Thursday, February 26, 2009


The family whose name I took when I married Dave has a rich Catholic heritage. Dave was an altar boy and attended Catholic schools until he was in high school. I was that strange Mormon girl who went to school with all those Catholics and Presbyterians in Pittsburgh. (A big shout out to my childhood friends who did not rustle my hair in an attempt to look for horn stubs. Thank you!) I believe with all my heart in Jesus Christ, the Savior of our world. I like him. And I love him. And though I love Christmas I understand the depth of value in what we celebrate at Eastertime. Christmas is when I celebrate what God the Father gave us in that tiny little baby. It is a childlike celebration. Easter is when I celebrate what that baby-grown-to-full-awareness gave us in the garden and on the cross. This requires of me a more mature understanding.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. We were sitting in the family room watching Lost last night (there is irony in the context of this post and the name of that show). Anyway, we were watching Lost and Annie commented during a commercial that her supervisor had ashes on her forehead today, and it took her a few minutes to realize it was Ash Wednesday. Libby and Dave and I were instantly hurled back to our youth when we would see people in all places with ashes on their foreheads, smudged in the shape of a cross. These were the faithful; the ones who attended Mass before school or work and bowed before the priest, who dipped his thumb into the ashes of the burnt palms from the past year's Palm Sunday, whispered a blessing and rubbed the symbol of their faith across their foreheads. I am always touched to see people willing to continue in their daily lives unashamed of their commitment and faith. Libby said our new Vice-President, Joe Biden, conducted a public meeting yesterday with ashes on his head. I wear a wedding ring for a similar purpose: Evidence of my commitment. Other things I wear for the same reason.

Ash Wednesday is also the beginning of Lent, the season of worship and sacrifice which lasts for 40 days and ends in the Holy Week, which culminates at Easter. I remember people giving up random things for Lent. Things like TV shows. Chocolate. Licorice. Pop. It was supposed to be something that hurt. I thought it might be a good idea to give up homework for Lent, but was informed that this was not a sacrifice. Lent follows the pattern of Jesus when he went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, battling with the temptations of Satan.

So, in reverence for our family heritage, and as a sign of my willingness to commit, I have made a couple Lenten promises to my God and myself. One of them is to write every day for 40 straight days. I usually write, but it is not always the kind of writing that takes my energy, creativity, and intelligence. So herewith is the first of my 40 days of Word of the Day writing. I used to be good at this; creative writing every day. Now I look at my computer file for Word of the Day 2009 and I can count the entries on my fingers.

Word Of The Day (WOTD) I get these nouns randomly off the Internet from a site called Random Word Generator. I use the word as a jumping off point for my writing. It is intended to exercise my writing muscles, but hopefully each piece also speaks a bit of who I am and what I believe.

February 26, 2009 turntable

Go back nearly 40 years. Go up the stairs, left at the landing, through our bedroom and into my brother's bedroom. Look back on the dresser or counter or whatever was back there in the corner, tucked into the wall connecting to our bedroom, and you'll find my brother's Hi Fi. It was beigy-cream colored with a gold thread running through the fabric in front of the speaker. The turntable was black. Hi Fi meant High Fidelity. It was an aural step up from the console in the living room, the one that held the big tube TV that was broken. The turntable in the console still worked though. My brothers introduced me to Bob Dylan and the Beatles on that Hi Fi. Before I understood the power of a lyric as it wove through a melody I thought Bob Dylan was so strange. I suppose I think, even still, that he is strange. But I think most people are somewhat strange, myself included. Bob could not sing! I mean, really, how in the world could this guy be so popular when he sang like that? That was before I understood what he had to say. He sounded so different from the music of my mother's turntable; Greig and Tchaikovsky and Van Cliburn, with a peppering of Hank Williams, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and Mahalia Jackson. Their music insisted on pitch accuracy. Bob didn't care. I think part of his statement was to rebel against the pitch. Thinking back on it I suppose more parents were turned off by Bob's music not for what he said but for how he said it. Now that I find myself squarely situated in the heart of middle age I find his tunes moving. But I didn't then.
When my oldest brother John moved out he left the Hi Fi for George. One summer when George went somewhere for an extended period of time I took over his bedroom. Had my own private space for the first time. I must have been 11, maybe just over the brink of 12, but no older because after that we moved from Old Clairton Road to the apartment on East Bruceton Road. I owned one record: a 45 of Build Me Up Buttercup, which I had won in a game at Cheryl Shatting's Birthday Party. It is a sad picture to imagine a twelve year old girl standing over the turntable on her brother's Hi Fi playing Build Me Up Buttercup over and over, not because she loved the song, but because she was mesmerized by the turntable, the needle, the rings and ridges in the small disc going round and round. I remember setting the tiny yellow haired troll I had gotten in the gum ball machine at Rexall on the edge of my record. Poor troll smiled his plastic smile as he circled past my eyes and was slammed off the table by the needle arm. Must have been some sort of sadistic part of me eking out in the privacy of that back bedroom. Could have been, come to think of it, the numbing influence of a song like Build Me Up Buttercup on an adolescent mind.
One day I came upon my brothers' collection of LPs, and that was the moment my life changed and my feet were set irrevocably on the path that led to my here and now. I laid on my brother's bed-now-my-bed-if-only-for-the-summer and listened to John, Paul, George and Ringo go through their own musical journey of discovery. I swirled in the metal psychedelic spaces of Led Zeppelin, I climbed the Stairway to Heaven then slid back down when mom called us to dinner. Gordon Lightfoot. Cat Stevens. Jim Croce. I really don't remember all of them, and I'm not sure which tunes were my brothers', which were lent by friends, and which were mine, eventually bought after months of babysitting for 25 cents an hour. I do know that when we finally moved to East Bruceton and the Hi Fi became a stereo and was in Ann Marie's bedroom, she was kind enough to let me go in her room with my newly purchased Rocky Mountain High album. I spun the cellophane wrapping off the cover and squeezed the cardboard case to reveal the envelope, which contained the large, shiny black disc that would speak my heart over and over in the months and years to come. I laid the pristine LP on the turntable, clicked the knob to turn it on, lifted the arm to the edge, bent over and scanned the range of ridges, then set the needle. Through the air sprang the first magical ringing bass tones of John Denver's guitar. I can hear them now, decades later. I can feel the sunlight of a summer afternoon sifting through the yellow checkered curtains on her window. My breath becomes deeper and more intentional. My shoulders relax... "He was born in the summer of his twenty seventh year. Comin' home to a place he'd never been before...."
My son, the lover of pure aesthetic, has taken a liking to turntables. He has a few of them in his house, one situated right there in his living room when you walk in. He'll pour himself three inches of pure grape juice in a wine glass after dinner. He'll pour one for Ashley if she wants one, but it's OK if she wants to do something else instead. They are good with each other that way. He will sit in the living room and taste the music from his turntable in the openness of their beautiful living space. He likes the click, click, click of an LP. Likes it more than the clarity of a CD even. Likes knowing he is listening to the music from his father's basement just the way his father listened to it in his youth. Johnny told me he looked into having Sleepy Little Town put onto an LP once. It was cost prohibitive of course, but the very thought that he looked into it means more to me than he will ever know.


  1. one day when we have extra thousands lying around.. (just go with it...) there will be a sleepy little towm lp to listen to at our house or yours.
    we love you.
    and we love that you have sat in that front room with us while we played records. means a lot to us.

  2. Wow Cori....moving... to tears even.

    Thank you for "lenting". My heart is touched, for I too love LP's and one of my first "VERY OWN" was John Denver!


  3. i love your writing. thank you so much for sharing with us all.

  4. i love lent. it's the only thing in the catholic church that i miss (including palm sunday). thank you for observing it! i also am committing to something this season, and surprisingly, so are a number of my l.d.s. friends. (including my dear sweet aunt cori)