Archive for December, 2013

Christmas, Dionne and Lou

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Pre-internet the world seemed somewhat larger, it was a place you could get lost in and it was just sitting out there waiting to be discovered. Back then music was my internet, my portal of discovery. In particular I loved lyrics and in my early teens I would listen to Phil Lynott and imagine I was one of the characters in his stories. Punk made me believe I could change the world and coming into my twenties I found Dylan. I remember cycling into work listening to Idiot Wind or Gates of Eden and being dazzled by his dexterity with the word and the way in which he shoved so much imagery into a metaphor or simile. I loved the way Lynott and Dylan could make the local universal. They weren’t bound by the limits of their hometown as they looked deep inside to show that we all experience the same emotions.

Music helps us tap into these emotions. Some of my earliest memories of listening to music was as a child with my mother. We had a tiny kitchen in our first house and it had a little brown range, upon which my mother would brew the kettle for tea. There was a black leather chair, a table that was blue with a kind of black flek design on it (real 1970s), a kitchen sink(we had no hot water) and on the shelf was a small black radio. The radio had no tape player, as tapes were still relatively new, and I think the only radio stations we could pick up were Radio One and Radio 2 (both RTE). My mother listened to Ireland’s most popular radio presenter at the time: Gay Byrne but that was mainly chat. I can’t really remember the other presenters but what I do remember are my mother and the songs.

Two songs stick out in my mind one was ‘Do you know the way to San Jose?’ sung by Dionne Warwick. I used to love the way she sang and all the little ‘whoo, whoo, whoo, whoo, whoo, wah, whoo, whoo, whoos’ vocal harmonies. However, above all was the line ‘LA is a great big freeway, put a hundred down and buy a car. In a week or two they’ll make you a star’. It just painted an image in my head of this exotic place called LA that was far, far, far away from me. The other song was ‘Walk on The Wild Side’ by Lou Reed. God all the do, do do, do, de do do, the saxophone, Lou sounded like some sort of alien, like someone that lived far, far, far away from the place I lived. A million miles away from that kitchen from me and from my mother.

Now when I hear those songs I remember how I felt and how big the world seemed to be. I remember my mother. First she was my mammy, then she was my mam, then she was my ma and then sometime after she died she became my mother. I never saw a picture of Ma as a young girl and I never saw her become an old woman. I never wondered did she want to see that far away world when she heard those songs. I suppose, in some way, I forgot that she had dreams, hopes and fears too. I forgot too that I was lucky enough to have a mother that loved me. Oh the depth of a woman’s love for the child she once carried is not fully realised till it is gone.

Gone she is.It will be Christmas soon. Anytime it rolls around I remember her. She loved Christmas. The first Christmas I can remember was in that little house (now sadly gone too) I can remember my Dad, my brothers, my sister, my Ma and how happy we all were. We were all so beautiful. Not that false beauty, the one based on looks, but real beauty: luminous because of joy, because of each other. The image lingers like music from a far away place, a place of love,a place born in the heart of a child and his mother on Christmas Day.