The buffalo robe and the radio

Of the forty winters of my life, this one has been the most beautiful and the one that comes back to me most often, because that is when I fell in love for the first time. I was thirteen and had moved into my own room. Before that, I had shared a room with the closest sibling to me in age, waiting every night for Mom to come up, kiss us, and turn off the lights. However, we had grown too big for that original bedroom, which is why my uncles had spent the summer turning on the table saw, hammering and laughing as they added to the house. When I moved into my new room – all this space, sort of mine – I had nothing to fill it. Instead of giving me a bed, my father handed me two buffalo robes, one for sleeping and one for sleeping under. Aside from the dresses and pocketbooks from Tolkien’s trilogy that I had taken from my mother’s library, the only things in the room were my clothes, stacked in the corner, and a radio that had been left in the room for a long time. garage, next to my dad’s restored 56 Chevrolet convertible. The boom box was yellow, with black speakers, and the tape recorder cover had broken off, although you could still click on a tape and listen to it, if you had one, which I didn’t. done, because music was something outside of my life, something that echoed in car radios and played on MTV in hotel rooms that older, cooler guys talked about very seriously. I had never been alone at night, and I filled the new void by losing myself in Tolkien and playing on the radio. Sometimes I would find one of three stations that from far away occasionally reached our town of three hundred and fifty people on a remote reservation in northwestern Montana. When the time came to turn off the light, I would tune the radio to the end of the dial – the sacred 106.1 that changed my life – hoping that at some point the sound of rock, after crossing the vast night of the northern plains, would reach my room. And then I was sleeping, the top of the buffalo robe so heavy that my suddenly six-foot, over thirteen-year-old body, which had just grown five inches in one summer, was in pain again. I would wake up regularly and turn around to relieve the pressure on the shoulder and hip bearing the weight of the dress. There is nothing hotter in this world than a buffalo robe. When the outside temperature dropped to minus forty, I was still so hot that I had to remove the robe, waiting to cover myself up again until I was about to shiver. My relief during this winter came in the form of a handful of songs that expressed feelings that I had only just begun to experience: love and loss, joy and melancholy. Threat and desire. When the DJ announced the names of bands and songs, I often couldn’t tell which was which, and I didn’t know how to care. What mattered was that I felt the thrill of the opening chords, got caught up in spellbinding synth progressions, and recognized the sound of a human voice straining to say something. When one of these songs played in the middle of the night, I would wake up and listen to it until sleep reminded me. I had fallen in love with rock and roll and black. I had no idea that I was under the spell of music whose wave had already reached its peak, or that it would be songs and albums – not fiction – that would teach me the rhythm, the arch and structure of the story. The moment I tuned the tuner and pulled the big dress over me became the part of the day I looked forward to the most, and the times I woke up to a favorite song were strong moments. I familiarized myself with the loneliness and comfort of the night and began to understand that it would be the music that carried me through the ups and downs of my life. And even later I saw that if I transmitted to another through my writing even a small piece of what I had felt during those winter nights, listening to rock music on the radio, bewitched in the darkness of my new room, then that would be enough. . It would be good. It would be enough. ♦

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