to take a writing class

As part of my job (I wear many hats) I am consistently taking webinars, reading articles, and just lately I have signed up for skillshare classes. We are revamping our website at work and that means a lot of editing and rewrites are coming (which I am salivating for!) so I have to hone my skills.

I started the class Creative Writing: Writing From Memory yesterday and the teacher and writer, Ashley C. Ford, gave the assignment. You had to go to a website and select the year that you were 13 years old, click on the first song you recognized and listen to it, then write based on that. She explained that scent is the most powerful mnemonic sense, and second is sound.

Wow, wow... doopity, deep deep... wow wow...doopity deep...wooo-oo-ow...
A lonely mother gazing out of the window
Staring at her son that she just can't touch... 

Hit me like a ten foot wave.

I don't ever remember seeing the music video. I lived in rural Saskatchewan and cable wasn't available, the only people that had MTV or MuchMusic had satellite dishes that were the size of small spaceships. We didn't have the room in our yard, or our budget to have one, so my family got our hands on music through the radio or my dad's record collection.

I watched the music video yesterday and recognized the quintessential style of the mid 1990s: Tight "belly shirts" (which are now being called crop tops) and mens underwear peeking out of the baggiest jeans that would hang off your hips. I was from a large family and had to create my own. I went down to the folding table in the laundry room and found a pair of my brother's abandoned jeans. I cut them off so that they would fit my short legs and be able to hang as wide as possible. He came home from the dorms one day and was incredulous that I had cut his jeans, whups. The bizarre thing, they fit my hips perfectly, how unfortunate for my Senior in high school brother. Sadly, I never did get my hands on Calvin Klein or Dolce and Gabbana men's underwear to wear under my pants, the real tragedy of middle school.

Don't go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to

Baggy jeans on, walk-man in hand (I couldn't afford a discman yet), strutting my stuff with my tortoise shell and gold glasses where the nose pads had turned green. For picture day that year I slicked my hair back in a pony tail, and then pulled my side curls out by my ears like a good Yiddish rabbi would do. I wore my name on a necklace and a tight black t shirt that said GIRL across the front. Later in life, looking back through the pictures with a friend, she asked if I was having an identity crisis.

I know that you're gonna have it your way or nothing at all
But I think you're moving too fast

There is something to be said about 13 year olds. This summer, my niece came to stay with us and EVERY time her song came on she lit up like it was the first time hearing it. It could have happened ten times in a row and she would have had the same response. It wasn't until I heard the first bars of Chasing Waterfalls that I was transported back to the red minivan, and understood my niece completely. I was invited to a friend's birthday party. She was a year younger than me, a foot shorter than me (which is a feat, I'm short!) and a thousand times cooler than me.

She was one of those kids that had a satellite dish in her back yard. She was also the only kid in our school at the time that had lived somewhere else and her parents were divorced, and her mom was remarried so her name was hyphenated. Her mom also had a brand new RED mini van, which not many people had because mini vans only came in wood grained, paying homage to the boomers' love of the old station wagon. This girl was cultured, and very cool. Cherry on top, we were going water sliding for her birthday in the city.

Her poor mom. Part of the tremendously cool mini van was that it had the technology of an automatic rewinder in the stereo. We played and repeated the whole song until all six of us had memorized the whole rap. It was the first time many of us had heard the song, it hadn't hit the radio yet, but our friend had access to it because of her satellite dish and had gotten the tape as an early present. Over and over and over again we played the song. I imagine her mom was speeding like a demon to get us out of the van and onto the water slide. Our screams were probably a respite from this song on repeat.

And like His promise is true
Only my faith can undo
The many chances I blew
To bring my life to anew
Clear blue and unconditional skies
Have dried the tears from my eyes
No more lonely cries

Before this technology you would have to guess where the song started when you were rewinding it on the cassette. It still baffles me how tapes worked, I just can't wrap my head around something reading a strip and emitting a sound. Heck, radio impresses me.

What is most impressive about this song was the cultural impact that it had on us. It wasn't until I heard it again yesterday that I realized it was probably the first non-white group that I listened to. It was also my first foray into Hip Hop, and rap. It was the first time for me that a song spoke to the gritty side of life in an upbeat way. It was the first song that I remember talking about drugs, but I don't think I ever realized that as a kid. And it was the first famous person that I cared about that died before her time, Lisa Left-Eye Lopes.

I say the system got you victim to your own mind 
Dreams are hopeless aspirations 
In hopes of coming' true 
Believe in yourself 
The rest is up to me and you. 

This song is engraved in my brain. I'm sure, one day, walking around in an old-folks home with my walker barely in front of me, I will bust out in a rap and impress all the young nurses around me. 

If you have a few minutes, click on the nostalgia machine  go back to your 13th year in song. See what memories come up. It's Friday, you deserve it. 

That's all. 


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