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    BWS Stories - "Born in the U.S.A."...Childhood Memories

    "Born in the U.S.A."...Childhood Memories - Growing Pains

    Kathy O’Fallon, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist. Her award-winning fiction and poetry have been published in over twenty literary magazines and journals. When the Moon Spills Her Milk and Underbelly were published in 2000 and 2001 respectively, and she has a forthcoming book due out this fall titled, At Higher Elevations.


    Growing Pains

    I nearly drowned in the post-World War II amnesia of suburban culture, but it was 1965, and the Beatles threw me a lifesaver so I could swim to shore. Their crooning translated my yearning into notes I could sing with teenage abandon. Their mopped hair and dimples sent shivers up my spine and down into places I knew I wasn’t supposed to feel. I adopted Beatlemaniac for my middle name.

    I boycotted the clean, white spaces of my bedroom and pasted collages of photographs on every wall, one for each Beatle. My record player blared their music day and night. Their magazines littered the carpet. No one but John, Paul, George, and Ringo were allowed inside. I installed a dead bolt, and turned up the volume of the phonotgraph.

    ***

    It’s my turn to do the dinner dishes, but Mom always helps. I figure it’s as good a time as any to plead my case. “Please, Mom, I promise we won’t get in any trouble. Debbie’s mother says it’s okay, and Alan will be with us.” I list the classmates of mine who want to go with me.

    “I am not letting you go into New York City by yourselves.” My arguments haven’t budged her in the last ten minutes, but nothing’s going to make me give up on this one, even if I have to run away to see the Beatles’ first public concert in the United States. Eventually I wear her down.

    “Oh, all right, but only if I go with you. Can you get another ticket?”

    “Go with us?!” She’s got to be kidding. My mother as a chaperone?? “What do you mean, like drive us into the city and sit with us at the concert?”

    “That’s the only way you’re going, Cassandra.” We come to a crossroads, and I give in. I change my clothes six times before I find an outfit that I can rip off easily, one that won’t embarrass me with what’s left underneath. I choose a pair of Bermuda shorts under a Villager skirt and forget the slip. The air seems to perspire with excitement. Fireflies dance, as if they too anticipate something special.

    The eighteen-mile drive in the station wagon slows to a halt five miles outside the stadium. Forest Hills has never seen such a bottleneck. The five of us sit in the car and giggle like children, telling “what if” stories about the possibility of meeting the Beatles,
    the daring thought of mussing their hair, or even going on tour together. Mom chimes in a Frank Sinatra tale or two. I try to talk over her.

    The Beatles wait for us. We sit in the balcony far from the stage, but we don’t care. We’re here! Teenagers just like us scream and clap, some of them already sobbing. Girls wave their slips at the stage, and throw handkerchiefs into the air. The crowd drowns out the Beatles’ introduction and the four boys from Liverpool run onto the stage, plug in their guitars, and bow in unison. The stadium explodes.

    My mother films the event, moving between the bobbing heads we can hardly see across the field to the maniacal teenagers she’s escorted who weep with gratitude at their good fortune.

    At the end of their last encore, Mom yells, “Let’s go see if we can catch a glimpse of them at their hotel, kids.”

    “Mom, yeah, you are so cool.” I look over at my friends, pride dripping off me. For the first time, I’m glad there’s a big kid inside her.

    I had researched every detail of the Beatles’ tour and knew where they were staying. Debbie and I refresh our make-up in the car and straighten our skirts as Mom drives. The night air is still steamy. The traffic lightens up in the city, and we make it to the Delmonico Hotel before the crowd descends.

    Mom walks us into the bar as if we’re old enough to belong there, and no one checks IDs. We put our heads together and devise a plan. Debbie and I will look for the stairwell and find our way to the Beatles rooms. Mom and Alan, who says he’s “above” this sort of thing, will meet us here when we get back.

    They wish us good luck, and we locate a door to the hotel lobby from the bar. From there it’s easy to identify the stairwell, and we slip right in without being noticed. It’s an old hotel, and the paint on the stairway walls is cracked and chipped. I feel like Nancy Drew on a stakeout.

    Alone, we climb to the eighth floor, the one occupied exclusively by the Beatles, but a guard stops us as we attempt to exit into the hall. He’s short and fat, and his uniform buttons threaten to burst.

    “But, officer,” Debbie says, batting her blue eyes and swinging her long blond hair in his direction. “We just want to look around. We won’t be any trouble.” I can’t believe her nerve.

    He finally agrees after a little more sweet-talking by Debbie. It turns out the Beatles were helicoptered to their next concert destination (Atlantic City) immediately after the concert ended. We promise not to touch anything.

    Their rooms hadn’t been cleaned yet. Debbie and I huddle and agree to take turns occupying the guard so we can pilfer cigarette butts and half-filled glasses of Coke, anything that bears their fingerprints. It’s better than being let loose in a candy store. The rooms look like the aftermath of a week-long party. We want to walk out with the whole mess. I shove scraps of paper with scribbles on them, dirty ashtrays, and even a few strands of what I’m sure must be Paul’s hair into my pocketbook. I smell their pillowcases, and imagine I can pick up a scent other than laundry soap. I take a mental picture of a body print on the sheets. I even sit down on a bed and merge with one of them. “I wanna hold your hand….”

    When we run out of places to stuff our loot, we thank the guard and head back downstairs. As soon as the door closes, both of us let out a scream. We did it! Our faces tell Mom and Alan the story. We can’t stop grinning, which is hard because we also can’t stop talking. I can’t believe my good fortune. A dream I dared to have had come true.

    We leave the hotel by the front door, like cats after a feast of canaries. By now hundreds of crazy kids like us are clambering to get inside, but the cops have beaten them to it and cordoned off the area. No one can get within twenty yards of the building. They climb all over us, treating us like celebrities ourselves, until we break their hearts with the news that the Beatles are long gone.

    The next day my cheeks hurt from all that smiling. I vow to train my muscles to withstand the strain.

     
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