Alison McGhee on her blog has been asking the question – “What is the first album you bought?” Such an innocent question but one that brings with it the fullness of memory.
Immediately my mind cast back to my mother’s apartment where I shared a room with my brother for a short period of my life as a teenager. My mother’s solution to our having to share a room was bunk beds. When the bunk beds arrived my brother declared the bottom to be his and that’s where his 16 year old self built a fort to protect himself from me and the world.
Me? I always wanted whatever he wanted so I was bitter at being left with the top bunk. My little sister revenge was to ask him questions from atop my perch as we were going to sleep and shake the bed furiously if he didn’t answer or didn’t answer what I considered to be correctly. Revenge of the little sister. It’s these things I remember so well.
But this bedroom also served as a sort of living room – not just for him but for us. We lived in a small space and the official living room -belonged to our mom. In “our” living room my brother mostly hosted his friends – Declan and other nameless young men who seemed to come and go making their way gingerly over a small piece of my mother’s red shag carpet that was vacuumed just so -as they tread a path to our room.
And what was in this room were the sounds of an era – Frank Zappa – Mothers of Invention, The Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Steve Goodman, Johnny Winter, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, Bob Dylan. And it’s against the backdrop of this music where the first overtures of friendship planted themselves between my brother and myself.
Where we transitioned from quarrelling brother and sister to cohorts and friends. I assisted him in his worldly matters all the while listening to music that initially felt foreign to me and then made me feel like I was part of a club – a special club that existed in that small room for that short period of time.
When my brother left to live with my father he took his albums. My first album I bought afterwards was the Bee Gees – clearly not nearly in the same league of good taste that my brother introduced me to in those heady days of kinship.
Somehow when I think back on this time it was always summer. That hot Ontario sun pouring in our little bedroom window – the two of us sharing a little life together for what proved to be a very short period of time. But man do I remember it.