One memory it brought up was one I've described to many friends. It was 1977—I would have been 6 or 7 years old—and we were living with Ernie, though I'm not sure if my mom had married him yet. My parents had been divorced for only 2 or 3 years, and this was before my Dad left California, so he was taking Alan and me every other weekend to stay with him at his house in Silverado Canyon.
On one of these weekends, Dad took us to a bar near his house (he took us into bars fairly often throughout my childhood), and I was excited to see that an Eagles cover band was playing, because my favorite song at the time was "Hotel California." I danced a lot on the dance floor while my dad drank and chatted with friends at the bar, because this was not long before my mom had discouraged me to dance (because she said my uninhibited flailing might give me "brain damage"), and when I saw an opportune moment, I went up to the band and requested that they play "Hotel California."
I was shocked and appalled to hear the band member say, "We don't know that one, but we'll play 'New Kid in Town' for you."
First of all, how could they not know "Hotel California"? It was The Eagles' hottest single at the time, and a most excellent song, telling an intriguing and spooky story!
Second of all, how could they think that the banal "New Kid in Town" was any reasonable replacement?
Third, and most offensive of all, was that I was aware they were playing "New Kid in Town" purely because of my age, dealing with me as a child instead of simply an individual requesting music. I was not defined by my age! How dare they define me so!
Obviously, I did not choose to dance to "New Kid in Town." In fact, I don't think I danced to any of the songs they played afterward. They had wronged me by treating me with a lack of respect and lost my respect in the process. They were just a bunch of hacks who thought "New Kid in Town" was a good replacement for "Hotel California."
I find this memory interesting for a number of reasons, the most salient of which is the boldness and independence with which I remember thinking of myself in relationship to adults. This must have been before Ernie had frightened me into invisibility, or perhaps the presence of my dad—who had always treated me with gentleness, respect, and protection—simply shored up my self-confidence.
Later in life, when I was an adult, I told my dad about our experience living with Ernie, and he was extremely shocked. Visibly shaken. He said he never would have stood by silently if he'd known what was happening, and he certainly would never have moved away from California to leave us to it. Knowing my dad as I came to do, I completely believe him. I think he would have been in there kicking and screaming and insisting that he would take us away if he'd known. I think he instead, in ignorance, felt that he'd been replaced by another father figure in our lives and wasn't really wanted or needed anymore, and so he moved on to the life he'd been wanting to live instead of lurking around to fulfill some (never comfortable) responsibility that he'd been fortunate enough to have lifted from his shoulders.
Mostly, though, I just remember being that strong, self-assured kid who expected to be treated as an equal by adults. She was a pretty cool kid. I think in some ways she was stronger than the adult I am now. I hope to become that strong again.