Friday, August 17, 2007

The Day My Music Died

The radio was on in the car as we drove down the driveway, on our way to where I don't remember anymore. I was in the front passenger seat unable to see over the dashboard of our maroon, two-door Ford LTD. I probably wasn't wearing a seatbelt not because my mom didn't care about me but because it was 1977.

My mom brought the car to a stop at the bottom of the driveway before she pulled out to make a left hand turn. That I remember.

The radio was tuned to an AM station, most likely AM1240 out of Waterbury, CT. I remember because we had to change our phone number not long before because it ended in those same four numbers--1-2-4-0. We were forever answering calls for song requests. After a weeks of apologizing to the callers and letting them know they had the wrong number, we just said we'd get the song right on and hang up the phone.

As she nudged the car forward to see beyond the hedges that lined our front lawn, the announcement came through the speakers.

"Elvis Presley is dead."

Her foot went back on the brake.

"Elvis Pretzel is dead Mom?" I never could get his name right.

"Yeah," she said, and we were both quiet for a moment--both of us processing the information in our own way. Me contemplating the finality of death; wrapping my seven year-old mind around such a horrific thought; worried that if he could die so too could the person I loved most in the world--the woman sitting next to me. And suddenly I was afraid. He couldn't be dead! He couldn't be gone!

"Isn't there something someone can do?! Can't they turn back the clock?" I asked. "No," she said as she explained that if he was dead it was already too late. She was a nurse, and my mother, so I took her at her word letting the information sink in.

I wonder now what she was thinking when she heard the news. Elvis was the icon she grew up with. She had watched him on the Ed Sullivan Show with her family--my grandparents not understanding the draw. The cameras focused in on just his upper body. She watched over the years as he aged. She saw how he had become bloated. She saw too his comeback. But now he was gone.

Was part of her childhood gone too on that day?

Once again she inched the car forward and then turned left down the road. To where, I don't remember.

It was just a moment in the car, at the end of the driveway, on a warm August day in 1977, but it has stayed with me for thirty years.

27 Deserve Mamma's Love:

Chris H said...

Strange the things we remember as kids eh? A defining moment in your life obviously. I can still remember every moment of when I heard Princess Diana died, and getting the phone call from my Dad to say my brother had been killed... but I was an adult then and knew the ramifications only too well.... I lost both my brothers through tragedy 10 years apart. Now why did I go there ??? Maybe cos you were talking about how a death affected you!

Blog Antagonist said...

Oh God, I remember that too. The whole world was in mournig it seems. That was the first death of an iconic figure in my life. It was a big deal.

Strangely enough, I was just watching last night a show about Elvis. He sure had a gift. What a shame he left us so soon.

~JJ! said...

Jeez. My mother cried and cried...I thought he was a family member the way she was crying so hard....

MamaLee said...

My mom was SO upset - she has every recording of his.

And now I'm near Waterbury... by a few minutes...

Come over for coffee sometime? xoxo

acumamakiki said...

what a vivid post - there are these moments in history that stand out and we remember exactly what we were doing and where we were. i loved reading this.

Lawyer Mama said...

You know, I remember that too. I was at a friend's house & we heard it on the radio & her mother started to cry. I remember it vividly too.

Leslie said...

This, for me, was like when John Lennon died. I was playing in our living room and my mom's best friend called to tell her. I couldn't hear the other end of the conversation, but I watched my mother put her back to the wall and slide to the groud and just sob. After she hung up, we pulled out her records and listened to song after song while she shared memories that were attached to each and every one for her. It too has stayed with me.

Maureen said...

Great post.... you made ME remember the exact time I heard the news too. In my brother's huge gas-guzzler, driving to my then-boyfriend, now-husband's place. A day I'll never forget either.

And I had to LOL at your phone number part. We too, have a number very similar to the nearby hardware store and get calls all the time for them.

canape said...

We heard it on TV. When I found out he died in the bathroom, I thought the bathroom was a very scary place from then on.

kris said...

Amazing how those flasbulb memories stay with us, isn't it? And how we remember every detail: the temperature of the air, the feel of the seat underneath of us, the color of our shirts. Beautifully written.

Now put your drinking shoes on.

Oh, The Joys said...

I remember vague things about that day. I know where we lived. I remember hearing about it on the tv news...

Slackermommy said...

Isn't it something how some moments in our lives can stick with us so vividly our entire lives?

Jennifer aka Binky Bitch said...

Great story, Mamma. It is interesting how we keep memories.

Karen said...

I was laying on my stomach, reading a book and listening to the radio in the little attic clubhouse my sister and I had over the garage. It was hot and dry and stuffy. I remember being shocked and sad. He always looked young when we watched his movies on the "4:00 Afternoon Movie." I still think of him as young and glossy...

shuey6 said...

I remember my mom crying about it, and then saving EVERY clipping that came out in the papers in our dining room hutch drawer.

A lot of moms must have walked in a fog that day.

mamatulip said...

It's one of those moments that you'll always remember -- like the day JFK died or 9/11. You'll always remember that day, what you were doing, little bits about it...it becomes part of your personal history.

OMSH said...

I don't remember Elvis. I was 5.

I remember when Ronald Reagan was shot. I was 9 then. I remember my mom and dad staring at the little black and white 15" television we had, and the quiet.

I was scared that if someone could kill the president, they could kill me too.

Mrs. Chicken said...

I have a memory like this of John Lennon's death.

My mother cried like a girl.

It was cold and night, that I remember.

Lisa said...

Isn't it amazing how clearly we can remember certain aspects of history -- even as small children. Amazing.

karrie said...

Elvis Pretzel? LOL!

I do not remember that day, although I clearly remember that year, and have similar memories of riding in the car with my mom. Hard to believe it was 30 years ago?!??

QT said...

I remember absorbing that news, with my grandma, and I remember her making me say a prayer for him.:)

truly said...

i could very well have been in naugatuck right then, but don't remember. today some alzheimers patients were asking me for his middle name (crossword clue) - so I googled it. fyi, it's aaron.

Dorky Dad said...

What? Elvis is dead?

I remember Elvis' death ... it was all over the news, and all I did back then was watch television. My mom didn't much like Elvis. All she did was complain about him.

BSuze said...

Isn't it weird how things like that stay with you? I was at camp and it was raining so we were stuck in our cabin doing crafts, listening to the radio. When the news came on that Elvis was dead, I remember one of my counselors crying and leaving the room, while the other tried to explain to a bunch of 11-year-olds who he was and why it mattered so much. I can still hear that rain on the roof.

Lola Goetz said...

i can't remember any pop icons like that from my childhood. although i do remember the Big Deal when Lennon died, i wasn't truly aware of what that meant until much later (even though i listened to the beatles, i was young enough that i didn't quite make the connection).

but you really captured a poignant moment here. enjoyed reading it.

becky
misspriss.org

Girl said...

This is a neat memory..

Kelly said...

I don't remember that moment at all, but I do remember discussing his death at my Grandma's house. She replied when told about the death, "Well, I never liked him anyway." Yeah. She was an odd duck and that quote stuck in my head. In fact it stuck in everyone's head, and it's become a family joke used when people say oddly inappropriate things.