by Denise Regan on Dec 08th, 2011
I was 11 years old on December 8, 1980 and in the sixth grade. Reagan was president (and no, he’s not my father) and music was still played on vinyl. I don’t remember too many clear memories before this day, not the same as I remember the news that John Lennon had been assassinated.
It was night, and the TV was on. I must have been watching something as I was sitting on the floor in front of it and my mother came in from the kitchen and stood staring at the TV with her arms folded. I knew by her stance that something important had happened. I looked at the TV, then at her. “Who’s he?” I think I asked, though I can’t remember what my mother said. The TV showed a scene with lots of people trying to see something and spotlights.
In the morning, the car radio was on as my mother drove me to school. The news of Lennon’s death seemed to be the only thing being broadcast. She still had the same grave expression as the night before mixed with something else. Everything seemed different, like everyone in all the other cars were thinking of the same exact thing. At school, kids crowded around outside the classrooms, chattering loudly.
Mr Schleiff, my teacher, was a gruff, temperamental former wrestler. He sat in his chair with his feet propped on his desk and a smug grin on his face as he surveyed his class buzzing about the news.
“So,” he said slowly, enjoying the drama, “does anyone have anything to share for current events?”
Half the class leaped out of their seats with their arms raised, some going “Ooh Ooh Ooh!” Mr Schleiff seemed to be reveling in making the students wait to be called on, to be the first to say it. Finally, he called on Sean, and everyone else sat back down except for him.
“John Lennon was assassinated last night….” Sean began his declaration. I was so amazed as I listened to him and the other students that everyone seemed to know who he was. I was completely out of the loop.
Right away, my mother bought two albums, Imagine and Double Fantasy. We listened to them often enough for me to know some lyrics by heart, especially “Watching the Wheels”.
People asking questions, lost in confusion
Well I tell them there’s no problem, only solutions
Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I’ve lost my mind
I tell them there’s no hurry, I-I’m just sitting here doing time…
I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round….
I just had to let it go
My mother said that the chime played at the beginning of the song “Just Like Starting Over” was for his son Sean, and that it meant I love you. She told me that “How Do You Sleep” had been written about Paul McCartney, and that the noises Yoko makes on “Kiss Kiss Kiss” were recorded as she and John, well, did that. It was the first music I really felt, though at the time I didn’t realize it. It was totally free of riddles and confusion. It didn’t judge me at all or make me feel like I was all wrong. Years later, I remember sitting in the living room with the record sleeves in my hands, listening to music I knew we were listening to out of respect; maybe that’s why I really also heard it….during a time of heavy fog, it was like an opening I saw through clearly.
When I die, I hope “Just Like Starting Over” is playing as I take my last breaths and my heart is beating it’s final beats. I can’t think of anything more appropriate to float away with.