I was cruising into work the other morning, my customary 3 minutes late, when a 90s one-hit-wonder came on the radio. I parked my car in my usual spot, reached for the keys, but was completely blown away by the lyrics. It was like I’d never actually listened to the words, and I just couldn’t stop.
Break Out The Nostalgia
I loved this song when I was naught but an angsty little 8 year old. I used to sit by my boom box with a blank cassette tape, waiting for it to come on the radio so I could mash down the record button. Six years later it was the first song I illegally downloaded on Napster, and when I got my first super-fancy MP3 player from Dell a couple years later (it had enough space for 19 whole songs!) “Stay” was the first song I transferred over.
Despite hearing it hundreds of times, it wasn’t until last week that the words really sank in—Maybe you just have to have been through your own twisted mind-f*ck of a breakup in order to relate to a song that questions your ability to truly grasp what’s going on in your own mind, and whether you contributed to the problems more than you were willing to admit. Still—the nostalgia and emo was heavy with me in the parking lot that morning. It made me think about all sorts of other things it took me a long time to realize.
I Didn’t Actually Murder My Dog
When I was a little girl, I had a charming old neighbor named Wiley. He’d sit on his front porch in a pair of overalls, owning that porch swing like he was trying out for a Werther’s commercial. Wiley had one big goal in life, and that was to grow enough pecans for his wife Marge to bake a pie. He’d planted a pecan tree in the front yard several years before and had waited patiently for it to yield a pie’s worth. Every afternoon he would sit there on that swing and watch the tree grow, chasing away any squirrels that dared to pilfer his treasure.
I too had a dream, and it was to pluck every single one of the still-green pecans off of Wiley’s sad little tree. It’s possible I was a nihilist when I was in kindergarten, because for some reason I found it incredibly satisfying to pick every single one of those unripened nuts off the tree and throw them into the watery gutter that ran the length of the street. I crouched on the curb, watching as the water swirled around the murdered nuts, sparkling with a tinge of green.
The next day, our dog was dead. My oldest brother told me she’d drank antifreeze out of the gutter.
“What’s annie-freeze?” I asked.
“It’s poison. But it’s green and it smells good, so dogs like to drink it.”
It was quite obvious to me that I’d created deliciously green Annie Freeze Poison by killing Wiley’s pecans. I lived with the guilt of murdering my dog for a solid ten years and was only absolved after hearing a conversation about someone flushing their radiator in the driveway. I probably should have figured this out sooner, but I was privy to very few discussions about antifreeze in those days. Something else I realized a little too late.
My Dad Used To Take Me On His Trysts
Some of my fondest memories as a child are from the evenings when my father would take me and my four older brothers to a certain park downtown. It had a huge red slide that took years for me to gather the courage to go down. There were all sorts of inappropriate things carved into the plastic sides of the jungle gym and the kids in the area always seemed a little rough. But it was fun because my father would leave us alone to play by ourselves while he did a few laps around the walking track.
Or so we thought.
Fast forward to when I’m 19 years old, telling my brothers about a certain dirty little secret I’ve been keeping about our family, and my brother’s immediate response is “Wait, he used to tell us to stay on the playground while he went and talked to some other men in the bathroom or the tall grass.”
We googled the playground and the first page of results were full of all the public solicitation sting operations that had gone on there. Apparently our dad used to take us to the city’s most well-known gay park so we could play on the monkey bars while he…? Makes you kind of second guess your childhood memories, doesn’t it.
Do you ever listen to an old song and feel like you’re hearing the words for the first time? What childhood misunderstandings have you carried into adulthood? Have you had any epiphanies about your younger memories, now that you’re a wizened adult?
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