red Wings were doing well.  It was something that Z and R shared together, watching the games; R had even taken Z to a game down at Joe Louis Arena.  It was nice to see them bond over something outside of me.  T ball had been a miserable failure last spring;  when the notice came home for the roller hockey league, Z and I were both ready to give it a try.

Unfortunately for Z, R wouldn’t be around much this summer to share in the games and practices.  R had just accepted a temporary position in San Diego/Tijuana.  It was a big deal for him, and I was glad for the recognition the position meant, even though it would make life interesting this summer.  An accounts manager in the Mexico office had gone on maternity leave, which meant for three months R would stay in San Diego Sunday night through Friday afternoon and commute down to the office in Tijuana.  His fluency in Spanish was a natural fit for the position, and he was excited to use that skill set.   He would fly home on Friday afternoons, returning home for 48 hours before flying back on Sundays.  The position would be finished just before I started my own new job, in late August.

In some ways, I felt a small pang of relief when R came home to tell me the news.  Our constant bickering had been unpleasant for both of us.  While we always mended our fences, we were certainly not finding our fit with each other as easily as I’d hoped.   Perhaps the separation would help us recognize the positives in each other instead of focusing on all of the small habits and situations that frustrated us both.

I sighed and looked over at Z, who was waving at me, all geared up and ready to start the practice.  I waved back and put my earphones on, ready to relax for the next forty five minutes.  I was listening to my current favorite CD on my portable disc player, a round black object that I kept in my bag at all times.  The song, “Wake Me Up (When the World’s Worth Waking Up For)” was my mantra these days, especially whenever R and I fought.  The singer was an up and coming artist named Kyle Vincent.  He’d toured with Rick Springfield and Corey Hart back in the 1980s with his band, and Dawn and I had gotten their record and mooned over their picture for a while.  He was recording solo now, and had posted on the Rick Springfield message board about his upcoming record release, asking us all if we remembered him to please consider buying his new CD.

And so I found another set of tunes to help me escape the rigors of Real Life that summer.  Like the Rick Springfield tunes that had carried me away from my difficult teen years, I listened to Kyle Vincent’s songs to help me wonder about the direction my life was taking, had I made a big mistake, was I doing right by my son, would I ever feel that excitement of the first this or that again?  It wasn’t OK for me to speak the words out loud, but as I silently mouthed the words along with Kyle’s voice in my earbuds, I allowed my mind to wander to the dangerous places that I wouldn’t normally let it.

I watched Z as he skated around the other players, circling, bobbing and weaving, and wondered if I too was just spinning in circles, like the CD in my player.

Times They Are A Changing

I vowed things would be different.

My mother was a living example that people could change.  She was still losing weight; she’d lost forty or so pounds already.  She looked fantastic, had a newfound sense of confidence, and a calmer way about her.  Granted, she still had a cigarette in her hands every time you looked at her, but she was different.  She’d even gone so far as to bury much of the hatchet with my father, planning a mutual graduation dinner for my brother the following month.

My brother seemed to be changing too.  He’d actually applied himself in the strict confines of his Catholic boarding school, and was actually pulling decent grades and it looked as if he’d graduate on time.  This was something that a year prior, when he was living in a psychiatric hospital, we’d never thought we’d see.

My sister had left college but was working full time, and happily enjoying her engagement.  They’d picked a date for the wedding, booked a hall, and things were moving forward.

I donned my pink, Southern Belle prom dress that Friday in May and went to Prom with John.  I quit my four hour a week job at the music store and got a job with tons more hours at the local children’s store at the mall.  I threw myself into my writing and hashed it all out with Mr. H. one afternoon in May.  I was growing.  I was determined to leave my scary thoughts and my self destructive behavior behind.  I had everything at my fingertips, if I would just not get in my own way.

Corey Hart’s anthem rang true with me that spring:

“So if you’re lost and on your own, you can never surrender
and when your path won’t lead you home, you can never surrender
and when the night is cold and dark, you can, you can see light
’cause no one can take away your right, to fight, and to never surrender…”

I was going to fight back against the fear, the darkness, the pain and move forward.  I had to.

Good Clean Fun

I was headed to Dawn’s after school one day late that fall.

Dawn had moved out of her parents’ house last spring when their condo was foreclosed upon.  My mother and I moved her into my bedroom just days before the rest of the family’s possessions were piled on the curb outside and they were evicted.  She stayed with us while her parents found a small hotel room to stay in with the little bit they were getting from the state; her father had long since been unemployed and her mother’s health issues prevented her from being able to find suitable work.

Over the summer Dawn moved out of my house and into her sister’s place to help her with child care while her kids were out of school.  Dawn’s parents had found her a rusty, twenty year old car to drive and so sometimes she would pick me up and I would stay with her in the tiny room they’d created in the basement for her while she was there.  We all wondered what her parents were going to do for the fall, when Dawn would need to be back in our area to start her junior year.

Finally, her parents found an apartment to rent in our school district that they could afford.  Two small bedrooms, a bathroom, galley kitchen and a living room.  It was enough for the three of them, but about a quarter of the size of the townhome they’d left in my neighborhood.    I came over often in my car once I had it, and we spent lots of afternoons behind the closed door of her new bedroom on the first floor.

I was headed to her house that day because she’d gotten mail.  We’d been to the Corey Hart concert a few weeks back, and enjoyed not only his show, but that of his opening act.  The group was a band named Candy, four young twentysomethings with hair up to there and tight leather pants, plus shirts in various stages of disrepair.  We both loved the music and of course we found the boys to be good looking, so we immediately added them to our obsession list.

Dawn had called me because she had gotten a response from the fan letter she’d mailed to the address inside “Whatever Happened to Fun,” their record.   When I got there, she ushered me back into her comfortable room and showed me the promotional photograph of all four of the boys, autographed by all of them.

I was impressed.  I looked at the boys, individually, because this photo was so much clearer than the artwork on the record.  “They’re cute,” I responded.  “Which one do you like the best?”

She pointed to the guy who played the drums.  “I like him.  Which one is he?”

I looked at the label.  “His name is Gilby,” I responded.  “I like the front man.  I always like the front man.  His name is Kyle,” I said.  It sounded like a good, midwest American boy name.  “Kyle Vincent.

In the absence of a close, present boyfriend, it was fun to think of these tight panted rockstars and how they would eventually meet them.  “Maybe next time they’re in town, they’ll break a guitar string and come to my store while I’m working,” I offered.

Dawn laughed.  “Sure, let’s go with that,” she said.  We all knew that our fantasies were not possible but they were fun to indulge in.

The Tao of Love

One of the things I loved about having my own car and my own money was the freedom.  If I decided I wanted to bake something, I could run to the store and get the ingredients instead of making, say, bread pudding because that was the only recipe I had all of the ingredients for.  Or meeting a friend.  Or staying after school.

One afternoon in late October 1986, it was getting my hair cut.

I’ve always been the kind that all of the sudden looks in the mirror one day and decides, it’s time to get a hair cut.  Right now.  Not yesterday, not in a week or two when I can get an appointment with my mother’s favorite stylist, but now.  So much so that a few years before this, I’d actually cut my own hair.  Not as a little kid, but as a real live teenager who thought she could do the job herself.  Disaster.  Even worse than the boy cuts my grandfather gave me as a kid.

So I hopped in my car, with my purse filled with two ten dollar bills I’d earned at the music store, and drove myself to the discount hair cutting place called BoRics.  They had flashy commercials on then that basically promised you a new and happy life if you’d just save a few bucks and get your haircut there.  I was all about believing targeted marketing, so in I walked.

The girl who was cutting my hair was personable and started chatting away.  I told her of the Corey Hart concert I had tickets to in a few days, and she asked appropriate questions for the topic of teenage girls and popular music sung by good looking men.  And then she dropped the bombshell:

“Too bad about that Rick Springfield, eh?”

I could feel my heart leap.  True, the shine had been taken off of the Rick Springfield rose for me by then.  Sure, he probably was a great guy, and yes, I loved his music to the nth degree, but I clearly understood what a huge star he was and how I was never going to meet him and express what he’d meant to me during some very dark days.  I got it.  I was over it.   That’s what I was telling myself, anyway.

“What about him?” I asked.  I knew he was fading out of public consciousness since he’d stopped touring after his 1985 “Cathode Ray” tour.  The record “Tao”, which I loved, did not do as well commercially as nearly everyone had hoped.  I had wondered how he’d taken the blow.

“Well, he got married and had a baby with his wife.  You hadn’t heard?”

WHAT?  WHAT?  WHATTHEWHATTHEWHATTHE?  It could not be true.  NO way.  “Tao” had a terrible song about heartbreak called “Written in Rock”, that I totally interpreted to mean he’d chucked the longtime girlfriend in a painful breakup.

Not that I’m saying here in any way I ever thought that me as a sixteen year old girl had a shot with the multi platinum guy 21 years my senior, but still.  WHATTHEFUCK???

“No,” I said, trying to sound calm.  “Where’d you hear that?”

“There was something on the news this morning, because she just had a baby boy.  No one even really knew they were married.  The kid was born almost exactly a year from when they got married.  So they’ve been married a whole year, secretly.  Isn’t that something?”

Yeah, that is something.  Hm.  “Wow,” was all I could choke out.  I was stunned.   I sat in quiet silence as the girl finished clipping my hair, vowing to go to the county library afterwards to comb the newspapers and magazines for confirmation.

An hour or so later, I was holding the press release in my hand.  How about that.  I felt the silliest, most irrational sense of disappointment; I knew it was crazy to feel upset about it.  But I was, just the same.

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