My kids are in school all day now so I've had time to relax a bit, reflect, organize. Pictures, school work, scrapbooks, old music.
The Lion and the Cobra. I do know Mandinka. That song, that song I remember. Before everything else. Before sobriety, before adulthood, before marriage and motherhood. Before Dermot.
I was sixteen, really drunk and dancing by myself, by choice at First Avenue. I was the shit. Wearing the borrowed white jeans that had made the circuit with the trendy girls in my click. Pinned at the ankle, cinched at the waist. Mandinka blasting in the enormous speakers. Nothing could touch me, nothing could hurt me. I was in the zone. Thirty minutes earlier I had thrown up most of the vodka I had slammed in the parking lot and decided I needed more from my boyfriend's stash because I wasn't drunk anymore. He agreed and I downed a bit more before entering the legendary club. Sunday's were sixteen and up and we were there every Sunday. Most nights like this ended in crisis. A sentence of two weeks grounded from my dad for being out after curfew was the usual fare.
Still sixteen, Brass Monkey. Indeed, this was another night of drunkenness. My brother sent to collect me from a neighborhood party. He pulled up in the hatchback that was due to be mine in two months, his best friend riding shotgun. Beastie Boys in full effect, and much to my delight a half full bottle of Jack Daniels behind the drivers seat. My brother's friend was bolting out the lyrics to this infamous song while I was taking healthy swigs of the bottle of Jack. This is the life I thought. I was the shit. Nothing could touch me. Nothing could hurt me. I was in the zone.
Eleven years later and eight years of sobriety under my belt, it was Lauren Hill, Doo Woop (That Thing) blasting privately into my head phones as I ran around Lake Calhoun on a perfect summer afternoon. Accidentally singing out loud as I ran, I garnered a few stares. I was the shit. Nothing could touch me. Nothing could hurt me. I was in the zone. I lived alone, had a boyfriend who smoked pot more than occasionally and I worked three jobs. My cat was there for me every night when I returned home. Most nights she'd suddenly attack me after being locked in a tiny one bedroom apartment all day without anyone else.
Joan Didion writes in her book The Year of Magical Thinking: "so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better of worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer, as we will one day not be at all."
I get it. Though these times in my life weren't perfect and at best were mediocre. They were times before the pain came, before the life as I know it now came to be. Before I had a child with daily seizures and travels in wheelchair who forces me out of my comfort zone and demands that I fight for him.
Before Quinn died suddenly and rocked a community that believed all of their kids were safe and sound.
Before our beloved Bill and Max fell out of the sky and left our lives forever.
So as I sort through and organize the clutter of my old life, I'm grateful for the music the brings those moments back and I can remember the better parts of before and reflect on how far I've come. I realize now I wouldn't do anything different.
"I do know Mandinka, still I can give you my heart..."