It doesn’t matter what kind of funk in which I find myself, I can almost always get out of it if I have access to a Gloria Estefan and The Miami Sound Machine song.
Let me take you back to the summer of 1987, which according to my memory, was one of the happiest times of my life. I was 11-years-old and heading into the 6th grade. It was the era of over-sized sweaters covered in geometric patterns, chunky neon jewelry, swatch watches and hair so high and hair-sprayed it looked like stray tumbleweeds had landed on the heads of every teenage girl out there. I would spend a half-hour at a minimum sitting in front of my full-length mirror with a comb, hair spray and blow-dryer.
Repeat. Over and over and over and over.
I spent countless hours sitting on my pink bedspread listening to the radio and slowly and deliberately leafing through Teen Beat. Whenever one of them arrived in the mail, I was beyond excited to hole myself up in my room and learn about what essentials to pack in my beach bag, how to add natural highlights to my hair with lemon juice, how to mix and match my headbands and bracelets, and what Ralph Macchio looked for in a girl: “cool”, “chill” and “funny”.
Guess I’m out.
Being summertime, it was also the time of countless pool parties, playing tag until dark and covering miles on your bike while wearing a damp bathing suit. I had an aqua-and white pin-striped one with ruffles around the waist that my mom bought at the local JC Penney. I loved it. And during all of these care-free and stress-free memories, Gloria Estefan and The Miami Sound Machine, who released their album “Let It Loose” in May of that year, was my background music.
She was everywhere. She came through the speakers in my mom’s car as she drove me to my friends’ houses. There was a warm summer breeze coming through the car windows as we passed a group of boys on their bikes, crowds of people congregated at the Ice Cream shop, or kids sprinting through sprinklers as Gloria sang Rhythm is Gonna Get You during the whole drive through town. My poor mom was probably headed to the boring bank and the post office , running errands, while I was on my way to Diana’s house to swim.
She sang Can’t Stay Away From You through little transistor radios perched in the shadows of an umbrella-covered table, surrounded by bottles of sunscreen, sunglasses, damp towels, Vogue magazines and earrings that you didn’t want to get lost in the pool.
At home, on a Saturday, as my parents puttered around the house and I wandered around feeling bored, she came through the Boom Box on our back porch. 1-2-3-4 Come On Baby Say You Love Me 5-6-7 Times. It was such a catchy song.
She was the backdrop music to the last summer I’d have where I was still more girl than teenager. Before hormones and boys and plummeting Self-Esteem threw me head-first into the tumultuous waters called Adolescence. The last summer I’d wear my pin-striped bathing suit with the ruffles without feeling self-conscious about my body, or comparing myself to the other, bustier girls. I was more into diving for coins than getting a tan and more into the idea of a boyfriend than an actual one.
I could never have known that 25 years later hearing these songs come through my car radio would evoke such happy and reminiscent feelings. For a few minutes, I forget about the lunches that have to be made, and the dinners that have to be planned and the fact that my car needs to be re-aligned or that I keep forgetting to get in touch with the babysitter about this summer and should I, or should I not, give the boys a flu vaccine this year even though last year I did and they both still got the worst flu I’ve ever seen in my life.
For a few minutes Gloria Estefan takes me back to The Breakfast Club and experimenting with make-up and teasing the hell out of my bangs and carving my and my crush’s initials in the Red Maple on my front lawn even though he had no idea I existed. It seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago, simultaneously.
What’s slightly upsetting about the fact that I love to come across a Gloria song in my car is that she is only played on our local “Oldies” station, which I have now had to program into my radio station rotation. The Oldies? Really?
I’ve officially become my father.
What brings you back? Foods? Songs? Smells? And where does it bring you?