Justin Skolnick lives and works in Portland.

Listening to Records With Girls

Posted on in Portland, Oregon

In my memories the mornings were all clear skies the days she came. Once or twice a week her mom had other things to do and dropped her at our house. They were all bright, sunny days.

The house she came to our house from was the most Scandinavian structure on Saint John’s Road, a dark-beamed modern built for high windows, for books, for board games. From her sisters she’d learned to carry herself with nobility, and for her part she contributed a slow sobriety to their lilt.

Among ourselves we called her Beet, as Beet was the best Elizabeth my sister could manage. We preferred my sister’s malapropisms to pure facts.

As the daughter of a mainline Protestant pastor fostering a congregation’s growth along the extreme edge of the suburbs, Beet came to life at the center of a culture soon to fall out of fashion. The lines of thought that funded that already passing era would soon collide with distinct but not unrelated strands of thought, already spiralling toward the vernacular. But Beet was four years old, and I was four years old, and she was as innocent of having that culture as I was of wanting it. From knowing her, I did begin to want it.

I remember the morning she pulled a black 45 from its sleeve and set it spinning on my Fisher Price turntable, settling beside me on my bed.

I remember my aversion to the song. “Bet your bottom dollar” sounded like a phony thing to say. The girl’s tone was brassy and brash, far from the moon shadows and you are what you ares that filled my lullabies.

But the record was Beet’s favorite.

So she brought it back a second day.

And then, and up until her father took another call in another town, and though I hardly knew what I was feeling, the feelings now shaping the memories, it grew to be a fine thing, a thing I longed for.