As I look back on one of the best summers ever, there is one memory that will remain with my family for a long, long time. I have no doubt it was emotionally detrimental enough to have scarred my children for a lifetime. But when you are stuck with the Carpenter and I as your parents, it should be expected that the journey to adulthood have embarrassing musical accompaniment.
It happened during the drive from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island. It was a gloomy, rainy day. We were in need of good driving tunes to lighten our spirits. I should mention we were on a budget and had only a CD player in the car. It’s not an excuse, but it was the inspiration for the horror show to follow.
The Carpenter and I bought Johnny Cash’s greatest hits on sale for five dollars. What a deal. What an ordeal for the two minor-aged passengers that had to listen to their parents sing Johnny in unison, off key and off kilter.
It might seem like a bizarre musical choice for us, but I was raised on the music of the big man with the deep voice and that hypnotic train rhythm: simple country blues. That’s right, I was tortured too. My Dad and Johnny Cash singing silly prison songs of hardship and woe was the soundtrack of many car trips in my memory. (Don’t even get me started on my mother’s Conway Twitty addiction).
I remember the look of surprise on the Carpenter’s face when we watched the Hollywood movie of Cash’s life and I knew the words of every single song. My husband realized he too knew a lot of the music, hence the motive behind the purchase of the CD collection on that fateful day. We are both twisted parents.
If only you could have seen what I saw in the rearview mirror as the first song, “Burning Ring of Fire” began, leading into a full-on chorus in horrendous harmony from the two adults in the front seat, slapping knees and stomping feet, while belting out the lyrics like we were in a karaoke bar. Our passengers covered their ears and begged us to stop. But we couldn’t stop. The next song was “A Boy Named Sue,” all about violence, murder and dead-beat Dad’s. Its story telling at it’s finest, recorded live in a prison. Now that’s rock’n roll, children.
My goodness, it’s a wonder my generation survived at all with such musical influences, sitting in the back seat while your Dad could still smoke in the car with the windows up, but we did it. We bounced around in cars without seatbelts too. My kids were safely fastened, so frankly, they were fair game. We were just offering a lesson in musicology with such fine lyrics as, “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.” I turned up the volume. Justin Bieber’s got nothing on my leather clad Cash man. Johnny would eat Justin for breakfast.
Then came the shining moment: “Jackson” a marriage-gone-sour duet between June Carter and Johnny. After a few hits of the repeat button, the Carpenter memorized Johnny’s part and I had June down. In character, we did our hillbilly best to bring that song to life. Yeehaw.
These are the moments my children will remember as they grow up and leave our humble nest. Something tells me they’re going to want to fly. Far.
Writing has been my passion since I learned how to hold a pencil (which I still cannot do properly). Despite my father’s insistence that I would starve to death in this career, I remain well fed and eager to write more. They say you should do what you love: I love to write.