She sings the songs

keep art alive; “yume-no-ato” by audrey kawasaki

Every memory I have that means anything to me has a cord of connection that trails and circles itself back to music. Perhaps it was the fact that my mother spent her adolescence as a Penny Lane type of girl, trailing around The Doors and becoming quite close with Jim Morrison. There are stories my mother lets slip every now and then that make me realize there is so much more then what I know of her, things I most likely will never know. A few summers ago, I listened as she told a friend at the time about how Jim told her once that she was “beautiful from the inside, and that no matter what people see that is what they should unravel from her“.


I think my father, and my birth, held her back from her dreams. She was learning to play guitar, writing songs in notebooks, she even had an album recorded from her then guitar teacher/lover’s band that she sang back-up on – and played the tambourine. She spent nights on Sunset Boulevard, hanging at The Troubadour and this tiny club that used to be in the middle of the busy street. She was at the Riot House enough times to know which rooms were reserved for the bands, and has random items hidden away in the garage that she refuses to explain; a parking meter from Venice Beach, the top of a city bus from Haight Ashbury, a hand-scrawled book of poems that she did not write.


Something happened to her, though. something that made her drop it all and take courses in being a dental hygenist, marry a boy who was a virgin and knew very little about music, and have me at nineteen years old. There had to be an event that shook her up enough to change her, because there was nothing in that chosen life that seemed natural to her, or even likable enough to change herself into.


My mother was wild. She lied to my grandmother about everything, even when she was older and lived a life that would have been approved of. Somewhere inside she was still the rebellious youth who would hide her Beatles albums in her locker, and the far too short mini-skirts in the bushes outside to grab and gather before going to school. I know there was a huge part of her that was disappointed in my lack of rebellion. I was the kid who could be found where she said she was going, who had good grades and never did anything worth hiding. She set no real boundaries, no curfews, gave me this illusion of trust. Thing is, the second she ever had reason to doubt me she would take my things and rummage through them; read my notes and journals, empty my backpacks and purses. Instead of relief, though, there was always this look of disdain when she would find nothing of consequence.


Strangely, when I was older and chasing around the same streets of Hollywood that she once traversed she never seemed to notice any of it. At that time she had slipped back into the life she had long ago left behind. Acting as an adolescent, partying and following a different type of rock star around, calling me from places that she did not know or remember to come give her a rescue. Those were the days that I was digging my boots deep in rebellion myself, living off cigarettes and speed, and careless encounters with boys. Strangely it never felt that far from who I am, even after I gave that lifestyle up to embrace a new one, I did not feel the shift or break from who I was before, then, or after. The girl with too many books who followed the rules was still part of the girl doing lines off the rearview mirror of her car and pulling boys into the stairwells of dark clubs. And, both of those girls are still part of the woman I am today, who plays at the park with her kids, kisses he husband goodnight in bed next to her, and obsessively writes her days on computer screens, and in composition books.


I wonder if my mother felt the same as a mother, as she did when she was the rock star follower who dreamed of making music? Did she marry a boy named Jim because she could not have the other one? Or was it a complete departure from her reckless life that attracted her to the naive boy from Texas who would ultimately break her heart? Sometimes a whirlwind kind of life can spin you out so much that you lie awake at night feeling the weight of overwhelm, and in those sleepless moments you can feel so much older than the numbers say. That kind of feeling can make a person do all kinds of things, run and jump far from any kind of life that you have known, trying to recreate the who and what they are.


Did she regret the decisions she made? That tiny house we lived in around the corner from my grandfather’s welding shop, the one with the pink bedrooms and the huge stereo speakers in the living room; did it feel like a new path for her? Or was it more of a self-constructed prison? When she came home from another day of cleaning people’s mouths out to find her husband in bed with her then best friend, did she question the life she gave up for this?


When my mom would spin her many albums on the turntable she would get this look on her face, her eyes half-closed and this crooked lip smile that is completely unique to her would appear; and she would drift into a far gone and away state. I would listen to her sing, and watch as she would dance around the kitchen, or when she would just lie back on the couch and disappear into the music. All those songs become stories to me that I would memorize them and mouth the words silently, or out loud when I was alone. At night when I struggled with sleep they would play back in my head, side a and b of an album of my kind of lullabyes. The voices of Joni Mitchell, Lennon and McCartney, Seals and Croft, and Elton John were the pied pipers leading me off into dreamland. They were my father figures and my teachers; the voices paving the way for a life accompanied by a never-ending soundtrack.


And, for me, the music has never stopped.

Tiny Dancer (live) :: Elton John

One thought on “She sings the songs

  1. Beautifully written post! I stumbled on this page when searching Audry Kawasaki artwork, and I’m really glad I did. I had tears in my eyes as I read, as I had a similar interests and questions about my mothers youth and would listen, fascinated (and sometimes shocked!), to her myriad of stories. In hindsight, growing up watching her listen and dance around to a soundtrack of The Rolling Stones, Bowie, Grace Slick, Fleetwood Mac… I should have known that she had more to her than I ever realised. Sadly she passed away last year at the age of 55, and I never got to hear the full extent of her adventures. Without wishing to sound a bit weird, morbid, or pushy(!), I would suggest you ask her those questions! Find out as much as you can about her life and connect with her while you still can. I found that it was a liberating day when I realised my mother was not just my mother, she was a person too!! You just never know when it’ll be too late.

    Thank you for sharing!

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