My little son needed someone to sit upstairs with him while he spent time in his train attic, which happens to be the loft in our bedroom. “Mom, why don’t you go clean something?” I wondered what he was implying. It may have been that the neglected furniture needed a good dusting, or that it was time to match the odd socks that had been long since abandoned at the foot of the bed. More likely, though, he knew that I would need something to do to keep busy while he escaped to his berth where he alone was responsible for the movement, noise, and story lines that would follow. In his often tumultuous world of autism, he knew that he could find safety and comfort at the controls of an eight-inch Metra. He needed to be by himself but not alone, and that is where I came in.
“I’m tired, I’m tired of knowing…where it is you’re going.”
–10,000 Maniacs, “Noah’s Dove”
It had been years since I had given a thought to cleaning the top drawer of my dresser. Historically, that is where I have always kept things that seemingly had no other place; things that I probably didn’t remember that I had; things that most likely I would never need; and things of which I certainly would not be able to recall the whereabouts. But things that, at some point in time, had great meaning to me.
My top drawer bears a certain smell, something reminiscent of my Saturday trips to Chicago’s Flashy Trash and other thrift and vintage venues in the late 1980’s where I spent idle afternoons searching for milk glass and marcasite, and of the heady aroma of incense…the Gonesh variety, sold at Record Revolution for $1.87 per pack during my days at the store, and still sold for that price when my family returned to DeKalb some years before the store closed its doors to end an era. As I sifted through the knotted strings of pearls, the handmade paper cards, and a wooden box that contained, among other things, a vial of Holy water, I am pretty sure I heard music.
My boss at the record store once told me that “music bridges a lot of gaps.” He was a wise man. For me, music allows me to cross bridges and filter thoughts that are otherwise too harsh to bear.
I spent many formative years of my childhood traveling through the states in our family’s Coachmen motor home. My mom would blast Elvis music. This I did not like at all, but I could not protest. With all of her behind-the-scenes work as the camping mom, I am sure that she needed Elvis in much the same way as I need the Maniacs. I listen to my music when I am baking in my kitchen, when I am walking alone, and when I am in the garden for some self-imposed therapy. My children do not ask me to lower the volume. They must see the value of the Maniacs.
Through these recent years of reactivity, exhaustive behavior, and wiping stuff, I sometimes wonder if I have come close to losing part of who I used to be. Nearly closed for good in the drawer with the Jam buttons, the worn cotton friendship bracelet, and the mismatched earrings, I am still the same girl, though a bit jaded and twenty-some pounds heavier, that listened to the Maniacs for the first time, peering toward the blank canvas with hope for what was to come.
I am grateful that my older sons like my music.
“How I’ve learned to hide,
I’ve locked inside you.
You’d be surprised if shown,
But you’ll never, you’ll never know. ”
—10,000 Maniacs, “Stockton Gala Days”
My little boy climbed down from the train attic. He had returned the trains to the station, and his mission, for the moment, was complete. He didn’t notice the sparkly earrings that I was wearing, nor was he aware of the gift that he had given me in that small hour.