There's A Place You Can Go

This post is featured on my blog, My Former Life, in which I will post 365 memories in the year of my 40th birthday. I hope I come up with some lessons from the first 40 to take into the second 40 years of my life.

My father moved to an apartment about half an hour away from us.

From our house he took the living room sofa (leaving a hole in between two coffee tables), my parents’ shared double bed, the dresser and highboy from their bedroom as well, and not much else. Most of that didn’t matter to me, even though it meant that my bedroom furniture was appropriated for my mother. I was fine with the new, lime green dresser that we got second hand from a neighbor. I was cool with sleeping in the trundle part of my brother’s double trundle bed.

There was one piece of furniture that I felt anguish at watching leave our home.

The console turntable was formidable piece of furniture. Several feet from end to end, it was a wooden console with foot high speakers on each side. Inside there was an AM/FM radio tuner and a stereo turntable. It was a huge piece of furniture, with a latched top that you pulled up to reveal the music equipment inside. A lattice pattern of wood and golden threads was over the speakers.

I had always been fascinated by the record player. How you had to carefully place the needle on the jet black, grooved record to make it play music. What would happen if you scratched the delicate, vinyl surface. I had spent Sunday afternoons listening to Jim Croce with my father on it. He turned the music up loud during thunderstorms so that we wouldn’t be afraid. The loss of the turntable, plus the sofa, left our living room nearly devoid of furniture. My mother never bought anything to fill the emptiness.

We often went to my father’s apartment on Friday evenings. He would pick us all up after school and keep us there until Sunday. Most of the time we’d go shopping at the grocery store across the street from his high rise building, and take the groceries back up to the seventh floor apartment and cook together.

My father didn’t have a TV in his apartment. The only thing he’d purchased for the apartment that he didn’t bring from our house was a round table to eat at. He placed around it four chairs that he’d recovered from our basement back home. But he had the turntable.

He didn’t have a lot of records. In fact, I remember exactly two that I liked out of his collection of maybe ten. The Bee Gees, “Saturday Night Fever”. And the Village People, “YMCA”.

I didn’t know anyone else’s dads very well, but I considered it very hip for my dad to have the latter two in his collection. Sometimes, after dinner on Friday nights, we would sing and dance along to the records. When we were ready for bed, my sister would take to the couch, and my brother and I would unroll our new blue and red sleeping bags on the floor of my father’s living room. I would still be sweaty from the dancing.

My father talks of those days as a dark time for him. He told me later the reason why he didn’t have a TV is because he didn’t have the money to buy one. I can see it now; the empty rooms in both the apartment and our house, the shuttling back and forth, the quietness of the high rise building, the sterile hallway down to his door.

But back then, all I knew is that we had 48 solid hours to spend with my father. Maybe we’d be singing “YMCA” or “Staying Alive”. Maybe we’d play Parcheesi or Monopoly. And for a while, we’d stop thinking about the emptiness for a while; we’d fill the holes in his space, and we’d be away from the holes in ours.

It wasn’t enough, for any of us, but it helped.

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