Loving Gibb and Scrolled Yellow BedpostsPosted: September 22, 2011
The year was 1977 and we lived along a not-so-kind street. York Street to be precise. Why do I describe it as not-so-kind?
It was place you might consider the “other side of the tracks.” And by “other side” I don’t mean the side with country clubs, Mercedes or paved sidewalks. No, this was a place where illegal immigrants were regularly hauled off in paddy wagons by La Migra and a late night shootout between police and armed robbers was not entirely out of the question. I don’t imply that it was mean like the Bronx or South Central, just unkind. You know, more like lacking a tender touch, gas lamps and programmed sprinkler systems.
Along that street stood a small, tattered house – Number 404. Owned by my grandmother, it is where we lived during those early years. The years when I was an only child. The first born to a long-haired child bride and a curly-haired hooligan. We didn’t have much back then. No, not much at all. I think Mom would best describe it as a time when there weren’t two pennies to rub together. And I think Dad would best describe it as the time when a full set of drums occupied our living room. The three of us were young, poor and figuring it all out together. They were rough times, but I was convinced that I was the queen of this shabby kingdom. Thanks mostly to my parents who never let me know I was poor and partly because I may have been a bit delusional.
We were, however, rich in some things. Like felines. There were so many and they were always having kittens. Bob Barker’s message of getting your pets spayed and neutered had not yet reached this little corner of America. One of my many cats (or kitties as I called them, remember I was only a wee one) was Mr. Kool. Yes, I picked out that name my very self. Probably because Mom smoked Kool cigarettes and partly because I was rather unimaginative.
It was along this unkind street that I learned about the rewards of effort in the name of love and also where I had my first kiss, only he didn’t know it. There are two things I remember most about this era, Andy Gibb and scrolled yellow bedposts.
Mom was always trying to spruce up our tattered castle. She would scrub and clean until her hands hurt. I believe that through her scrubbing she would transport herself to another place. Some place where she felt safer and more proud. My parents decided that it was time to make my room something special and that’s exactly what they did.
This was no point-and-click Pottery Barn play, folks. Instead, we bought a twin bed at a nearby salvage shop – a headboard and footboard that were the deepest and ugliest shade of rust red and full of pot marks and scars. But they were determined to make it beautiful and befitting this shabby castle. My youthful parents stayed up for nights on end, stripping, sanding, more sanding, more stripping – until every little nook and cranny of those scrolls were ready for a new shade of pale yellow. It was painstaking work and I remember thinking, “why is this taking so long?” I lacked an appreciation for how much their hands must have hurt. But finally, it was complete. My new bed with scrolled yellow bedposts, matching spread and curtains now sitting in a room with a new coat of paint.
It was a bed suited for a queen – made lovely not by money, but by a labor of love.
It was in that spruced up room that I had my first kiss. It was a hot summer evening and he was a youthful Australian crooner. I was lying on my stomach with my feet kicked up in the air and my head held in my hands on the carpeted floor. I put Flowing Rivers on my turntable, song number 1 – “I Just Want to Be Your Everything.” I was so in love with my disco dreamboat. I thought to myself, “hey no one is looking, right?” So, I grabbed the album cover and proceeded to passionately make out with a paperboard Andy Gibb.
I made out with this image version of my Australian crooner for a good 10 minutes.
Then Mom walked in. She just stood there and I was mortified. I thought, “maybe she thinks I was smelling the album cover?” She knew I was getting kinky with Andy, but she never made me feel like a silly girl. But, I do wonder if Andy felt my passion, I am sticking with – yes.
Sure, I remember some of the hardships of Number 404 on unkind street, but mostly I remember Andy Gibb and scrolled yellow bedposts.
There was a poster in that room, hung by Mom. It had a picture of a beautiful ballerina making a graceful pose and a quote at the bottom that read, “if you can dream it, you can become it.” Maybe she placed that poster to inspire me to dream higher or maybe, just maybe, it was also put there to remind her that there was a life beyond Number 404 on unkind street. I like to believe it was a bit of both. It was in that bed befitting a queen that I would lie at night, listening to sounds of life in the ‘other side of the tracks’ and dreaming about where I might go, what I might become.
That bed now sits in the attic of my Mom’s house, gathering dust. My husband has never understood why I want it in our home. Perhaps now he will understand. It may have changed color a few times over the years, but for me it is still painted a muted yellow shade and remains the place where I would dream myself beyond current circumstances. It is a thing made lovely at the hands of a long-haired child bride and her curly-haired hooligan so that I could be proud and remain blissfully unaware that we were indeed poor. So that I could rest my head and dream about what I could be, where life might take me. Those simple, pot marked and dusty pieces of scrolled wood embody grit, tenacity and an unwillingness to accept something that you have the power to make better.
In case you were not alive yet or may have just forgotten about the magnificence of Andy Gibb, the youthful Australian heartthrob, I have included a visual aid. I am sure you understand why I found him so irresistible.
Album covers courtesy of Songogs.com