My grandmother Brown was in her eighties when she moved from Baltimore to live with us. She had nowhere else to go. Neighbors helped my mother convert our garage into her bedroom, with a portable heater. My grandma shipped her stuff in moving crates to Tiburon, and somehow I was in charge of unboxing, deciding values of things I knew nothing about.
Why did adults foist their responsibilities on me? I was twelve, for God’s sake. I sorted South Carolina heirlooms and didn’t know what I was doing. My grandmother didn’t care, my mom wasn’t into helping, and my father wasn’t around.
What about that old handmade cloth doll with two heads under a reversible dress, one white face with blonde hair, and the other brown face in a green bonnet? It looked as old as the Civil War. What worth was the French blue glass vase, or could I just give it to my friend? Do we keep the old dish with markings on the bottom? What do those markings mean, anyway?
At the same time, I barely survived the dweebness when my mother forced me to take accordion lessons, playing the Can-Can at a kid’s neighborhood party. I stood in front of the cool guys who stared as they sat in folding chairs while I squeezed the white mother-of-pearl box back and forth, wanting to die.
For the love of God, I lived in California, land of surfers and long blonde haired people, not in some polka place with chunky girls who actually looked just like me, feeling like I’m on the Lawrence Welk Show. Christ help me, I was in hell.
The Beatles recently performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, and my friends started singing new songs, imitating The Beatles on the school stage, claiming their favorite Beatle. I didn’t care. I was way more into Everly Brothers, Kingston Trio, Peter Paul and Mary, and especially the Beach Boys harmonies. I loved Motown anything, especially The Temptations.
I faked loving the Beatles, bought fan cards at the toy store. I claimed “And I Love Her” was my favorite song of all time, John was my choice, since I was supposed to have a favorite Beatle.
I wasn’t going to be thin unless I threw up, which seemed like a good idea, because Twiggy was the supermodel I strived to be, big eyes and stick-like body, part of the English ‘Mods and Rockers’ scene.
In truth, I was a pubescent California suburban bodysurfer girl who loved the beach, sang along with a plastic juke box and ran around in hills pretending to be a Miwok.
…and we both survived accordion hell.