Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thank You, Girl

We met like most kids did back then, outside on a summer day.

"I'm Nancy."

"I'm Deanna."

Next thing we knew, we were fast friends. We rode bikes around the neighborhood, played hopscotch. I was ten, she was eleven. A grade older than me; I was honored she'd even want to be with me.

One rainy day I went inside her house for the first time and I met her older brother. He was kind of teenage-y, hung around his teenage friends and listened to music.  The teenage brother was a familiar scene since I had one of those at home, too.

We went into the finished basement, Deanna and I, and the first thing I saw was a parquet dance floor. A dance floor, can you imagine?  It was a perfect square. I imagined Deanna's family having fun parties in that basement, dancing the night away on that square.  And next to it was the stereo system, with big speakers.  Deanna's brother was looking through some records.

"Come on," Deanna said, leading me to where her games were in the opposite side of the basement.  I followed her and we pulled one out.  In an instant, the basement was filled with the most wonderful music my young ears had ever heard. Song after song, I was entranced. The music was intoxicating. I left Deanna at her end of the room and went over to her brother, who was sitting in a chair and reading the back of an album cover.

"Who are they?" I asked him, mesmerized as I stared at the album spinning on the turntable.

He looked up, surprised.  "You've never heard of The Beatles?"

The Beatles. No, I really hadn't. My parents played all sorts of music at home: country, Johnny Cash, Italian, doo-wop, The Ronettes, even Elvis...but never these people, these Beatles.

"Listen to this one," he said, and picked up the needle, moving it to another song.

The opening bars of "Twist and Shout" came screeching through the stereo speakers.  He turned it up way loud, and the next thing I knew, I was on that parquet dance floor, twisting and shouting and loving every minute of it.

Deanna grew tired of this.  "Nancy, I thought we were going to play."

"One more song," I panted, out of breath.  I looked at her brother. "Play another one?"

He played more than another one. We went through entire albums, and I couldn't get enough. I stared at the brown-haired, mop-topped foursome.  "Who is this?" I pointed to the baby-faced one.  Instantaneous crush.


"The basic thing in my mind was that for all our success The Beatles were always a great little band. Nothing more, nothing less."   —Paul McCartney


"Oh, that's Paul," her brother said with a quick glance.  "And that's George, and John, and Ringo."

I couldn't have cared less who the others were. I looked into Paul's deep, brown eyes.  Oh dear. I was ten and suddenly, I was in love.  Beatlemania was long over, but it made no matter. I was hooked.

Deanna grew tired of waiting for me. She went upstairs for a snack and I don't remember if she ever came back down, to be honest.

I came back to Deanna's house every day. When the weather cleared up, Deanna wanted to play outside.  But I was no fool. There was no stereo outside. There was no dance floor outside. I wanted to go inside that basement to listen to The Beatles.  Deanna was kind and humored me—for a while.

One day I went over to her house and her brother wasn't home. I was devastated.  Deanna thought I had a crush on her brother.  "You always want to see him. Well, he's not home."

Deanna didn't know it wasn't her brother I was interested in, it was the brown-haired bass player with the dreamy voice and puppy-dog eyes. And those songs that harmonized beautifully, and the drums that made me want to dance for hours.  No, it wasn't her brother I was there for...it was The Beatles!

My disappointment was obvious.  But Deanna was a good friend. And she didn't want to send me home, so she led me into the basement. And she took out her brother's Beatles albums.  "I'm not supposed to be touching his records," she warned me.  "If I scratch them, he'll kill me."

"We'll be careful," I promised, gently pulling the record out of Meet The Beatles.  I wanted to hear "I Saw Her Standing There."

We played the Beatles all afternoon on that sunny day, bless Deanna's heart. We jumped around on her parquet dance floor to "A Hard Day's Night," "All I've Got To Do," "Ticket To Ride" (I made her play that one more than once), and "Can't Buy Me Love."  The first time I heard "I Feel Fine," I melted.

"You okay?" she asked me as I flopped on the couch, exhausted from dancing.

"Yeah, shhh," I said, as I closed my eyes and listened to "I Feel Fine."  "I'm so glaaad, that she's my little girl. She's so glaaad, she's telling all the world..." Pure heaven.

Deanna got us some water and snacks. As I listened to "Paperback Writer," I smiled.  "I'm going to be one, one day," I said as I gulped down a glass of water.

"One what?"

"A writer. A paperback writer," I said, with all of my ten-year-old wisdom.  "I am."

Deanna nodded, said that was pretty neat. She told me she wanted to be a nurse.

Later, Deanna's brother noticed that his albums, though not scratched, were in disarray. They weren't how he'd left them.

"You know," he said kindly the next day.  "You should get some of your own." After all, he did like to play music from other bands once in awhile, he said.

So I went home and asked my dad to take me to Harmony House, the big record store in Royal Oak, Michigan.  You wanted a record or a tape? You went to Harmony House. There was no downloading, uploading, sideloading, whatever. You walked inside, took a shrink-wrapped, flat square off the rack, and brought it home with you in a paper bag. You left the shrink wrap on to protect the album cover while you oh-so-carefully slit open the side to reveal the shiny, black record, that you held by the edges.

My dad, never a huge fan of The Beatles (which I never knew until recently, he hid it so well), took me there a few days later and I was filled with excitement as we walked into the store and I chose my very first Beatles album.  The Red Album.  There they were on that ledge, all four of them, and they were mine, all mine! I could play them any time I wanted! I didn't have to go down to Deanna's house and hope that her brother was home, or sneak around and play them when he wasn't.

I played that album on my scratchy little hi-fi stereo over and over and over again. The stereo that used to play kiddie records was now playing, "Please Please Me" and "She Loves You."  Yeah, yeah, yeah!!! As a budding writer myself, I read and re-read the lyrics inside. I got irritated when they didn't exactly match up with what they were singing. I imagined John and Paul sitting down and writing the amazing lyrics to their amazing songs.  Even then, I appreciated the craft.

My friend Caroline, who was from England and thus an expert on the group, enjoyed my obsession and together we pretended we were The Beatles performing in her basement with air guitars. I, of course, was always Paul.  She was John.  We had no Ringo or George, but I think we might have roped her little brother into playing one of them at one time or another. We sang "Eight Days A Week" on the swing set at school.  I remember the day I asked Caroline's mom if she knew The Beatles. She laughed at my innocence and shook her head. I was disappointed. I thought for sure she'd have run into one of them somewhere in London.

A year later, at age eleven, I bought a Beatles poster at the mall and hung it on my bedroom wall with Scotch Tape. Day in and day out, my family had to look at the four guys with goofy expressions and skinny black ties staring back at them.  One day as I was getting ready for school, it occurred to me that I could kiss Paul goodbye.  I stood there in my polyester plaid uniform skirt and itchy blue cardigan sweater and planted a quick kiss smack on the poster, right over Paul's lips. "Bye Paul," I said. "I have to go to school now. I'll see you this afternoon."  This started a morning tradition where I would give a quick peck to who I thought was my future husband.  Oh, parting was such sweet sorrow! One time my brother caught me kissing Paul from the doorway. I could feel the tears start to form and sting behind my eyes. He was going to tease me; I just knew it. I was embarrassed.

Funny thing, though. He could have laughed at me. He had every right to, as he looked at his silly little sister kissing a poster. But he didn't. He just looked at me kind of funny. Then it occurred to me: Although not exactly in the same way (LOL) he liked The Beatles too! Later that day, I found Beatles music in his stash of records. He had them all of the time and I never knew it! How could I not have known this? Thus began a mutual respect and admiration for having the same taste in music.

I started to acquire more Beatles albums. I stayed friends with Deanna, but we began to grow apart. She met some new friends on the block and I did, too. We went to different schools, our interests began to go in different directions. We'd wave if we saw each other and that was it.

Friends come into our lives for many different reasons, time periods, and intensities. Deanna was one of those friends.  I never found out what happened to her, or if she ever became a nurse.  But I became a paperback writer, and even though I didn't marry Paul McCartney, I did marry a dreamy man of my own.  Deanna was a sweet girl to put up with me as I discovered what was to be my very favorite singing group, even to this day. No, I don't agree with a lot of the stuff they said and did, but their music brings me so much joy and pleasure. If I could see Deanna now, I'd say thank you.




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