Sometimes memories of mine are so vivid, so real, that I can close my eyes and go straight back, feel the actual emotions of that moment, and be there again. It's strange to me that one of my most tactile memories is of a random day in middle school, in 1994, sitting in the cafeteria after school, waiting for the first meeting of the field hockey team to begin.
Two things about this that strike me as odd now: one, that I was ever interested in playing field hockey (I did just for that one season, between dance and soccer), and two that at age 12, I walked straight into that meeting confident as can be, all on my own. I think back to this in surprise a bit; I was never a shy person but even now attempting something brand new to me, being the lowest rung on the totem pole, all alone, might make me a bit apprehensive. But interestingly, not then.
It's so funny- one of the clearest parts of it all is my recollection of sitting on the bench of a long cafeteria table and smelling the leftover tator tots from lunch that day. Weird, right? But remember those benches? Either side would fold up, and then the entire huge table could be wheeled away. And that cafeteria smell. No matter what school you visit, it's almost always the same, old food and Styrofoam and that weird quiet desperation of adolescence somehow, if you could manage to bottle it up.
So I sat there on that blue and gray bench in the Multi-Purpose Room, which served as both our lunchroom and auditorium, surrounded by that cafeteria smell and a team of older girls. I was in 6th grade, and almost all of the girls were in 8th. The cool girls. The cool, older girls. And two girls in particular, Amy and Jessa, were sitting up on the table, sharing a pair of headphones, listening to something, and bobbing their heads. I had no idea what it was, but my interest was piqued.
Strangely enough I can still remember what they had on, or at least pieces of it all. There was flannel and Doc Martens and Jansport and a floral dress, and even in my 12-year old mind I recall thinking, "so, so cool." So I asked them if I could listen too. And this is where it could have gotten tricky. At that tender age- not quite a teenager, not quite a kid, looking up to the older girls so much- being ignored or snubbed may have been devastating to me. But instead, these two girls, who later that year would also get suspended for smoking weed in the back of a school bus, looked at each other, smiled, and told me to come up on the table and sit with them. My tiny self sidled up next to them, and Amy put her bright pink headphones on my head, no music coming out of the earpieces yet. I sat there in silence for a moment as she rewound the tape. I had no idea that my mind was about to be blown as her Walkman's gears whirred around and around, then finally clicked to a stop.
Have you ever heard a song, or a band, and from the first moment you knew it was something special? As the tape began to play, and the first words of Green Day's "Basketcase" were piped into my ears, I knew. And it's interesting to look back now to being 12, from where I sit here at age 31, and see what an impact music has had on my life. It's been everything to me, and in that very moment, in 1994, when those two girls showed me that song, there was this entire world that opened up to me. Music was not just what my friends listened to, or what my parents liked, there was all sorts of things to choose from- angry music, screaming music, music that conveyed so much emotion that I would find myself waiting for it to come on the radio, then panicking to record it in time so I could play it over and over again that night.
When I first heard this song it changed me, and made me want more. It led me to so many musicians and bands I never would have discovered otherwise, gave me an outlet, and filled up my library card with tape after tape I would check out every week from our tiny local library. The bands I would later discover would lead me to more and more bands, and later shows, and later the friends that would introduce me to my husband. It's amazing what a moment, or a song can mean to a little girl trying to find her way, but it's pretty neat to be able to look back and pinpoint a pivotal moment like this in those often blurry years, and know that yes, that very song changed my life.