Saturday, April 06, 2013

Turkey in the Straw

Just a few minutes ago, I heard "Turkey in the Straw" on some commercial or other. It's not a song I hear every day--the ice cream truck doesn't really get over here--but hearing that music suddenly took me back to high school.

I've talked about the awfulness of that time in my life. I don't have a lot of great memories from it. By my junior year in high school, I was pretty used to having just a couple of people I could be friendly-ish with. Not many people were making it a point to run me down, although there were the usual bitches who had been bitches to me since fifth grade and who were still making a big show to each other of treating me like I was the worst thing oozing over the face of the planet.

So, you know, I didn't really talk to people. I especially didn't talk to girls. I rode the bus with my headphones in place and just tried to keep to myself throughout the day.

The summer of 1993 was pretty fantastic, and it rolled in early. There were a lot of warm days as the school year was winding down. This day I suddenly thought of was a beautiful, warm day but with a nice breeze. The kind of breeze that just blows pleasantly, on a day that's not humid or hot, but just really nice. It was the end of a long day, and the buses were running late picking us up. So a lot of people, myself included, were just standing around waiting for the buses so we could go home.

I would normally have been listening to my headphones, probably to a film score or a mix tape or my Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Vol. I & Vol. II album (which got me through a lot of high school, actually), but that day my batteries had run out and I didn't even have the music to make me feel better. I don't think I was feeling particularly bad that day, really, but I was always anxious to just leave and be at home. I wanted my cat and my bed and my TV.

So I was waiting, a bit impatiently. And suddenly there was this girl standing there. She was on my bus; she and I actually got off at the same stop. She was a freshman, I think. You know how you just sort of get used to seeing the same faces in the same place for months? That's pretty much the only way I knew her. We probably didn't have any classes together. I don't actually even remember her name, but I remember her face really well. She was tall, and cute, and slender but not skinny. She was wearing a grey tank top--not a spaghetti-strap number, but what we used to just call tank tops, which really just meant that it had no sleeves and a modestly scooped neck--and light blue cut-off jean shorts. Her dirty blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she was smiling. I remember she had brown eyes. She had a long neck and a round face and a pretty smile.

She was at that age where girls start to get obnoxious and really clique-y, and I knew from the bus that she could be kind of raucous and... not wild, exactly, but loud. She had a friend that she normally rode the bus with, but the friend wasn't there that day, and suddenly this girl just sort of starts talking to me. I don't even remember about what, but she just started talking and cracking jokes and even flirting a little bit, and it really made me feel... confused.

See, I had a couple of occasions in sixth grade and in junior high of girls trying to make me think that they liked me. That's how I characterize it, anyway. If a girl ever actually did like me, I wasn't taking it seriously. There were just too many times when people ganged up on me to humiliate me or hurt me or take advantage of me, and I was very, very guarded. I wasn't really open or friendly. I tried not to look at people too often when they might look back, or say anything. I wasn't easygoing. I didn't joke or let myself be enthusiastic, because I didn't want any attention. And I was already, at that point in my life, completely unable to imagine that anyone wanted to be around me, or hang out, or be in my company at all. That had been completely eradicated in sixth grade, and I'm still like that today. I have friends and family who really just think I'm completely selfish and unsociable because I don't reach out and ask if anyone wants to do anything or spend a holiday afternoon with me or anything like that, because why would I think anyone would ever want to? I just... I can't honestly conceive of that. Who would choose to spend time with me if they had the option of not spending time with me, and why would anyone ever actually miss me if I wasn't there? Who would actually do that? I try to imagine that happening, but I just can't, so I don't act like that's a thing.

So here's this cute freshman girl, and she's talking and cracking jokes and even flirting a little bit, and here's me being guarded and not saying much. And then, all of a sudden, the ice cream truck drives around the block nearby and it's playing "Turkey in the Straw," and she does a little dance and sings some made-up lyrics, and in spite of myself, I smile, because it's the cutest thing. It's adorable and funny, and I even chuckle a little bit.

And after a minute or two, the buses come, and I don't really remember what happened next. I know I didn't sit with her, and I don't think I ever spoke with her ever again. But it was a really nice little moment in time, and it obviously made an impression on me, because here it is almost exactly 20 years later, and suddenly it jumps into the front of my mind. And it makes me smile. And I've probably heard that song dozens and dozens of times since then, at least in Steamboat Willie alone, but she's never really been in my mind again. And there she is, dancing and wiggling and smiling at me, and it makes me smile and chuckle again. And I can see her face exactly. I could look in my yearbook and find her, probably, even though I never knew her name.

How strange, but lovely.

Twist 'em up a tune called 'Turkey in the Straw'...


Roger Owen Green said...

I love that story.

BTW, that Billy Joel album was one of the very first CDs (as opposed to LPs) I ever bought.

SamuraiFrog said...

I remember when my Dad bought his first CD player... it was one of those 6-disc changer stereo components. He got a few CDs discounted with it as part of a deal where you would get 6 discs, and two of them were that Billy Joel album and Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell." It did not take long for those two CDs to surreptitiously migrate into my burgeoning personal collection...

M. D. Jackson said...

Turkey in the Straw always brings me a memory of a cute girl as well, but it's my daughter. She would sit on the front step in the afternoon clutching a dollar or two and start singing Turkey in the Straw -- she didn't know the words, she just sang: "Du-du-dudda-dudda-da..." and rocking back and forth, as if her song would call the ice cream truck up the street -- cutest little girl in the world.

SamuraiFrog said...

Aww. There were many summer days I wish I knew how to summon that damn thing and get myself a Flintstones Push-Up.