A few years ago I took a writing class from Judy Reeves at UCSD Extension in La Jolla, California (she is a fabulous instructor, by the way), and for one of our assignments we were tasked to write about a memory from junior high of no more than 500 words. I think this is called a micro-memoir. I wrote about this moment from February of 1964 when I was in the 8th Grade at the North School in Itasca, Illinois, a tiny suburb of Chicago.
I Saw Her Standing There
My mother stands in the doorway of my room, the ubiquitous unfiltered Chesterfield King caressed between her long fingers accented by the ruby tipped nails meticulously attended to by weekly visits to her manicurist. Her “only her hairdresser knows for sure” red hair is professionally coiffed, the crimson lipstick a carefully selected accessory. Her hand tailored pant suit is elegantly draped upon her five foot ten model-envy frame. The apron seems oddly out of place.
My six year old sister, Laura, is at her side. They both recently had their hair permed. Lori, as we referred to her then, reminds me of a Victorian princess. She thinks so too. She crosses the line into my room, emboldened no doubt by her sentry’s presence. She will be appropriately dealt with later for that unfortunate transgression.
“Dinner will be ready in ten minutes. And, for the last time, turn down your record player! Your father is trying to do some work in his study.” They both take their leave.
I suppose my older brother, G.G., is quietly in his room in the basement. We were imprisoned in a shared bedroom until a couple of years ago when he announced he couldn’t take it- me-anymore. I will say this for him—he’s got a lot of guts. His bed is next to the five hundred gallon tank of oil that feeds the monster—the furnace that belches flame 24-7 during these cold, dark winter months in Chicago—and our basement is haunted. The basement is also home to our faux fall-out shelter; a constant reminder of futility.
I’ve become ever more despondent watching Leave It to Beaver. We have a house almost as nice as the Cleavers. My mom looks like June, although I will never admit that to her. She has become obsessed with Lucille Ball and is affected with all aspects of her appearance and mannerisms—everything except her sense of humor. G.G. and I are even the same ages as Wally and The Beaver. That’s the extent of our in-commons. My dad is the antithesis of the “Honey, I’m home” every day at five o’clock Ward.
We are somewhat irritated he’s home this Wednesday. He’s usually out of town travelling on business at least four days a week. We subconsciously drift into the “he’s home” routine. An edginess creeps through the house and everyone’s guard is up—everyone, that is, except the princess. We are relegated to dinner at the table and the Russian roulette of conversation topics instead of TV trays in front of our eighteen inch black and white TV in the basement flanked by the monster and fallout shelter.
“Casey! Come to dinner right now!”
I turn up the volume on the record player another notch, stick the pencil back in my mouth and bury my head in Algebra. I really do prefer the B side of I Want to Hold Your Hand.
I Saw Her Standing There, of course, is the title of a song written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, and is the opening track on the Beatles debut album, Please, Please Me, released in the United Kingdom on March 22, 1963. In December 1963 the song was released in the United States as the B-Side on the first single by the Beatles, I Want to Hold Your Hand. While the A-side topped the U.S. charts for seven weeks starting in January 1964, I Saw Her Standing There entered the Billboard Hot 100 on February 8, 1964, remaining there for 11 weeks, peaking at #14. In 2004, I Saw Her Standing There was ranked #139 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
Fifty-two years ago I was listening to that newly released song over and over and over on my tiny 45 record player. It seems like yesterday. That’s a pretty good song, too.
I Saw Her Standing There- The Beatles