Like a lot of other kids, I was raised by my grandmother. My mother was 15 years old when she got pregnant, and wholly incapable of doing it on her own. Not only did she face financial challenges, but she had mental health issues that she still struggles with to this day. I am grateful for her sacrifice. It was not easy to hand me over I’m sure.
I miss my grandmother and my father so much lately. I miss their stories most of all. I loved hearing my grandmother explain that she had one outfit yearly while she was in school. She washed and pressed it daily. Her right arm had a horrific twisted scar from her wrist to her elbow and although gruesome, the story she told about being a lucky family by having an electric washer changed her life when her arm got stuck in the wringer. She had 6 siblings and when one got in trouble, no one would admit who’d done the deed, so they all got whipped, they’d line up for this and one after the other get the paddle. So many stories we’re simple ones about being a young woman in the 1950s, she was a genius in painting a picture for me, I could see her walking down the street to Woolworths in her flared dress and hat to buy a lipstick she’d saved for for 2 weeks. I miss hearing those same, and other stories over and over.
My dad had different stories. Stories about the 1960’s. Stories about getting teargassed at concerts. Stories about music, about seeing Led Zeppelin in San Francisco, details about marching in protest, he expressed the empowerment he felt in trying to make a difference in this world. He was a blues guitarist, I got to hear the stories of famous people hed met and played with, what they were like, who they were as people.
I had 6 uncle’s, 3 from each side. I heard stories of bravery from my uncle who was a Marine. I heard stories from all of them.
My grandfather too had stories, how my family moved from Oklahoma during the dust bowl, just to end up in a shack city picking fruit, and spending all of their daily wages at the company store. Unable to get ahead he ended up working in Bakersfield in the oil fields.
The other day I was telling a friend about my first punk concert in Denver, it was The Damned at Rainbow Music Hall, and how much concerts have changed. I told her about a Corrosion of Conformity show in SLC, how I stage dived and bruised my cheek on a friend’s spiked jacket. I told her about cruising State Street(now illigal in our city), about the cars, the music, picking up boys, how the paddy wagon cleared us all out at 2 a.m.
“I love your stories” she told me.
I realized that yes, I too have stories. I can tell people about growing up in the 1970s and 80s. I can talk about the punk scene in Salt Lake and Denver, where my parents lived. I was shuffled back and forth in the summer months and because my dad was a local musician I was always back stage at some punk or metal show. I have some woppers about the absolute debouchery of rock stars, my punk idols, and that time in general.
I am glad I listened to their stories. I am grateful I too am a story teller. It’s surprising to me that i didn’t realize I hold the stories of my generation, just like they did. I hope people find them as interesting as I found my family’s tales.