He makes me giddy like a teenager.
When I was five, my parents loaded me and my brothers into the car and drove us from Ft. Hood, Texas to Ashton, SD. Never heard of Ashton? Don’t worry. Few people have heard of the .4 square mile town with a meager population of…no lie…125 people.
My grandparents had a farm just south of Ashton. As a five-year old with blond pigtails, visiting a farm sounded like a dream vacation. Images of cows, chickens, horses, green fields where one could spin circles bare foot while the glaring sun beat down on your shoulders entertained me on the long journey. And lemonade. Don’t forget the cold, hand squeezed lemonade. Just like in the pictures books I read.
Reality wasn’t even close. No cows. No chickens. No horses. The fields were planted so there was no spinning, and certainly not bare foot. The weeds prickled your naked legs if you dared to wear shorts. For a five-year-old, city girl, excitement bled into the parched earth and left me with nothing but a bag of boredom. The barrel of arm length goldfish didn’t last very long as entertainment, though I still have fond memories of leaning over the bubbling barrel with Grandpa Jay at my side.
Thus began my life as a die-hard Barry Manilow fan. And my life as a writer.
I pulled out my trusty Walkman and Barry Manilow tapes (remember those?). That’s when I found myself lost in the snippets of stories that his songs told. Specifically, “Weekend in New England“. That was my favorite but the song left me longing for more. I wanted to know the rest of the story. While I balanced across the 2×6 board that straddled the six-inch wide “river” that trickled along the property, I dreamed of the ocean and forests of New England. I liked to imagine the story in fall, as autumn gasped its dying breathes in the fight with the bitter of an invading winter. It was a tragic love story, beautiful and intense.
I’ve written ever since.
My subjects have changed and grown as experiences change my priorities and interests. I don’t think I could write a love story if I tried. But the dying New England landscape still calls to me.
I’ll get there one day and spend some time in an isolated cabin surrounded by the rusty colors of trees. Perhaps I’ll finally be home.
Until then, I’ll stick to what I know. I finished “Dolly” last week and have burned with hatred for it since I put it away. I hate the story. The characters. The ending. Especially the ending. Though there was no other way to complete the circle that I’d started, it’s not what I started out to write. I wanted happy and easy. Instead, I got complicated and heart-breaking. Perhaps it’s true that nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
Now that the week has passed, I’ve put away my self-loathing for what I’ve done and am ready to return to the business of writing. Because “Dolly” is worthwhile. Regardless of publication potential, I need to write. It’s who I am and have been since singing along to Barry Manilow on a plank over a trickling stream at my Grandparents farm in Ashton, SD. I’ve been lost for a week without it.
As far as my love for Barry Manilow, there is one of his songs that shines above all others.
Just aim beyond the clouds, and rise above the crowds, and start your own parade.