Some moments are crystallized in memory, even if they are ordinary.
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.
“Well you have to be practical.”
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.
Don’t forget to check out Samples, Published and Early Work for more excerpts and chapters and full pieces of writing.
P.S. I picked lyrics for a title. Anyone know what song it’s from?
I totally get that thing of the dream being very precise, that writing fiction is not just writing, making music is not writing reviews. I like Hole too and I never made my dream of playing bass in a band, but I am achieving the dream to write fiction. Stay true to your artistic vision!
Thanks Marc! It’s true that the dream is often precise, even within the arts. I’ve sometimes been told I should write poetry, and that’s just not my thing. I think, for most of us, even if we aren’t always conscious of it, we know the preciseness of the dream at the moment. I’ve done a bit of traditional-ish music writing, reviewing albums or live shows in a music journalist type way, and it just never did much for me.
As for staying true to your artistic dream of writing fiction, right on!
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The lyric is from Once I Was.
As for the dreams we dream: I think (most) parents are overly pragmatic. They have lost much of that which keeps them wondering.
YES!!!! It sure is! I was literally JUST thinking how my lyric references might be too obscure, but I guess not :)
Yeah, I think so too. It’s kind of sad, but I can also see the reasoning behind some of it. Still, it would be nice to feel like the artistic and creative dreams aren’t in a tug-of-war of sorts. Those things stay with you, you know?
I dreamed of being a marine biologist and working with dolphins. My parents pointed out other choices but supported me anyway. So I went to college and failed miserably – couldn’t physically handle immersion in cool/cold water for any length of time. (I even have to wear a wetsuit in the Bahamas.) But I love them for letting me try, and not beating me down when I failed. And I eventually found a career which I love and I’m suited for.
That’s great! It’s definitely true that sometimes (okay, maybe most of the time) reality is different from the dream. But I think you hit on the key thing: you got to discover that for yourself.
In some ways, I’m still haunted by this old thing. Not so much that I want to be a rock star (okay, a little bit I do) but more the whole idea of pursuing and learning music. I’ve taken a few voice lessons in my life but it’s like I have a huge emotional block towards it because of what I heard all the time growing up. Sometimes I think, for most people, lack of confidence, or lack of willingness to stick with something despite fear and initially not being very good at it, deters more people from things than actual lack of ability. But that’s getting a little off topic.
I’m glad you found a career you love! And I’m glad you tried marine bio. I wouldn’t be a big fan of the cold water either!