I used to play drums for hours when I was a a kid. Back then the radio played everything from The Ohio Players to Queen on one station. The rotation came around about every two hours and I could get through most of it before my Mom would come in, flip the light switch and let me know she'd had enough. It was a great way to get a musical education, but mostly I learned how to fix drums that were designed for kids that gave up two months after Christmas. My kit was held together with paper clips, and twisted coat hangers. It was a demented mixture of colors and companies, none of them good. I knew I wasn't going to get anything new, and if I wanted to play I was going to have to McGyver my way through.
My mother used to save quarters. I don't know where they came from but she saved a lot of them. She used them for clothes, rainy days, and once a trip to San Fransisco. She also loved the horses and quarters went to the track as well. For years I thought that's why they were called "quarter horses". She was a child of the depression and had learned to make do. She was a thrift store professional and had radar for bargains. She would take things to the counter and point out bad hems, stains and other irregularities, and then she would look at the clerk doe eyed and say what a shame it was that it was ruined. The price would magically drop and she would never let on to me or anyone that a supreme lesson in bargaining had been executed by a master.
I remember going to her in a fit of frustration, having finally had been defeated, by the pile of debris I hit with sticks. The bass drum head had broken and the rip had defied all my best efforts as well as four bucks worth of duct tape. She took me to the music store and I went to work on her to get as much as I could. I brought a pair of sticks, a snare head and the new head for the bass drum, sheepishly up to the counter. The damage was forty eight bucks plus tax. Out came the quarters, some dollars and the check book. I could see by the look on her face it was a lot more than she expected. She tried to bargain with the sales guy but, she was not in her element. Music store guys have heard all, and they have sympathy for no one. She mumbled something religious, forked over the money, and I got the heads I needed. The result was pure bliss. I was able to over look the tin cymbals, broken pedals, and the floor tom, that was really a bass drum resting on a trash can. It was thirty two years ago, but I assure you I can remember everything about that day, her face, the salesman and the glorious sound of those new heads.
It's been a very long time since I had to scrape for anything. If I need something, I just go get it. To this day though, I get a very funny feeling in my stomach when I buy heads. Some part of that day, my Mother, and where I came from, walk with me still.
I was alone, in my kitchen gripped by sadness for no good reason, when I realized it was her birthday. I shook my head and laughed as I put it all together. It has been six years since we lost her. I was on stage watching socialburn play to a sold out house at Floyd's. My phone rang and I just knew she had gone. She had been so proud of all the success we were having and used to call me to let me know our position on the Palm Beach radio chart. She used to stop people we didn't know and tell them I was her seventh son. It drove me nuts. Until the day she died, she called me her: "little kid". She was a pistol, in every sense of the word.
I make a habit of complaining about my insane family, but we made do. We learned from a master.