Back in the Day

“Sugar, oh, honey, honey
You are my candy girl
And you got me wanting you.”
~The Archie’s (Sugar, Sugar)

It’s 1968/69. I’m 8 years old and in the third grade. My daddy left last year. I love music, art and reading. This year I won’t do any math. We get to play records anytime we want in this self directed class. Dizzy by Tommy Roe, Aquarius by 5th Dimension and ABC by The Jackson 5. I’m wearing a red plaid jumper with brown suede saddle shoes.   Listening, dancing and singing in the music corner with 3 other students. Sugar, Sugar is one of my favorite songs and I sing it loud. I buy the album. I want to be Veronica from the Archie’s, she always gets the boy.

Archies Album 2

I feel happy for the first time in a year.

“Will you meet me in the middle; will you meet me in the air?
Will you love me just a little, just enough to show you care?
Well I tried to fake it, I don’t mind sayin’, I just can’t make it
” ~America (Sister Golden Hair)

Mid summer of 1975, I’m barely 14. Relieved, I’m emerging from a very awkward pubertal transition. My family just moved from California to Missouri. A few weeks, my sister and I stay with my grandparents in Kansas. I bleach my hair with Sun-In and pluck my eyebrows – all without permission. With the lingering smell of chlorine from afternoons at the city pool, my sister and I dance to the radio and my small collection of 45’s. We boogie to the beat and the bark of Sheba the German shepherd until my grandparents return from work. My young heart grieves a boy left behind in Long Beach. Wondering if anyone will ever “love” me again?

My spirit aches.

And the man at the back said
Everyone attack and it turned into a ballroom blitz
And the girl in the corner said
Boy, I wanna warn ya, it’ll turn into a ballroom blitz”
~ The Sweet (Ballroom Blitz)

I frantically pull out pink sponge rollers from my Farrah Fawcett style. I’ve slept-in hoping to erase the nightmare of sexual abuse. I rush to get ready for school, radio blaring in the background. Try-on several tops with my bell bottoms before choosing just the right outfit. Turquoise rings on every finger; I throw the extra shirts on my red fuzzy bed spread. One last application of Maybelline black mascara is interrupted as my mother announces that she hears the bus. She is upset that I have not eaten breakfast – unable to stomach the food or her jovial morning conversation. Later I eat an ice cream sandwich for lunch, bought with money saved from my meager allowance. No lunch from home – a story for another time. I finish afternoon classes and head to the gym for a 2 hour Varsity Volleyball practice. Fifteen years old and consumed by these questions: “Am I pretty? Does he like me? Will she be my friend? Would my art teacher believe what he’s been doing to me?” My body is famished when I get home. I’m allowed 5 Saltines before dinner. I’ll sneak more.

Hurting and no one seems to care.

“Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive.”
~Bee Gees (Stayin’ Alive)

I wasn’t allowed to watch Saturday Night Fever as a teen. Yet I loved to dance to the music. When it was safe, I danced alone in my room; a space to not only move my body freely, but to hope big unspoken dreams for my life. I practice, of course in front of the mirror, until sweat beads my rosy face. The summer of 1978 brings yet another move…number twenty-six and my eleventh school. Yes, seventeen and my senior year. Maybe this time it would be different. Someone would see. Someone would ask just one more question. And in some ways things do change. I meet this really cute boy! There he is, sitting right across from me in Sunday school. After church I hop into our Mandarin orange Grand Prix and tell my sister, “I’m going to marry that boy!” She punches me and says, “Robyn, you don’t even know THAT boy! What a spaz.” Although it’s another year before our first date, this coming year brings great resolve in my heart for change. I run away from home in early 1979.

Weary. Longing for more than just stayin’ alive – I want to live!

“I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me.”
~Cheap Trick (I Want You to Want Me)

Wow, does this bring back memories! Okay, I admit, this is not one of the greatest songs from the 70’s, but I heard it on the radio just the other day. Instantly I was transported back to that cute boy’s 1969 Mustang where our lips met for the very first time. I smell the honeysuckled air and the mix of Jovan Musk and Charlie perfume. An exquisite kiss! What a great summer to turn eighteen. He is amazing. The first guy I ever dated that actually talks to me, listens and wants to know about me – not just my curves. Although, he likes those too! We fall in love and eventually, he would be mine and I would be his. So much goodness, I was ready to give him my all!

Mustang Wedding

And to my sister, “I told you so!”

Most of these songs are not even my favorites. Yet, they elicit memories forever burned into my consciousness. I bet you’ve thought of songs while you’ve read my narrative. And for me, in a time of life when my mind works diligently to recall people’s names from yesterday, I’m astounded I remember song lyrics after all these years. Sometimes I don’t even have to hear the song. The mere mention of the title and it begins to play in my head.   I am even more amazed that I vividly remember where I was, what I was doing, who was with me, what my body was feeling and even smells. It seems I’m literally transported back in time.

Music and memories, well, they just seem to harmonize. Of course, some memories I would rather soon forget.   While others…

Well, I’d go back in the day, without any hesitation!

Robyn Whitaker


Robyn Whitaker lives in Texas with her beloved husband of 32 years. She has an adventurous heart that is learning to breathe. Lover of truth, seeker of story, aspiring author and newborn dreamer, this mother of three is in search of redemption and living her Kingdom purpose. Robyn writes here. n