Friday, July 02, 2010

A special day for me

This is the fourth JAY WEEK since I’ve been blogging. I think about Jay every day, but I always set aside this week as a special time to reminisce and to write about my boy. On Friday (July 2), all of us in our family will do some special reminiscing I imagine because that day will be the 18th anniversary of Jay’s death. July 2 in 1992 is a day we’ll never forget; however, we won’t sit around with a terrible case of the mully-grubs. Instead, we’ll remember funny things that Jay said and did, favorite gigs, Melonheads who will always be part of our family. I still cry over certain poignant memories, but on July 2, we’ll all be upbeat. That day, we’ll probably hear from some of you who are reading this, and getting messages from you will make us smile and smile.

The first year that I wrote about Jay on July 2, was in 2007. That year, I just wrote some favorite memories of Jay and of Melonheads. I loved writing that post, and I loved getting messages from so many of Jay’s friends (our friends, too). I even heard from Suzy (we haven’t been able to connect with her again, though, after writing a couple of e-mails that year).

During the rest of 2007 and the first part of 2008, I kept ruminating about what I’d write in the summer of 2008, but I couldn’t think of anything until right before the big day. Then it hit me . . . I’d use some of the memories that I added to Angela and Wendy’s “Jay Book.” Those memories had the very creative title of “A Mother’s Memories,” and I just copied them to my blog.

Last year, deciding what to write was easier. Since the days and dates in July 2009 exactly corresponded to those in 1992, I determined to write every day, copying what I wrote in 1993, the year after Jay died. Again, I heard from many of you, some of you saying that at last you had closure. You never really knew what happened, how he had died. All you knew in 1992 was that your good friend was gone. I’m glad that I could help in your healing.

And now, here comes July 2, 2010. What will I write this year? A couple of weeks ago, I came across a notebook that looked old and worn and interesting. When I opened it, I immediately recognized Jay’s scratch. Evidently, it was a notebook in which he intended to write lots of songs. Each page has a letter of the alphabet at the top: he intended to write a song for each letter. Well, as with many of Jay’s plans, the very detailed notebook didn’t really materialize; however, at the beginning of his notes is one song . . . a song which eventually became a hit with Melonheads and family, not that we weren’t Melonheads, too. A Melonhead was anyone who followed Velvet Melon. I hope that those followers still refer to themselves by this special name. Here’s the background for that song. I hope you remember it.

One Saturday, I came home after doing the weekly shopping to find Frank in an absolute stew in the yard. He was so angry with his son that I really feared that Jay might get the first whipping that he’d had in about ten years. I tried to calm my sweetheart by telling him that I’d take care of the problem. All I knew was that Jay was inside writing music when Frank needed him in the yard on the mower. I found Jay sitting on the floor in front of the sofa, long skinny legs stretched out under the coffee table, elbows sprawled, and fingers going ninety to nothing writing words to music that was obviously racing through his head. He was holding his mouth just right, tongue sticking out the left side of his mouth, and I knew the creative juices were flowing.

Taking my life in my hands, I approached him. “Jay, your dad is so angry with you that I really don’t know what he’s going to do. You need to get outside right away and get that grass mowed.” I was always such a scary mom, don’t you think?

“Mom, I can’t stop. I’ve got this great song going, and if I don’t write it down right now, I won’t remember it. Dad will understand . . . eventually!”

I can’t say that I really remember what happened that afternoon after the “genius” finished his inside job and got to his dad’s outside job. I do know that there was no beating of the child, as if there ever had been. But I do know that Frank was plenty mad (yes, mad . . . as in crazily angry . . . and not just plain angry). But he got over it, especially when he heard the song.

The song is about a special young lady, who begins her life as a “very strange girl” and winds up being what the guys in Velvet Melon would call a “swank.” Maybe you’ve known someone like Leola. Here’s her story in Jay’s words. I’ve taken the leave to help him with his spelling a bit.


Leola was a very strange girl, a very strange girl.
She lived in her own world.
If she stayed in her room one more day,
Her life would be wrecked.

When I saw her, I was so confused.
I didn’t quite know what to do.
Leola was a very weird girl,
But with a name like Leola (Hey)
What can you expect?

She loved to eat glue.
She liked to make things out of doo doo;
“Row Your Boat” was her favorite song.
She wore horn-rimmed glasses,
Used a straw to drink molasses.
Where did she go wrong?

Leola Leola Leola Leola Leola Leola la Leola,
Leola Leola Leola Leola Leola Leola la Leola.

Leola went to school one day,
The kids did not know what to say.
Leola brought her dead pet squirrel.
She threw up on her desk,
She had a cardiac arrest.
Leola was a very weird girl.

She did the hula dance for show and tell,
Called the teacher “Orson Welles.”
Then she got in trouble.
The teacher told her to be quiet,
But Leola didn’t like it.
So she went home on the double.


Leola said, “It’s time to change,
Take my life and rearrange,
Listen to some rock ‘n’ roll.
Gonna turn around, twist and shout,
Show ‘em what I’m all about,
Fill my body with some soul!”

She changed her clothes,
Blew her nose, made herself look like a rose.
Then she mosied down the stairs.
She called up the boys,
She said, “Let’s go and make some noise.”
Everybody seemed to stare.

Now she wears cool clothes
Like satin and bows
And contacts so she can see.
All the guys like to hang around
‘Cause she’s as fine as she can be (wolf whistle!).


I know that the words and rhythm don’t really sound like a hit song, but believe me, “Leola” was a hit among Melonheads. And you Melonheads need to remember that I’m working from the first copy of the song. I know that there were a few changes in it when the guys in the band got hold of it. They just made it even better. From the first time Velvet Melon played it at practice in the game room at our house, it was one of my favorites. I just wish I could attach the music for you!

The second song that I want on this music memory page is one that I think he wrote while Velvet Melon was in New York. Maybe some of the guys will read this and help me get the time right. Anyway, it’s a beautiful song with a haunting melody. Once again, I wish I could put the music here. To me, the chorus is prophetic: we have only one chance in this life, so we need to get it right. Here are my boy’s words:


Some people’s lights go off at night,
But their lights stay on all day.
Some people lead a sheltered life;
Some people see no other way.

Collect the check and close the door.
What’s the use of working anymore?
What’s this life worth living for?
We can’t sit and beg for more.

I see better when lights are on.
Won’t be long before we’re gone.
Won’t you please leave on your light?
Got one chance to get it right.
Please just turn it on tonight . . .
Tonight . . . tonight . . .

We paid our price—lost our pride;
So now sit back, enjoy the ride.
If we can’t change our attitude,
There’s just no way to see it through.

I see better when lights are on.
Won’t be long before we’re gone.
Won’t you please leave your light on?
Won’t you please leave on your light?
Got one change to get it right.
Please just turn it on tonight . . .
Tonight . . . tonight . . .

I’ve tried for years to understand everything in this song, but I never can come up with exactly what Jay was saying. I just loved the words joined to the tune, and I loved watching him sing it. Again, the chorus has special meaning to me. You’ve probably heard the saying “Life allows us one great performance; it is not a dress rehearsal” or something along that line. I believe that, and Jay believed it, too. Maybe that’s exactly what he meant in the chorus.

Jay’s life was a performance . . . every day of it. Someone said at his funeral that he lived more in 24 years than most men do in 70. He relished life—he turned on his light. And he touched so many of us with that light. For the touching, I am grateful.

I am also grateful for two lines that he included in one of his songs, maybe “I’m Not Crazy.” Then again, it might have been in another one. It doesn’t really matter where they appeared; the important thing to me is that they were there and that they were a testimony from Jay. To my “mother’s heart,” they are precious.

I don’t mix drugs with rock ‘n’ roll;
I’ve got Jesus in my heart to save my soul.

I’d know it even without the words, but with the words, I have assurance that one day Jay and I will be together again. He’ll meet me at the gate, arms wide open, saying . . . no, yelling as only Jay could yell . . . “Mom! What took you so long? You think those songs were great; just wait till you hear the new ones!” Music was Jay’s life, and I know he’s been sitting at God’s big coffee table, legs stretched out, fingers flying, knowing that Jesus will understand if he’s late mowing those heavenly lawns. Of this, I’m sure.