Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Making Memories

Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson


Every weekday morning when she enters the darkened classroom, she puts a CD in the player. Depending on her mood, she may play blues or big band or rock and roll, but the music is always there. She pumps up the volume because no one else is in the building, but she wouldn’t care anyway. It’s my room.

Each song triggers a memory. Sometimes the memory is one she’d like to forget, but it is stuck in her mind like a needle caught in a scratch on a 45-rpm vinyl record. Once in a while, only a fragment of a memory flashes on her mind’s eye, and she wastes time trying to remember the yellow, spaghetti-strapped dress and the Japanese lanterns. When was that?

Most of her music transports her back in time to before she began her descent into a world of rash decisions and big mistakes. She remembers pep rallies and softball games and Cotillions and double dating and ’56 pink Chevys and her mama’s jive rendition of a sacred hymn. She smiles. Mama’s boogie-woogie on the piano drove Aunt Nina crazy. Way to go, Mama!

She sings softly along with the songs as she moves about the classroom turning on lights and straightening desks. She recalls the first organized dance she attended. It was a Christmas dance at the country club. Her grandmother made her a full circular skirt from white felt embedded with red and gold glitter. Underneath were layers of stiffly starched net petticoats in red and white that scratched her legs. She danced the Bop to “Dream Lover” with a tall, lanky, black-haired boy and slow-danced to “Lonely Boy” with a short, chubby blonde with sweaty hands. That was almost fifty years ago!

Suddenly she is transported to 1962. Her British pen pal has sent a thick envelope containing clippings from magazines and newspapers touting the newest craze in the British music industry. Her friend has seen them in person and proclaims they will be bigger than Elvis. There are photos of four long-haired (at least for that day) boys grinning for the camera and brief, very brief, biographies of each. She writes to her friend that she’s not sure about the Beatles. Do you think that’s possible?

Her daddy was tone deaf and had two left feet, but her mama could sing and dance. She learned the Jitterbug from her mama when she was ten. Twelve years later she tried to teach her younger brother to dance, but he inherited their daddy’s extra left foot. Her mama couldn’t even teach him. You must learn how to dance. What will you do? Stand around and look stupid?

The bell rings, and students wander in the room. At first they snicker and give her sideways glances. She refuses to stop the music. Later in the year they will come to appreciate it, but for now they think she’s crazy. They ask to bring in their own CDs; she politely declines and puts on the Eagles. Listen, Grasshoppers. Listen and make memories.

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A Mississippi Delta native, Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson teaches English to eager eighth graders in Wayne County, North Carolina. Her work has been published at www.usadeepsouth.com, where she is Associate Editor, as well as www.asouthernjournal.com and in the Mississippi magazine Tombigbee Country.

Three highly active grandchildren and a neurotic dachshund keep Ms. Pearson busy, but she is sporadically working on her first novel.

© Lonnye Sue Sims Pearson

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012