It was like it was all fated, somehow.

In the April of The Year of Beatlemania, three things aligned in my life:

1. I became able to read well. I cannot remember how. It just was.
2. I was given a small transistor radio for my birthday.
3. I “acquired” my first record, “She Loves You” by the Beatles.

I don’t know how quite to state the importance of these things. I don’t know if I was changed, or just set free.

My parents went on a two-week trip to England that April, leaving me and my older brother in the care of my grandmother. It is a legendary family story that as my parents were leaving for the airport, I became so agitated at their departure that I massively vomited all over my mother as she held me in the doorway. My attempt at literally befouling the trip was only temporarily successful. My mother handed me off, hysterical and clingy, to my grandmother, who ran a bath for me with water that was uncomfortably hot, as I recall. My mother changed her clothes, and then she and my dad slipped out the door to General Billy Mitchell Field to take the flights from Milwaukee to New York to London to Manchester. I put on footie pajamas and cried myself to sleep for about a week.

But at least I had my new toy, the radio. It didn’t take me too long to figure it out, how to turn it on and off, the importance of not leaving it on because the 9-volt battery would go dead, and how to use the little red dial to change the stations. I liked the public radio station because in the morning sometimes someone would read children’s chapter books over the air, and of course I loved the pop stations. At this point, the Beatles had the Top Five songs in the charts. Think about that! Everyone was going Beatle crazy, and you would hear a Beatles song every five or ten minutes or so. There were Beatle stories everyday in the paper, in all the magazines, they were all over the TV, Beatles Beatles Beatles Beatles.

When my parents returned, they brought some things back for us, like Pastilles and funny cookies and chocolate, elaborate pop-up books with wonderful illustrations, a doll for me, and a record for my brother. Yes, the record was “She Loves You” backed with “I’ll Get You” on the black Parlophone label with silver writing. This was a curious thing, as my brother had no interest in music whatsoever. I think that my dad, the musician, was trying to make some kind of a musical connection with him, but it was just not there.

I could not believe that my brother got the record and not me. I WANT! So, after a bit, one day I just TOOK IT and it became mine. I stared at it like it was magic. A real Beatles record! Oh, the abuse that poor thing took. I punched out the center hole so I could play it on the Close n’ Play, I left it in the sun and it warped, and one day walked on it and it cracked. Babies should not have records. But before it became unplayable, I played it and played it and played it and played it until someone would beg me to stop. Flip flip flip flip, listening to each song. I loved it. It was so full of energy and fun and joy, and it made me feel like little sparks were going off in my heart. Whatever that magic was they had, hit me full on. They were like Konrad Lorenz, and I was a little pixie-cut-haired duckling, following with love and utter devotion.

Of course, I still have the record. How could I ever get rid of that.

The Beatles -- "She Loves You"