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the golden oldies

When I was a little girl, my parents and stepmom introduced me to many musical styles, from Blues to Beatles to B-52s. I can barely remember a moment a record player was not seeing action in my parents’ homes. Those were happy times.

c. 1984. Ignore the awkward bunny and instead direct your
attention to the records in the corner. So much space taken up!

What I did not love back then was what people referred to as Oldies. {Please picture Chris Farley making giant air-quotes around that word.} To me, this music seemed a particular genre of awful. These are the sounds of the dentist, the pop ’60’s. “Sugar Sugar” and “The Loco-motion” come to mind. Even very young, I can recall feeling offended by this music. Surely no one would listen to it on purpose, so the dentist must be playing it to punish me. Considering my relationship with the dentist back then–I was the girl who wore braces and a nightly headgear for three and a half years–punishment was not that far off the mark.

{n.b.: I hope you will not take offense at what I said about this music. Remember that at this point in my life, I was obsessed with the entire Kenny Loggins catalog. I also memorized “Rapper’s Delight.”}

Charlie has deep grooves in her baby teeth, so these days I’m probably at the dentist more than the average parent of a three-year-old. During the latest visit, I absentmindedly noted I was enjoying the music. Or as Charlie likes to say as she bobs her head, “Look at me, Mommy. I’m rockin’ out.” I’m like, Oh, “Tainted Love,” sweet! I haven’t heard this one in a while. 

Then it hit me. I appreciate music at the dentist, the very place I loathed music while growing up. It is difficult to describe my first feelings upon realizing the hits of my childhood are becoming oldies. It’s like seeing an old biddy at the grocery store and thinking, You know what? That headscarf that covers her curlers isn’t such a bad idea, I should figure out where to buy one of those.

I must have been a special sight for the hygienist, as I squirmed and grimaced over in the corner. I am not one of them! Perhaps dental tunes have just improved over the years. But no, I know better. I was like Wilbur, just after he figured out why Fern was crying so much in Charlotte’s Web. {Not that I’m being overly dramatic or anything.}

But then I looked down at Charlie, who smiled cheerfully up at me. She was so proud to be sitting in the chair she had coveted while watching her sister get her teeth cleaned. The mechanical throne of stickers and new toothbrushes was finally hers! Like me, she is growing older. Unlike me, she is enthusiastic about it.

I joke about my lack of enthusiasm, but honestly, I share her appreciation of aging. In fact, only in my thirties have I discovered a simple truth that guides me. To know where I’m going, I need to understand where I began. To look ahead sensibly, first I must look back. And so, I’ve been delving into family history. As a result, a whole new world is opening up to me. I revel in the warmth of community I feel with all the people who have come before me.

I love this picture of my grandmother and her oldest of eight children. I like to imagine that’s a beer she’s drinking.

You should really get in on this, y’all. Connect with your older relatives if you haven’t lately. Ask if there are any journals or written words from your great grandparents. Ask your parents or grandparents what life was like when they were growing up–their earliest memories, or what their own grandparents were like. I bet you’ll be amazed what you find out (then come tell me!).

I’ve gained entrance in a secret, unspoken club. I wouldn’t give up my membership card even if it meant I could relive my past. I don’t think this means I’ll start jamming to the Bay City Rollers any time soon, but if my grandma wants me to listen, I might just be convinced to give them a try.

P.S. For good measure, here are more pictures of me in the 1980’s, in case you desire evidence of why I eventually wore braces for three and a half years:

Me (left), my dad, & cousin Jeannie. This is the only picture I have of my dad’s 1985 perm. A classic! 

My school picture, 1986.

Peace out, homeslice.