It’s Too Hot to Write
But here goes anyway – Not a Memoir, Part 7
This is dangerous. I’m writing with nothing to say. It’s too hot to be profound. Plus, the people I want to write about, people in their right minds, are nowhere near Texas at the moment. The difference between you, dear reader, and me, is that I’m still back here in July, writing for the September issue. I want to be where you are now, watching the arrival of September, then October. Is it snowing yet?
It’s not like I’ve never been hot before, growing up in this part of the world. My Mississippi mother used to say in her most convincing Southern drawl, “You think it’s hot now, honey. This is nothing compared to the devil’s fiery furnace, if we don’t watch our ways.” Momma said it kind of singsongy like she was mimicking a warning from a long line of Southern mothers. We were taught that the devil was sneaky and came in disguises, mostly male.
Come to think of it, I have never heard a story about the devil being disguised as a Southern woman. It’s hard to picture yourself heading down the elevator shaft to the nether world when the doors open to a smiley-faced woman saying “Hi, Welcum ta Hey-Y’all.” (That’s Southern for Hell).
From what I picked up as a child, burning in hell had something to do with sex. I could think of nothing worse.
In the ’60s, kids and dogs ran the streets off-leash. People didn’t spay or neuter their dogs much either. So occasionally you’d witness a pair of dogs stuck together. My mother didn’t have much to say about it, but the word on the street from the other kids was that they were having sex.
After a long conference with myself, I decided dogs weren’t going to hell for doing that. Besides, if that was sex, I wanted nothing to do with it.
It never occurred to me that I could question anything my parents told me until February 9, 1964. Something shifted.
I was 10, on the brink of my tweens, sitting on a dining chair as close to the TV as I could get. Everyone at school was talking about it. I didn’t want to miss a second of the American debut of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. I got a show all right, it came from my father who shot off the sofa and started ranting about the “noise” those four boys “who needed a haircut” were calling “music.” There was noise all right, from my father’s attempt to drown out the whole experience. As far as my family was concerned, that British band showed up in the devil’s cleverest disguise ever.
I got the strong message I was never to scream over boys (like those “ridiculous” girls in the audience) and I was not to like The Beatles. By the end of their performance, Dad said, “The country is gone,” along with my uncomplicated childhood as a full-fledged Daddy’s Girl.
As the days went by, I kept looking for signs of “the country being gone.” Kids in the neighborhood were airplaying the guitar and singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Lightning did not strike.
I had the sinking feeling I was growing up under the wrong roof for my coming adolescence. The lyrics Help! I Need Somebody seemed written for me.
Fortunately, help was right across the street, at Beverly’s house. Beverly and I went from playing tetherball in her front yard, to gawking at her two teenage sisters inside, where Beatles posters lined their bedroom walls while Beatles 45s stacked on their turntable played as they sang into the handles of their hairbrushes. Everybody had a favorite Beatle. John and Paul were the frontrunners, but if you liked George or Ringo, you were kind of an interesting outlier.
I kept watching Beverly’s sisters, trying to picture them in hell. I just couldn’t see it. They went to church more than we did. I went with Beverly sometimes on Wednesday nights, which my family never did.
But then I found out that Beverly’s church, an even stricter church than our Baptist church, thought we Baptists were going to hell for not being baptized in their church. That’s what Beverly told me, but in a nice way, like she didn’t believe it, but kinda did. She was just happy she was baptized in her church, in case they were right.
What if they were right? What if my dad was right? I was swimming in questions, on the verge of adolescence, wishing, for the first time, that I was somebody else's daughter. I could go on, but it’s just too hot.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article stated that the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan in Feb. 1965; in fact, it was Feb. 9, 1964.
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