Friday, December 16, 2016

Bobby Lewis – "Tossin' and Turnin'" (1961)

I couldn’t sleep at all last night
Just a-thinkin’ of you

A couple of weeks ago, I put the house where my parents lived for the last 20-odd years of their married life up for sale.

My sister and I didn’t grow up in that house, which is located at 2327 Alabama in Joplin, MO.  (If you have any interest in buying a 3-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath brick house with two separate garages on a corner lot, let me know and I’ll give your name to our realtor.)

2327 Alabama (Joplin, MO)
The house where we did grow up had only one bathroom – which made things very difficult when I brought my family back to see my parents and grandmother.  (I have four children.)

My parents didn’t buy the 2327 Alabama house for themselves – they bought it because they wanted to have a nicer place for their grandchildren to stay when we visited during the summer, or for Christmas.

When my 90-year-old father died in January, we tried to persuade my mother to an independent-living place in the Washington suburbs that's near where my kids – who are all adults now – and I live.

She resisted moving, and was getting by in her house – although just barely – until she fell and broke her neck in April.  

We moved her here in May, and there’s no chance that she will ever move back to Joplin.  So it’s time to sell the house and its contents.

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My sister and I both went back to Joplin this fall and went through the house, putting aside everything we wanted to keep.

Most of what I’m keeping are family photos – like this photo of my parents all dolled up for a formal dinner-dance at one of the Teamsters’ conventions they attended when my father was a business agent for the Teamsters local in Joplin.  (He had driven a delivery truck for a local dairy for 20 years before getting that job.)  

My parents (circa 1972)
(You can't tell me that's not a damn good-looking couple.)

Of course, I wouldn't dream of letting these bronzed baby shoes fall into the hands of strangers:

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It's one thing to want to hang on to your bronzed baby shoes.  But you might find it odd that I’m sentimental about an unremarkable kitchen table and the chairs that go with it.

I had graduated from law school in 1977, and moved to Washington, DC, to work for the Federal Trade Commission.  I still remember what my starting salary was – $17,051 per year.  

When I was growing up, my parents had an old and very dated formica-topped kitchen table with chromed legs.  (I can only imagine how much it would be worth today to a collector of vintage furniture.)  I knew my mother really wanted a new one, and I also knew that it wasn’t very likely that my father would give her the OK to buy one in the foreseeable future.

So I bought one for her, motivated in equal parts by gratitude for the sacrifices she and my father had made for me, and by pride that I was now an adult with a real job who could afford to buy a nice gift.

The table and chairs were nothing special – they came from a middle-of-the-road furniture store in Joplin and were affordably priced – but my parents kept them for almost 40 years:  

That table was where we sat down to eat meals whenever I visited them . . . once we moved the piles of bills and other mail so there was room for our plates and glasses.  (As is the case in many American homes, my parents’ kitchen table doubled as their desk.)

That table and chairs will be sold tomorrow – probably to a stranger, and probably for very little money.  C’est la vie.  

It would have been crazy to keep a kitchen table and six chairs as a souvenir, although I was tempted.  

But I can’t keep everything in my parents’ house that reminds me of my childhood, or my children’s childhood.  Keeping all that crap won’t turn the clock back and allow me to do things differently.  (As the Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón has written, “There are no second chances in life, except to feel remorse.”)

So what’s the use of holding on to all that stuff?  It’s time to get rid of it.  If you’re interested, drop by 2327 Alabama tomorrow morning – almost everything must go, and no reasonable offer will be refused.

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Not everything in the house is for sale. 

For example, check out this cowboy hat.  I bought in one summer when I was home from college at a pawnshop owned by the father of a high-school friend.  The story was that a truck driver who had been drinking at a bar across the street from the pawnshop bought it in and sold it so he could keep drinking.

This hat is a 10X – which means that it’s a high-quality cowboy hat made of 100% beaver fur.  (Note the American flag pin, and the hand-tooled leather hatband.)  

I rarely wore it because it wasn’t quite big hand for my big egg-shaped head.  (I’m at least a size 8 – an 8 1/8 or 8 1/4 is more comfortable – and it’s damn hard to find a hat that big.  This one was a 7 7/8, which is about as big a hat as you’ll find.)

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My father served on the USS Hancock – an Essex-class aircraft carrier – in World War II.  He didn’t talk about his service much, but I was intensely interested in that aspect of his life when I was a teenager.  I read everything I could find about the Hancock, which was hit twice by Japanese kamikazes.

I assembled a kit of an Essex-class carrier and gave it to my father for his birthday 20 or so years ago.  I had built a lot of model cars and airplanes when I was a kid, but that had been two or three decades before I sat down to put together that model aircraft carrier.   Not surprisingly, my model-building skills were a little rusty – but the finished product didn’t turn out too badly:

USS Hancock (CV-19)
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I knew there were a lot of old LPs in a closet at my parents’ house.  But I didn’t realize until my last visit to Joplin that there was a box of 45s there as well.

Here’s a photo of a Beatles four-song 45 rpm EP, plus a copy of Bobby Lewis’s “Tossin’ and Turnin’,” which was one of the first two records I ever bought and is today’s featured song:

I treated myself to “Tossin’ and Turnin’” and Sam Cooke’s “Twisting’ the Night Away” after winning two dollars in a preliminary round of the Joplin spelling bee when I was in 4th grade – which was 1961.  (Good thing I won a portable record player in the next round.)

“Tossing’ and Turnin’” spent seven consecutive weeks in the #1 position on the Billboard “Hot 100.”  It was Bobby Lewis’s biggest hit record by far.

Here’s “Tossin’ and Turnin’”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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