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“Sister, it’s not like we were singing Don Gato or anything…go eat some Hot Tamales.” – My sister, Facebook, May 9, 2011
This means nothing to you yet, but it will in a minute.
When I was a kid, my mother would sing the song Don Gato. If you’re not familiar with this happy little ditty, it’s about a cat who sits on a roof to read a love letter, becomes so overwhelmed with joy that he jumps around and eventually falls off the roof.
Then he breaks all the bones in his body, which are listed painfully. (Even his “little solar plexus.” Crimeny.) Eventually, a doctor comes and tries to save him, but he dies.
The cat dies.
You can understand how this might trouble a small child. Especially one who loves cats and has every intention of and shows a strong aptitude towards growing up to be a crazy cat lady.
My mother would sing this song, and I would cry. I would cry and beg her to stop, but she kept singing.
By the time she’d reached the funeral part, I was hysterical and I may or may not have run and hid in the closet while screaming “NO NO NO NO NO!”
It’s a fun family story. Barrel o’ laughs.
I’d forgotten about it, though, until my sister made the comment above. Say what you want about her tie-dyed shirt, she’s hilarious. (That’s not sarcasm. She really is.)
Fast forward to today, in a store with my mother and Skip, and after I’d fortuitously found a Smart-Car-sized bag of Hot Tamales, the subject of Don Gato came up. The entire story is then told, from my lips, to Skip.
(This might be a great time to interject that I’m probably going to get into HUGE trouble for sharing this entire story on the blog. And this is not a good time to be in trouble with my mother. I’m slated to spend 14 hours in a car with her on Tuesday. So … whatever.)
“Leslie!” My mom interjected, “I think it’s time you let that go!” And then she proceeded to insist that she only continued to sing it outside the closet door because of the ending.
Don Gato comes back to life at the very end.
Whod’ve thunk it?
As a relatively bright 5-year-old who’d already seen her fair share of dead cats, I wouldn’t have bought it even if I’d have been able to hear it through the snotty sobs.
I get the impression my mom thinks I still blame her for something here.
Let me tell you a secret: When I was 7 I would replay Hopelessly Devoted to You over and over again on my Mickey Mouse record player and bawl my eyes out.
When I was 15, I did it with Love Will Lead You Back by Taylor Dayne.
And just last week, I did it with One Day Like This by Elbow.
Songs make me cry. They always have, and they always will. And I kinda like that about me.
I’m telling this story to try to illustrate a point, and it’s a big, important one.
The stories you carry with you from your childhood can either be used to make you stronger or make you a victim.
We all have stories from being kids that we think affect us to this day – but they only do so as much as we let them. At some point, we have to wake up in the morning and realize that this day is what we make of it, regardless of anything that has ever happened in our past.
The longer we blame our parents for our behaviors today, the less we’re able to be the loving, caring, expansive people we have the ability to be.
And in my mind, we can do one of three things with these stories:
- Cherish them and use them to make ourselves stronger and more resilient.
- Let go of them completely with forgiveness and allow ourselves to grow in the now.
- Use them as excuses to remain victims and stuck in stories that were over and done with years ago.
I know my illustrative story is easy, breezy, and not really rife with many emotional (or physical) injuries, but even if we were talking about something more serious here, those three choices would still apply.
Letting go of perceived parental pain is one of the tougher things you have to do in life. But it’s also one of the most important. Only when you’re ready to let go of your stories and use them to either make you stronger or help you grow will you start to realize who you really are.
And the Hot Tamales?
When I was 6, I ordered a box of Hot Tamales from the teenagers running the concession stand at the movie theater.
Only I pronounced them “tamm-a-luhs.”
The girls laughed and pointed. I almost threw up.
And that’s a story I still have to let go of.
Do You Have a Story That Wasn’t Funny Then?
But is now?
I love, love, love funny family stories – especially ones where, now that you’re older, they’re funny. Even if they weren’t funny when they happened.
Tell a story that you learned from, that you laugh at now, or that’s helped you become the person you’re proud of being today.
Anything to take the spotlight off of me now.
My mom is so going to yell.
Update 5/13: So I woke up this morning, called my mom, and she wasn’t mad. Just in case you were wondering. (Lesson learned: Trust that the people in your life are more forgiving than you give them credit for.)
But that’s not all.
I also realize that the real question I wanted to ask here at the end was this: Do you have any songs that absolutely, without fail make you cry?
More cry-worthy songs. That’s what I need.