A Window to the Past

Please come to Boston for the Springtime
I’m stayin’ here with some friends and they’ve got lots of room
You can sell your paintings on the sidewalk
By a café where I hope to be workin’ soon
Please come to Boston
She said “No – would you come home to me?”

— Dave Loggins

Summer 1974

I’m sitting on the bed staring out the window facing north with a view of the backyard.

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Modern view, pool was to the left

My mom has her student teaching friend over for a swim in our pool. She’s in a bikini which is why I’m staring out the window. I’m 11 if that makes any sense. I suppose that’s when I started to see girls as less icky and well . . .more interesting.

They’re talking about pop music and her friend Bev, asks if she’s heard this song yet.

Strangely, it’s the next song that plays on my radio, which is tuned to Y103, a station from nearby (but not really) Sharon-Youngstown that is somewhat famous for playing several tunes in a row and having no DJs.

It would be the first of many, many ‘coincidences’ where someone, usually me, would think of a song, no matter how old or obscure, and I would hear it soon on the radio. It used to happen so often that I began to wonder if I had some kind of weird ESP for pop music. It doesn’t happen anymore which kind of makes me sad.

But anyway.

The summers of my youth always seem surreal. I call them the ‘golden summers.’ A three-month respite from the nuns and a time where I can read stacks of books, doodle on endless sheets of paper provided from my mother’s second grade class, and stare out this window wondering what my life would be like once it was allowed to start.

On this afternoon my dad was at work which was great because I wouldn’t have my body freeze up if I heard him lumbering up the stairs. My brain could stand down for a little while.

I remember when I got enough nerve to venture out the other window on the roof of the garage and lie on the shingles and look out at the world while listening to the radio.

I really didn’t have any friends, but I had the radio; it’s DJs and music were my companions. To this day there isn’t a song in the top 40 from the 70s (well from 1974 on) that I don’t know the lyrics by heart.

The first time I heard ‘Radio Ga Ga’ from Queen, I got misty eyed. Freddie Mercury and I had something in common.

I’d sit alone and watch your light
My only friend through teenage nights
And everything I had to know
I heard it on my radio

I stared down at the pool and wondered if I would ever have a girlfriend. I doubted it. I was, am, and always will remain, fat like the rest of my family, and a grotesque mix of looks from both parents without the endearing qualities of either.

Obviously, I already had a poor self-image. It was 1974 and even my family doctor, that same year, gave me a pamphlet at one of my check-ups titled ‘Are You Really Serious About Losing Weight?’

We forget 99.9% of the days of our youth and remember .1% if we’re lucky. But the things we remember are the formative memories. When you’re 11 and even your doctor is fat shaming you, it’d hard to forget forever.

I grew up in that room (1968-1984 RIP). I had the best times of my life in that room. I had my books, my radio, my fish, my little black and white TV and my doodle paper. One day I heard this oldie:

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island

 And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

–Paul Simon (obviously)

That was me. But when I hear those lyrics even today, I weep inside.

My shrink asked me to talk to that little boy. I told her I had. What I didn’t tell her is what I would have said.

‘You think once you get out and on your own that you can start living. But kid, you’ll never be quite able to shake off all of the shit you’re eating now at home and at school. You’ll see 31 therapists and all of them won’t be able to help you. Neither will the 30-odd prescription medications. You will never recover from what is happening to you. You’ll be married three times, run through fifteen plus jobs by the time you’re 50 and be miserable in almost all of them. You’ll have a handful of half-hearted suicide attempts to look forward to and a lifetime of regret. It will never get better than it is now, staring out the window on a summer day looking at a woman in a bikini twice your age and listening to the radio.

 Oh, by the way kid, one day when you get to be in your fifties, you won’t be able to listen to these tunes anymore because the memories will be too painful.

 But you won’t remember the good times as much as you’ll clearly remember your father spitting words at you – not of love, but contempt – that you will never forget. In fact, on his death bed, your mom will have to make your father tell you you’ve been “a good kid.” But you’ll know it’s the lying words of a dying man.

But it’s all you’re going to get from him.

I have many memories of staring out that bedroom window, especially when I’d get up early to watch the sun rise. I just knew things would get better. They had to, right?

Talk to that wounded little boy,’ my therapist would tell me decades later.

I never really told her what I would say. I’d make up some shit like ‘it will get better, someday you’ll write for a newspaper and be on the radio and life will be worth living.’

I’ve never told anyone this before: my first halfhearted suicide attempt was when I was 15. All I wanted then was a girl I could talk to and who would talk to me.

The story is almost true, except there wasn’t anyone waiting so I made her up. In effect, making the longing for [a companion] stronger. It was a recap to my first trip to each of those cities…[and] how I saw each one. The fact of having no one to come home to made the chorus easy to write. Some forty years later, I still vividly remember that night [of composition], and it was as if someone else was writing the song.”

Dave Loggins on writing ‘Please Come to Boston’

This entry was posted in books, Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD, Catholic school, childhood terror, growing up, mental health, my father, regret, suicide, When we were very young and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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