Welcome to the fourth of the posts from the archives of L. T. Garvin and this week she shares her memories of her best friend in Junior High School and their aspirations to enter the talent contest with the classic Proud Mary by Ike and Tina Turner….keep on rolling and enjoy.
Melanie and Me by L. T. Garvin
I think I liked Melanie because her hair had a slight bit of curl which I might have envied although this was the era of slick, stick-straight, part-down-the-center, the-longer-the-better 1970s hair. Melanie showed up in the middle of Beowulf one day in English class. No, she wasn’t monster hunting, she brought me from the midst of the tale wondering about feasts, Danes, and funeral pyres.
“I like that skirt. Come to my house later. My room is so keen,” she said.
It was the 1970s, but Melanie was the first free spirit I had ever met, wearing small flowers interwoven into her hair. Her parents were bonafide hippies, younger and cooler than mine. Her world was filled with colors of the 70s, avocado green, harvest gold, orange and purple, beaded curtains and rugs shaped like feet. Melanie had a brown guitar that she had learned to play from her dad. He used to laugh and say, “I’ll be your manager someday.”
The 1973 Jr. High Talent Show competition advertisement captured vibrant Melanie’s attention on an ordinary Friday afternoon. She found me at the bike rack, unchaining my bike, getting ready to go home after school.
“Hey you, look at this!” she said.
She shoved the flyer at me. Melanie might have been Stevie Nicks if the stars had been aligned properly, you know the timing and all that. I could see that she loved the spotlight.
“So we can do something, right? I’ll play the guitar,” she said.
“Um, I don’t play anything,” I replied.
“It’s fine, you can sing,” said Melanie.
“What songs do you know besides Proud Mary?” I asked.
“Well I know that one, and…well, we’ll see,” she said.
Proud Mary. This was back when Ike and Tina Turner had the Revue. Melanie apparently liked the idea of floating away on a river, so she got out her guitar, and I hauled out every apprehensive nerve in my body then we met with her dad, the Music Man. She strummed. He interjected. “Timing a little off…better transition there….no, that’s a B minor for sure.” Then the focus went to me. “Alright, we’re ready for you to sing,” he said.
After learning what an intro was, I tried to channel my inner Tina. “Left a good job in the city….” and started out strong. Melanie strumming. Manager Dad humming. I was like a Book Nerd masquerading as a blonde Cher. “Workin’ for the man…” then all of a sudden I actually heard myself singing. And I sounded WEIRD. So I stopped.
“What?” asked Melanie.
“Yeah?” asked Music Dad.
“I ummm…. does it sound…?”
“No, go on,” said her dad.
“Left a good job in the CitEEE, workin’ for the man every night and day….”
“Now what?” asked Melanie.
“Keep going!” said Music Dad.
“Uh, I think I might need to go home now. I just remembered something I needed to do,” I said.
“Ok then, let’s shoot for tomorrow,” said Melanie’s dad.
Next day we tried to pick it up at least to the point of where I could finally get rolling on the river, but somehow I could never even make it to cleaning those plates in Memphis or pumping any pane because every single time after that first stanza when my brain heard the voice coming from my mouth, the trauma was too much to go on.
“Oh come on!” Melanie would admonish me looking like she was born to do this in those flared bell bottoms.
“Je…SUS, just keep going,” her dad would say before he finally lost patience over us taking that gold medal in the junior high talent show.
I couldn’t quite figure out the problem. I guess I actually expected Tina’s strong vibes would spill out of my mouth just like on the radio. Then I had a vision of people actually looking at me. I wanted to ask Melanie if I could stand behind a screen or something, but her patience was running thin with me, so she picked up her guitar and learned to play Yesterday Once More, but without the vocals.
We soon got past her musical aspirations and on to riding bikes, giggling over boys and playing crazy long games of tennis.
Junior high was alive with possibilities, seething with young teens navigating the social order, and me with a friend who was way too cool. Then just like that, one day in the middle of The Count of Monte Cristo, Melanie vanished in that hippy-drifter sort of way. She was not at school. As I meticulously read of Dantes meting out his revenge, kids were saying that Melanie had checked out of school. She had mentioned casually one time that her family might move, but never really clarified it.
I went by her house on my bike after school. Everything was dark within, no cars, no lights, bare driveway. Nobody was there, day after day. I didn’t have a best friend for a long time after Melanie left, and for a while, Proud Mary rolled right out of my thoughts. Then, later on, I would hear: “If you go down to the river, bet you’re gonna find some people who live….” and I would think of Melanie and how she tried to bestow upon me self-confidence belted out in the form of a leggy Tina Turner. Then I would wonder just where Melanie went with that brown guitar and if she thinks of me when Proud Mary blasts the airwaves and Tina reaches out, first easy, then rough, like that crazy river of life that sometimes drowns us and it rolls onward.
About L.T. Garvin
L.T. Garvin is a huge fiction fan and literature lover. She enjoys writing fiction, short stories, and attempts at poetry. L.T. has a particular fondness for Southern literature possibly because they have such good food and bigger than life stories in the South.
She currently has three books available, Confessions of a 4th Grade Athlete, a humorous children’s book about a boy named Nathan and his exuberant experiences in school and sports. Another children’s book, Animals Galore explores unique animals and their antics. A novel, Dancing with the Sandman, is suitable for all age groups and takes readers on time travel journey back to the 1960s. L.T. Garvin maintains a WordPress site where she shares fiction, poetry, and humorous essays
Books by L.T. Garvin
About Dancing with the Sandman
The Sandman cometh dancing to the beat of rock ‘n’ roll, blasting the turmoil of the Sixties. And where are you? West Texas, of course. Billie Jo Dunstan confronts her past, traveling back to the 1960s through a decade of turbulence and swirling color memories, contemplating life growing up in rural Texas. Tragedy and comedy come alive, preserving the past and a portion of small town life that will survive beyond super highways and the ratcheting progress of time.
Garvin’s (And They Came, 2017, etc.) latest novel offers a reflection of one girl’s coming-of-age in small-town Texas in the 1960s. … Garvin is at her best when offering these cheeky nods to the past, never getting bogged down in nostalgia.
A winning narrator enlivens a charming tale of a town facing modernity.–Kirkus Reviews
One of the reviews for the book
The story starts and ends in west Texas as Billie Jo revisits the small town she grew up in, a town left behind years ago when progress, in the form of a new highway, raced ahead. It’s a place that holds memories so tangible they feel like ghosts rising out of the sand, and they create the substance of the story.
Garvin calls the book a fictional journey, but it reads like a memoir. If you were a kid in the 60’s, this book will feel something like a trip into childhood, a time before helicopter parents and iphones, a time when kids had to create their own fun while learning the painful lessons of life.
Though the book takes place in Texas, there is so much about Billie Jo’s experiences that felt familiar to me, a child of rural Connecticut. In a way, the qualities that make up a childhood – the way adults are perceived, the family quirks, sibling teasing, unexpected kindnesses and losses, how kids think and fill their leisure time – seemed universal. This is a thoroughly relatable book.
And told as a “look back at the ghosts of the past,” the book has a nostalgic aura that lingered beyond the last page, calling forth my own ghosts and eliciting memories that I’d forgotten. Dancing with the Sandman is a lovely, poignant, rich read for all ages, but especially for those who enjoy memoirs and those who were children in the 60’s.
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07DP2VJ8S
Also by L.T. Garvin
Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/L.-T.-Garvin/e/B00HC0TRY6
And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/L.-T.-Garvin/e/B00HC0TRY6
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