And in the end. . .

My best friend in elementary school and seventh grade was, by anyone’s definition, a princess. She was the cool blonde girl with attitude and I was her frizzy-haired comic sidekick. Each September she started school with a new fall collection of dresses, none of which came off the sale rack at Macy’s. Her luxuriously appointed pink and white bedroom—larger than her parents’ and her brother’s—with its canopied bed and matching dresser was our after-school hangout. We would not be disturbed unless her mother knocked to inquire whether we girls would like a snack. In fact, everything about her house impressed me, from the exotic Persian cats to the lavender roses her solicitous mother painstakingly cared for. Let me just say that her house was nothing like mine, where I shared a tiny bedroom with my sister. No closed doors, no privacy, no cats, no roses, no snacks.

We were an unlikely pair, but I was happy to bask in the glow of such a bright star in the preteen firmament. Being her friend had its advantages.She introduced me to The Beatles.

She had her own record player in her room—of course—and this is where I first heard   “She Loves You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The little turntable in its own suitcase was the perfect size for playing those 45s  kids used to buy with allowance money. We must have listened to her records a million times each, singing along and dancing in our socks on her furry throw rug, giddy with the delicious possibilities of boys, hand-holding, and love.

I was a Paul girl from the first minute. Cute, left-handed Paul captured my girlish heart with the first shake of his shaggy head. John was witty, but Ringo and George didn’t do much for me. Seeing A Hard Day’s Night at the local drive-in confirmed it: Paul was my Beatle.

beatles 1

Paul in Yellow Submarine mode

In eighth grade I  plastered my closet door with bubble gum card  photos of the lads wearing their Beatle boots and matching outfits in various posed scenarios. The pictures were terrible, even to my adoring eyes. Badly shaven, with unretouched blemishes, sometimes out of focus, I cherished their likenesses anyway. I loved them, yeah, yeah, yeah.

We continued to grow, the Beatles and I. As they branched out musically, I branched out too. Finally held hands with someone. And did other stuff too. Their hair got longer and they sang about subjects other than girls who were seventeen, if you know what I mean. I stayed true through Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper and the rest, all the way to the end of Abbey Road. Even sat through Magical Mystery Tour. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Help! and Yellow Submarine. And how many lines of dialog from these movies are stuck in my brain? Too many. Give us back our ball, mister! He’s a clean old man, Paul’s grandfather.  It’s a fiendish thingy! Go to the vindow. . . Blue Meanies! You don’t look bluish. . . Arrrrrgentina! I shouldn’t have started.

I got moony-eyed over the sad, slow ones, like “This Boy,” and pumped up with songs like “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Whatever mood you were in, there was a Beatles song to match it. And today all I need to lift me back to those highs of adolescent exuberance are the first notes of  “Good Day Sunshine,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” or “Got to Get You into My Life.” Nothing plunges me back to the depths of teen melancholy and brooding  like “Things We Said Today,”  “Eleanor Rigby,” or  “For No One.”

The Beatles accompanied me as I made the transformation from junior high awkwardness to high school hippiedom. Their hair got longer, my hair got longer. They got stoned, etc.  My gang of counter culture ne’er-do-well high school friends skipped through the UC Berkeley campus belting out endless refrains of “All You Need is Love, da da da da da!” thereby earning tolerant, patronizing glances from the college kids. We got high with a little help from our friends, OK?

Despite the evolution of their music, the elements of joy were a constant thread, even in the later years when there was friction brewing among the Fab Four. The Beatles break-up began in 1969, the year I graduated from high school. I wished it weren’t so, but it was inevitable that they would go their separate ways, just as it was inevitable that high school would end and everything would change. That line in “Blackbird” spoke to all of us then: “All your life/You were only waiting for this moment to be free.”

Imagine. . .this got in the yearbook!

Imagine. . .this got in the yearbook!

Several years after the Beatles’ breakup—and a painful one of my own— I saw my former boyfriend pushing a cart at the end of a supermarket aisle. There couldn’t have been a worse time or place to run into him. I was a new bride by then, not looking to rekindle our relationship or address our unresolved issues. We barely made eye contact before we each ducked into a different aisle.  A Muzak version of “Norwegian Wood” was playing, adding a sad note of irony to an awkward moment tinged with memories.

These days, for me, “when I’m sixty-four” is just around the corner, and seventeen feels like a very long time ago. But some things haven’t changed: the Beatles were a steady presence in what was by far the most emotionally volatile time of my life, and for this reason, I will always feel a bond with the boys— as they were, and as I was, in those heady days.

In my life, I loved them more.

21 Responses to And in the end. . .

  1. I remember when we all thought Paul was dead and tried to play our records backwards for the hidden message. Boy, that was a long time ago. 🙂

  2. Janie Emaus says:

    I feel that same bond. Every Sunday, I tune into Breakfast with the Beatles and relive those days.

  3. Even though I was way too young to even have crushes for most of the time that the Beatles were together, when asked, I always chose Paul. I could tell even then that he seemed like the sweet boy and John seemed more like the cool one. And being a child, I liked sweet more than cool.

  4. I’m a Paul girl too. Where did the time go? I have “When I’m 64” as one of my ring tones, and it’s more and more applicable to me every year. Really, it seems like just a few years ago that I was sighing while singing “Something” and “If I Fell.” What happened?

  5. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    I like how you said there was a Beatles song for every mood. So true. Loved reminiscing with you, Risa!

  6. I liked Paul in grammar school, graduated to John in HS and later on – he was the rebel. Great to read all these wonderful Beatles memories!

  7. Lynne says:

    I like how you said there was a Beatles song for every mood!! Spot on! And with all the Beatles music I have listened to today, I feel like today has been a good day for reflection – good memories 🙂

  8. I loved reading this and feeling the emotions that all of us felt. You are so right, Risa, about a song for every mood. Bingo, You nailed that one!

    Lovely post.

    P.S. We can share Paul, ok?
    P.S.S. Even though he is now married to a younger woman. She’s beautiful and accomplished, yes. But younger! Agh….:-)

    • Risa Nye says:

      Thanks, Cathy! I’m used to sharing him by now, so…sure! By the way, have you heard his album “Kisses on the Bottom”? It’s very sweet. And not what it sounds like!

  9. I had no idea that my daughter also loved the Beatles until we plan our European Adventure. We just had to stop in Liverpool and see the Beatles Museum. It was even more impressive than we expected. What really surprised us (or not) was that the pub we stopped in for brunch was playing only Beatles music. I wrote a post about our Beatle Museum tour and I hope you enjoy it.

  10. Yes, yes, yes! Thank you for the wonderful stroll down memory lane. I was also a Paul girl. 🙂

  11. Risa Nye says:

    You’re welcome, Barbara!

Leave a reply