Thursday, May 25, 2017

It's All In How You Look At It

I had to look up the dates to see if I was anywhere near right. I was pretty close.

It was the summer of '68 or '69. That means I was about to turn 12 or 13. It was either the year of "The Summer Brothers Smothers Show" or it was the summer of the "Glen Campbell GoodTime Hour".

Unusually, for the Bauman family anyway...

We actually had a Television by then (when dad was alive we had two kinds of TV -- none, and ones that didn't work)...

...AND we were allowed to watch the summer replacement show for the Smothers Brothers comedy show -- even though we were never allowed to watch the actual Smother Brothers show.

I remember this because I really loved Glen Campbell's music back then. In my defense (and I'm feeling the need for one), treacly abominations like "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Country Boy (You've Got Your Feet In LA...)" were still years in the future. In 1968-69 Glen Campbell meant "Gentle On My Mind", "By The Time I Get To Phoenix", "Wichita Lineman" and other such greats that have more than stood the test of time.

And I can't wait to interrupt myself here, but: Everyone remembers the use of "Gentle On My Mind" as a sort of theme song for the show. But how many remember the use of the other John Hartford song, "Natural To Be Gone" that closed one or the other of the shows?

"What's the difference being different
When it's difference but it looks alike
You say I'm changing,
I'm not sure that's wrong

Today it may be natural
Sitting here discussing it
Tomorrow just as natural
To be gone"

Anyway, there we sat watching the show and Glen came on singing another song I used to love..."Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife"

As I remember it, I turned to mom and said, "I love this song". I'm not sure why I said anything except for the fact that, unlike many teens in that era -- an era that actually coined the phrase "generation gap" -- though mom didn't share my love of contemporary pop music, two things were true:

1. She did like good music -- good songs. She didn't reject music simply because it was current. No, she didn't like much of what was produced in the 60s, but from time to time she would give a nod to a good song.

2. I liked most of mom's favorite music (except opera :) ). Unlike most kids my age who rejected the music of their parents, I actually loved it. I loved the big band records -- Dorsey, Miller, Goodman, etc -- that mom had around the house. And I love Broadway musicals of the time.

So, I suppose, that's why I would have turned to mom with a tacit question in my observation "I like this (do you?)"

And I was really quite surprised by her response. I guess I should say, I wasn't surprised that she might not like a song I liked. What I was surprised at was that she so VEHEMENTLY didn't like it.

She said, "That song has exactly the wrong perspective on life."

Now, I was thinking this whole thing out from a boy's point of view. I was seeing a male singer's expression of self-abasement while praising his wife's self-abnegation. I was seeing a husband's humility at not being capable of giving a wonderful wife the life he thought she deserved.

But mom would have none of it. "First, she didn't give up "the good life". The things she "gave up" as described in the song are not "the good life". Family life is "the good life", she said. "The things the song says she "gave up" are material ... not what matters in this life. The life of the actual everyday housewife is the very life of value and meaning. The very."

Well, I couldn't really dismiss my initial perspective. I'm a guy who to some extent sort of lived out the song. As a fellow who chose to make a living by my creativity and wits, I unintentionally gave Dar a much harder life than she deserved. I'm a guy. I guess I'll always be hampered by that missing stem of a Y chromosome.

Besides, I was always going to love the song. I was addicted to maj7th chords at a very early age. And to this day, I've never gotten over them.

But now, given the distance of time, and the 20/20 perspective it affords, I've got to say that the IMPLICATIONS of mom's point of view TOTALLY flew over my head at the time. The implications of mom's point of view are mind-blowing.

That is, mom believed that the "dreams of the everyday housewife" are fulfilled in being what she was -- not in wanting or wishing or lamenting the passing or unattainability of some romantic "other life". It was in the satisfaction and fulfillment achieved in who she already was.

And here's the mind-blowing part: This woman, left behind by a man who left her with very few material prospects for hers and her family's future, her father a disinterested, disengaged, and unsympathetic retiree living a life of ease and disconnect from his distance in Florida, and her with 4 kids still at home to care for...

This woman who had to take a bookkeeping job so that she could maintain the roles of BOTH provider AND caregiver...

...rather than feeling a sympathy for Glen Campbell's poor everyday housewife who gave up the good life...

...STILL somehow saw herself living "the good life". The very good life.

And even in those toughest of circumstances -- that night in 1969 -- her having been widowed but 2 years before.... as we sat watching that TV show, having just eaten the dinner she fixed that evening, in the house she kept clean, wearing clothes she both paid for and laundered...

...and her sitting with us watching the TV show (but you just know she had to be contemplating that she would be getting up again at 5 AM to fix our school lunches before she went off to work yet another Monday)...

...and yet she saw herself living the good life. And she wouldn't budge from the position. She believed it. She lived it.

As a son, I'm amazed. What she was really telling me was that, to her, even I was worth it. And her life showed it.


  1. Love this :) Your mom sounds truly amazing. No wonder you (eventually) turned out so good!

  2. What a lovely tribute and memory of your mother.

  3. Your mum was some lady..and obviously did a good job raising you.
    She left a son with a mind of his own and the means to express it well

    1. Thanks for the kind words -- and for reading my blog!