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elvis

elvis


elvis.jpg

It was one of those moments when you say something you know you shouldn't. But I couldn't help myself. I was fourteen and still in the throes of teenage-girl-smart-ass disease.

25 years ago tomorrow, I was sitting in the backyard listening to the radio when I heard the news. I went inside and found my mother in her room, making her bed.

"Hey, mom. Guess you won't be going to that Elvis concert next week."
"What?"
"He's dead."

I may have snickered, I don't know.

Mom ran into the bathroom and turned on the little radio she kept in there. I remember the voice. I remember the exact sound of the tinny, staticy voice that relayed the news to my mother in a much softer way than I did.

Elvis was dead.

My mother's eyes filled with tears and despair while her face registered only that small "o" one's mouth makes when they hear shocking news. That "o" stayed there for a while, but the despair in her eyes had become hard and angry. She was pissed at me.

How could I have told her like that, knowing that she idolized Elvis in a pure, passionate way? How could I do that? What kind of daughter was i?

Well, I was fourteen. That's my only excuse.

I was a fourteen year old whose mother made fun of her own idolization of another self-obsessed, overly dramatic singer who similarly became a bloated replica of himself. And later, dead and bloated. Maybe it was my way of evening up the score.

My mother had this friend Noreen. Noreen was the largest woman I ever knew. Not just heavy large, but tall and wide and her hair was piled up on her head so she looked even taller. Her voice roared even when she whispered and her sneezes were legend in the neighborhood, said to be heard from at least three blocks away. She wore mumus and housecoats and tons of hairspray and sometimes she wore an ugly fur coat that made her look like a small woodland creature was nesting on her shouler.

Noreen and my mom were the Elvis duo. They worshiped him. They loved him. They knew everything about him and owned everything to do with him including Elvis commemorative plates and I think one of them had an Elvis wristwatch.

I grew up with Elvis's hips grinding in my face and his voice grinding in my ears and I have to admit that at some point, I realized what the attraction was. When I would lay in bed on summer nights, trying to sleep while my mother and Noreen and the rest of their crew played Pinochle in the kitchen and had Elvis on the stereo, I knew. His voice would come drifting into my room and I could feel the sensuality, the danger, the passion that lied within his words.

I would never tell anyone this, of course. I went about my daily business of bowing before Jim Morrison and Robert Plant and never let on that I thought Elvis was cool. Especially to my mother. That would just ruin the taut, tenous relationship that we both thrived on. Who was I to break the rite of passage of mother-teenage daughter bitterness and anger?

Noreen and my mother were going to see Elvis in August, 1977 at the Nassau Coliseum. They had seen him many times before but this one was special. They had a feeling this would be his last tour ever.

They were like little giddy school girls in the weeks leading up to the show. Sometimes my mother would take out her ticket and look at it. As I write this I realize that my mother was 39 at the time. The same age I am now. When I was fourteen, 39 was old and withered and wrinkled. 39 was too old to be getting worked up over a hip-shaking idol. Yet, here I am at 39 and I'm not old or withered or wrinkled and I would certainly get worked up over my hip-gyrating idol.

She was so happy. And I crushed her world. It would have been a much softer blow if it came from Cousin Brucie or Uncle somebody on whichever oldies station she was listening to. It would have been a bit easier to take if her teenage bag of hormones didn't make some smarmy remark about dying like a fat, beached whale.

When Noreen found out we heard her from two blocks away, bellowing and carrying on. Her booming voice sounded through the neighborhood like a siren, a mourning call for all Elvis fans in East Meadow to gather on her lawn and weep.

Not really. But it was something like that. I don't think my mother ever told Noreen the way in which she found out about the death of their hero. I probably wouldn't have lived to tell this tale if she knew. She would have kicked my ass all over town.

When Noreen died, my first thought was that she would finally get to see Elvis again. My second was that I was now safe from my mother ever spilling the beans to Noreen about my youthful indiscretion.

25 years later,my mother still has not forgiven me. Maybe that's what drives every argument we have, every nit-picky little fight we endure. Maybe she's still mad at me. I know she still resents it, still thinks about because yesterday she told my daughter that I laughed at her when Elvis died.

I didn't laugh. I may have snickered a little. Maybe.

I sent an email to my mother this morning:

I'm sorry, mom. I'm sorry I told you like that. But in a way it's your fault for making me sit through Viva Las Vegas and Jailhouse Rock, for forcing that horrid "In the Ghetto" on my ears, for making me tried fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

It's been 25 years, mom. I promise to play Elvis at my wedding next week if you promise to get over it already. Deal?

Maybe I should reword that.

Comments

Uh-huh-hu

Daaang, woman! I just started reading your blog, so I'm just realizing what a great writer you are (but, yeah, soften the note to mom). I was 15, and it was my Beatles versus my brother's Elvis that kept a tiny rift between us...it's the stupidest things sometimes...

I missed the death of Elvis by a year or two, but, had I been a boy, there's a good possibility my mother would have named me Elvis shudder

My mom's den is a shrine. Gold records and photos, and this bust of Elvis that she inherited from my grandmother. She never got to see him in concert, but I think she had plans to that August as well.

When I was little, I used to sleep walk. My mother would sometimes say "You know, Elvis used to sleep walk." I was born one week after his birthday.

My mother never forced me to listen to Elvis, so when I do now, it's because I want to, not because of some childhood guilt trip. But I wonder, if she and I were a few years older and I'd have been around, if I wouldn't have acted the same way you did when you heard the news.

I think I would have.

um, Michele, soften that note. You broke her heart once when he died, don't do it again or she may have to do something really bad at your wedding, like sing Elvis tunes while his record is not playing ;)
I gotta tell ya, i have never been a fan of his at all. have never understood the attraction and even worse, i keep waiting for this week to be over so that all the news shows will stop talking about him. he was a big bloated freak who put green shag carpeting on his ceilings and dressed like a major pimp. i hate elvis. i hate him i hate him i hate him!!! his music is not allowed to be played anywheres near me or i cannot be held responsible for what may happen to the player and the record/cd/tape/8 track. let the man die already folks. its been 25 years. hes dead and buried and he does not work at a burger king in kalamazoo michigan. and for the love of all thats right and holy, stop dressing like him!!!

I've never had a fried banana and peanut butter sandwich, but it sounds really good. I like fried bananas, and I like peanut butter, so why the hell not?

I remeber that she was so pissed that he died - especially bloated on a toilet - that she returned the concert ticket to the box office and got her money back. She is still kicking herself about that one...

I also remember her and Noreen playing another game on the kitchen table at 10 at night, while we were trying to sleep. I would always yell (over CBS FM's Sunday Night DooWop) to please LOWER THAT AND SHUT UP!!!!!! Do you know the decibel she hit when she screamd "YAHTZEE!"??? ack.

sssh, he disappaered, OK? no need to use that other horrible D word. besides, I saw him in concert two years back and he was doing fine.

I was almost six. It was a sunny day outside. The air conditioner in the trailor we were living in was broken and the noise of fans filled the air. The radio in the background that had been so loud and obnoxious with twangy country music just moments before suddenly became still and quiet. There was a hush that seemed to last so long that I almost thought the radio had died. Then came a small voice that we had to strain to hear over the fan motors. My mother reached over and turned it up as loud as it would go. The voice was still small. It said "Elvis Presley is dead".

I walked into my bedroom and saw his face everywhere. Magazine photos that had been ripped away from their holders were taped on all four walls - even the ceiling above the bunk bed I shared with my sister. Photos of him alone, with a guitar, without, with a girl, without, kissing a girl, without. On the table beside our beds was an 8-track player and a stack of Elvis 8-tracks that my sister listened to each and every day. I looked around me and he was everywhere. Tears formed in my eyes as I walked out of my room and back into the kitchen where my mother was. She simply sat there in disbelief as the voice on the radio became stronger as it repeated over and over again - "Elvis Presley is dead".

That was my first experience with death, if you want to call it that. To this day, I have never forgotten it.

On a totally different note, I hope your mom can finally put it past her. I agree with what has already been said - the man's dead, let it go!

I'm a new comer. Who's getting married soon? Michele or sister, or both? Just confused. Nothing new. If I only had a good nephrologist.

Fred, I'm getting married in ten days. My sister Lisa is getting married in June of next year.

Born -77, my birthday is tomorrow. I can't stress how happy I am that my name isn't Elvis. My mother is an Elvis-fan, but she didn't think I would ever forgive her if she had given me that name. (She was probably correct about that one.) Me myself agrees quite a lot with Kat a few comments above, even though I don't have the same blind hate for the dead man as she seem to inhabit.

Parents are funny creatures, as I'm re-learning from the other side of the fence. Thanks for reminding me to remember to say I'm sorry to them while they're still around to hear it. And for reminding me to give them a chance to be forgiven in kind.

As for my own kid... well, he's only 18 months old. But please remind me again in about 13 years... when he's 14 and I'm 52... oh crap...

My roommate wears an elvis wristwatch.

It doesn't work.

the end.