Monday, October 11, 2010

All you need is love . . . and cardboard, newspaper, flour, and water

Every once in a while there are reminders of past events in your life that make you sit back and think, "Wow, we did that, and it was actually pretty amazing!"  Recently I was reminded of one of those events.

This December marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's death and the start of a Beatles obsession that has stayed with me and some of my childhood friends throughout adulthood.  Our craze peaked in the summer of 1981, where countless hours would be spent traveling between my house and those of my friends (Linda, Carla, and Jan) carting Beatles albums back and fourth, listening to different songs on our record players and analyzing the lyrics as best as almost-14-year-old girls can do.  

That year also marked another important milestone, because my friends and I realized that we were pushing the age limit on Halloween trick-or-treating.  The start of high school meant you stopped asking for candy and either stayed home to hand out treats, went to a halloween party, or participated in "corning", the act of throwing dried corn on porches or at cars as they drove by.  (I tried to explain corning to my Upstate NY students, and they looked at me in disbelief).  Still, we wanted to do something to proclaim our Beatle love, so we decided to forgo proper Halloween etiquette and dress up as the Beatles.  Now, this was not going to be any lame, last minute project.  If we were to properly demonstrate our adoration, we had to make it magnificent.  

Our goal was to re-create their early look, with the collarless suit and skinny tie.  However, the outfits would be secondary to the most important part--recreating the instruments.  

We actually started planning during the summer, where I distinctly remember working in my friend Carla's garage, laying out guitars with large pieces of cardboard.  We used the front cover of the Something New album and actually attempted to scale the guitars using a proportion. 

 I would measure the height of John in the picture, then the length of his  guitar, and use that ratio to scale up our own guitars.  Our accuracy was a little off, and the guitars ended up being slightly oversized, but once they were taped, slathered in paper mache and painted, they really looked good!  We even found some wierd looking thumb tacks in that garage and used plastic thread to string them.  Linda used a similar process to make the drums, and by mid October it was all coming together. 

Mom made my suit because she loved to sew, so mine didn't exactly match the rest of the group.  In the end I guess it didn't matter.  I don't know where we found the wigs, but I do remember Linda's mother finding the material to make the skinny ties.

The final process was recording our Beatles albums onto a tape.  We painted a large cardboard box to look like a speaker, and another friend carried a tape player while wearing that box for the music.  It was really quite a project!

Had we dressed up like that today, there would have been ten cell phones out, taking our picture and sending it to friends, relatives, facebook, etc.  But back then, no one had a camera handy.  If we did have one there wasn't any film in it, or we needed a flash, or we just didn't think about it.  Luckily Linda's Dad took one photo of us, slightly damaged from a future car fire: 

This was taken at the Bedford Halloween contest and parade, where we should have taken first place.  Unfortunately the judges must not have been Beatles fans, because the award was given to someone dressed up like an upside down man.  

For 29 years the memory of that halloween had been foggy in my head, but the picture brought so much of it back.  I had forgotten all of the detail and planning we put into it, just four almost-14-year-old  girls, with very little parental help.  

After talking with Carla and Linda now, we can't find anything about this event in old yearbooks or other writings, and it was difficult for us to believe we would have done this freshman year.  I think we didn't write about it because we were ready to move on and felt this challenged our maturity, and our "coolness".  

I look at these 14 year old faces and realize how transitional that time period was for us.  After this event, we put away the Beatle albums and started watching a new cable channel called MTV.  We stopped chasing boys on our bikes and started trying to date them.  We spent hours after school playing fancy new video games like Pac Man and Galaga.  The paper mache instruments were stored in rooms and closets, and we moved on.

All of us would go through different challenges in high school, trying to fit in, trying to figure out who we really were. I wish I could tell those 14 year old girls to enjoy what they did, to embrace the nerdiness of this project and if you didn't quite fit in, it would be alright.  Twenty nine years later the awkwardness is gone, and only the memory of "Wow, we did that!" remains.  It will be cherished as much as our love of the fab four.