I'm no Truman Capote and there will be no tales tonight of dotty aunts, illicit liquor, fruitcake-making, nor presents exchanged by those who had nothing to give.
This is a story, a brief one, about Mom, Dad, and Jimi Hendrix.
Back when my father was alive and my mother lived in the Real World we'd go through this little dance every December: "What do you want for Christmas? Do you have your list ready?" Dad, being typical of his generation, never did. If he needed something during the course of the year he bought it, so his "list," such as it was, consisted of whatever occurred to him at the moment someone asked. "Well," he might say, "I can always use socks... and underwear... maybe a white shirt with French cuffs... uh... that's about it."
Mom, on the other hand, was a little more prepared: "Which list do you want? Things for the house? Things for me? The expensive list? The less expensive list? The cheap list? Silly items? Serious items? Wait... they're here in my purse somewhere... (rustle of papers)"
And me? I had a massive list of books I'd heard about over the course of the year-- like that surprised anyone. "You know, dear," Mom would say yearly, "we love buying books for you, but it's more exciting when we get to go to different stores looking for things." I understood. Their book-buying spree was simply a trip to Barnes & Noble in Charlottesville where Dad would accost some cute, young female clerk, hand her my list, then wander off with Mom to the coffee shop where they'd sip the brew o' the day and wait for the CYFC to check in periodically asking if this was too much or too little or too few. It probably took all of an hour.
(I gather I could have had a slew of dates based solely on the various CYFCs' reactions to my book lists; I'm nothing if not an eclectic reader and I certainly come across as immensely, cool, suave, hip and sophisticated... on paper)
Anyway, one year after another "You know, dear..." statements I decided to mix it up a bit-- add some silly books to the list (That Darn Squid God being one of 'em), throw in a few non-sensible (if not nonsensical) items (Psycho House snow globe, glow-in-the-dark planets 'n' stars ceiling stickers, etc.), and because it amused me to do so, a request for The Most Hideous Tee-Shirt I'd Ever Seen, a tie-dyed, DayGlo Jimi Hendrix print. Oh, sweet CROM, it was ugly!
I'd spotted this particular item at an artsy-fartsy gift shop called Coyote across from U. VA and figured even if my parents didn't buy it (and I didn't expect them to), they'd get a kick out of wandering around amongst the hipster bric-a-brac, this being about as far from anything they could imagine as I could imagine.
I underestimated them.
Christmas morning that year as I began to unwrap one particular package Dad ahem-ed and said, "Once you open that, your mother has a story to tell you."
Yes, it was the Hideous Hendrix Tee. "The only one they had was on the wall," Mom said, "and we had to make that nice young girl behind the counter climb a ladder to get it down. She kept looking at us and then the shirt and then back at us the whole time..."
Let me set the scene for you a little as I imagine it. It's the 'Eighties. My parents never went anywhere without being impeccably dressed, Dad in a three-piece suit, hat, gloves, long overcoat (the height of fashion in 1963) and my mom dressed as if going to a fancy winter party except without the otherwise obligatory hat and white gloves ("I could never stand wearing those things; I was so glad when they went out of style"). Some petite U. VA student working part-time while polishing her undergraduate thesis on Like, Y'Know, Intensely Feminist Themes in Really, Truly Obscure Medieval Literary Fragments.
Dad continued. "So she's looking at the two of us and your mother" (the very proper, very well-read, very formal 9th Grade English teacher) "leans over and whispers, 'Dear, we were at Woodstock.'"
Twenty-five or so years later and thinking of this story still almost makes me wet my pants.
And yes, I do still have the Hideous Hendrix Tee: