26 January 2007

Midnight Train to Georgia

This morning Ingrid heard the song "Feel Good, Inc." by the Gorillaz and told Primo that she liked that song. Being a Gorillaz fan myself, I told her I would play it for her in the car when I picked her up from Vicki's house. So while I was working out at the Y, I went through my iPod to find it, and came across some things I didn't realize I had, or hadn't heard in years. At last count, I had over 4600 songs on my iPod. It's easy for things to get lost in the mix.

I came across "Midnight Train to Georgia" by Gladys Knight and the Pips. I have this warm, vivid memory (which I'm generalizing here) of being in my Auntie and Uncle Fred's blue tiled finished basement with many other aunts and uncles and cousins, when half of my dad's siblings lived in Teaneck or Hackensack, New Jersey or Brooklyn, New York. I'm about 4 or 5, possibly even younger, since the song came out when I was about 3. Someone puts Gladys on the record player. I can smell something cooking upstairs, let's say ham and sweet potatoes and it's winter. My Uncle Fred, who later baptized me when I'm 13, says grace. My older cousin Jerry is making mischief behind the bar (although there's no alcohol in the house, unless my dad or his younger brother "Moot" bring it, and would be the only two drinking whiskey.) Auntie's hair is long, black, and bone straight. My Auntie Joyce is the tallest woman I've ever seen (we're about the same height now). If I'm a little older, there's a pachinko machine down there, and Jerry and I fight over who gets to play it. At some point I probably retreat, sour faced and grumpy (not unlike a certain spawn of mine), to my mom's lap. Someone tries to get me to eat overcooked collard greens before the desserts come out. My dad and Uncle Moot smoke cigarettes, eat, and perhaps drink whiskey. They are the two youngest of 10 siblings.

The surviving aunts and uncles have all moved back home to Tennessee. Uncle Moot, died very suddenly in 1996 of a heart attack. One of my aunt's husband died a few years before that. My aunt and uncle who lived in Brooklyn passed away a few years ago. My cousins (the three who would have been there) all live in Tennessee or Atlanta. I have a cousin in New Jersey who grew up in Tennessee and moved north after she got married, but we had a falling out 3 1/2 years ago, and most unfortunately, we aren't in communication. All of my mom's people live in Tennessee and Atlanta, too, and they never left. (I can imagine that my mother felt the same way when she and my dad moved to New Jersey in 1972.) So other than my in-laws, to whom I'm very close, I have no blood family with whom I'm in contact within 1200 miles of Greenfield, MA. So on top of the toasted sesame seed in a bowl of rice feeling, I have chronic low grade homesickness, which I think also contributes to the "what the hell am I doing with my life" anxiety.

Primo doesn't get the homesickness. We're nicely settled in this area, I'm attached to this community, I enjoy the distance between me with my vices and secret skin and my family. I adore my in-laws. I used to try to convince Primo that there were greener pastures down South. The boy has never lived anywhere other than Massachusetts, and he doesn't do well in the heat. It's not happening. ("I'd rather live in his world, than live without him in mine...") And I don't really want to move either. I just want some warm weather and to know a few more people who remember listening to Gladys Knight and Pips at family gatherings. Anyone? Here's hoping that my cousin and I work things out this year and start talking again. It could happen.

I think the next time I have a little extra cash, I'll bid on a vintage pachinko machine on ebay...

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