I don’t know if other teenage boys had a “50’s” obsession, but I sure as shit did. It didn’t even start with Sinatra, Dean, or Sammy Davis. It began with a swing album Robbie Williams released when I was in my sophomore year. I was ENTRANCED. There was a bizarre familiarity to the songs that I could not shake. It brought me immense joy and changed my sense of style and identity.
Today, when I took a shower, I felt the urge to listen to some Robbie. (My husband was in the living-room with the brother-husband watching a show at ear-splitting levels which made me chuckle.) In the shuffle that came out of the speaker one of the songs was one I had simply forgotten existed. “Something Stupid” was a duet that Robbie Williams performed with Nicole Kidman. Like some magical key this song unlocked a forgotten box in my brain and I was transported.
I remember obsessing over swing music. I would sing it up and down the hall of our home (the acoustics were the best there) and in the car. My mother was excited because, for once, she could enjoy the music I was forcing her to listen to. Mirroring my mother in her shock and appreciation, was my grandmother. She got the biggest kick out of listening to me sing along to the songs. One time it even made her cry.
To which I responded by stopping my backseat singing.
This all occurred the same year I joined the chamber choir at school. They placed me in with the tenors, and my grandma was confused. “You’re a baritone! Why did they do that?”
I think my grandmother was “tickled” over my 50’s transformation. She gave me all kinds of tips from her experience, having lived through that period. “All the boys put brill cream in their hair and slicked it back.” Brill cream… Her midwestern colloquialisms still make me smile. (Pop, billfold, warsh…)
It is from this time of my life where my belief in reincarnation took root. The sense of familiarity I felt over the music and clothing of the 50’s was eerily strong. A sensation I can’t quite explain, other than a longing or a sense of loss. Listening to the music and donning clothes similar to the era, felt as if I slipped into a bed, perfectly molded to my body. Perhaps I’m romanticizing it to fit some narrative, or… Perhaps… I am correct.
(If my grandmother heard me talk about reincarnation she would be mortified. She was such a devout Christian…)
On the way into work, I listened to “Something Stupid” once more and I was overcome with the image of my grandmother sitting next to me, in the passenger seat. (That was her seat by the way.) I looked over at her and sang “…I love you…” and in my head I could hear her singing it along with me. It felt so real that I cried.
She was the most wonderful woman. I haven’t missed her as much as I did in that moment. This is the first time I have “felt” her presence in a long time. Maybe I’m just more open to it, or it’s just all in my head.
I am certain most people feel that way about their grandparents. Especially grandmothers. In my polycule, our shared experienced is that these women acted as our “third parent” in our formative years. The first time I ever saw my husband cry over any kind of loss was for his. She passed a few weeks before my father. She was also a wonderful woman. I already loved her because of how she treated me and my mom (her and my mother went to the Native casinos together). But the moment that made my heart melt was when she was in the ER (shortly before she passed) and she introduced my husband and me to the nurse as her “grandsons.”