I remember one early evening in the springtime of ninth grade, I was sitting on the arm of the couch, which Mom hated, and wearing my Hole t-shirt with the heart logo, probably the band I loved that Mom hated most, and she stood by the stove getting ready for dinner. I was watching MTV–this is when they still played videos all the time–and singing along. Low spring light came in from the window near the TV and left big fans of light on the rug that stretched all the way to the kitchen where Mom stirred frozen vegetables in a pan.
“So, Emilia,” she said, and I could tell by the way she wasn’t turning towards me, the way she was trying too hard to sound like a thought just occurred to her, that whatever was coming, she’d worked herself up to it. But I didn’t move my gaze from the TV. “What do you want to be when you’re older?”
“A rock star,” I told her without thinking. Then I thought about it. “I want to be a lead singer and a lyric writer and to write mystery or mystical books on the side.”
“Well I was thinking maybe you could write for Rolling Stone and combine your interests that way.”
“That’s not that interesting,” I said, an intensity rising, as it did often that year, from my gut to my breastbone, but not quite making its way to my throat. “That’s not really what I want to do, Mom,” I said, off-hand, dismissive.
I didn’t want to write about music, I wanted to make music, and to write stories and books with meaning that came from inside. Mom said I had to think about college and these things. I just turned back towards the TV and kept watching music videos. It reminded me of all the times as a kid that I asked Mom if I could take singing lessons. I don’t even know how old I was the first time I asked but I was young. The answer was always the same. I had to be practical. I didn’t have enough natural talent.
I didn’t know whether to feel defiant, get determined as fuck all to prove her wrong, or resigned to the truth of what she said.
So, the pictures. The top one is me playing guitar, probably pretty pitifully, in my parents’ kitchen, wearing my “Heart-Shaped Box” shirt, which my mom once told me was offensive but wouldn’t say why. Still, to this day, I don’t know. It just had flowers and hearts for fuck’s sake. There was a vague outline of the In Utero cover thing on the back, and maybe that was it?
And the other one is me at a Camp Marcella talent show. I’m not sure what year it was, but I know, for sure, that I was singing “My Friends” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.
This was a snippet I found in Moonchild, a moment of reflecting back, while editing the manuscript. I’m honestly not sure why it was in there or if it’ll make it into the next draft, but it grabbed my attention. Maybe because that battle’s still going on inside me, always has and maybe always will. I miss that young girl who was so sure of what she wanted, who could answer like that, boldly, without reservation. And it makes me sad sometimes, that I didn’t pursue music more.
A lot is going on with me lately related to music. As a fan, as a listener, as a would-be person making music, so I’m sure there will be more posts to come on the topic.
P.S. I picked lyrics for a title. Anyone know what song it’s from?