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The Song That Changed Your Life

Cashing In by Richard Borek

This story is on the shortlist for The Song That Changed Your Life challenge. 

Video source: Youtube.

When I was in my twenties, I leafed through a family album, one of the few things which wasn’t destroyed by the fire of our first house. “House” is a stretch; what the picture showed was more a squat shack. What shocked me most was that I had grown up on our farm in poverty, and was never aware of deprivation, in a fog of gleeful memory.

Then I recalled all the additions my father made, luxuries: from electricity to added bedrooms to even an indoor bathroom. And the items of extravagance my father bought with that slow prosperity: when I turned six, a radio (we would not have a television for some few years yet)!

So I recall laying one day in my parents’ room (I was ill and home from school), and my mother permitted me to listen to the radio . . . on my own! I could roll the dial from end-to-end, selecting the music which I preferred while she bustled in the kitchen (don’t all memories of mothers see them in the kitchen?). 

Now, I had not been exposed to music much, just a few folk songs my Polish parents sang to us, trying to instill us a pride of heritage. So the sounds which came out of the box were strange noises, some wondrous, some discordant to my naive ear. Mostly, I liked the catchy tunes, simple and unsophisticated and perhaps somewhat melodramatic. ‘Top ten’, the ‘charts’, ‘rock and roll’ were still as distant to me as a landing on the moon, almost ten years in the future.

Then I heard my first recognizable song, and in a distinct voice, a dark-toned intimation of some depths of human pain which, though I didn’t understand, I could feel, at a level submerged and inexpressible. Okay, Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ spoke of some sorrow beyond my years, but to this kid it spoke of something beyond the words: it suggested discovery of a world past the farm fields, outside our village, of cities and people and life yet to be found, a potential of living which, though I had no inkling of what, was out there, somewhere, if just I waited and wandered beyond the security of childhood. I was not afraid of ‘growing up’ anymore, though I did not know what that meant.

And though it might be pain, it would be life.

Richard Borek lives in Omemee, ON.


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