This post is in honor of my mother, who would have been 78 years-old today.
Unless your father is David Beckham and your mother is a Spice Girl, most kids don’t grow up thinking their parents are cool. My parents were regular people with regular careers, who wanted my brother and me to have a typical upbringing in a suburb on Long Island, about 20 miles east of New York City. My parents moved there to take advantage of the reputable school system and easy commute to the city.
Although our community had its share of well-to-do folks who wore expensive outfits and drove flashy cars, my family lived on the more low-key side of town. My father was a physician and my mother was a nurse, both of whom had impressive careers, although you’d never know it if you saw our house, which was an underachiever at best. Our house was a modest, split-level with an erratic mix of antiques and mismatched 70’s style décor, including the burnt orange shag rug in the den that our dog regularly relieved himself on.
Some of the other houses on our street were larger and had more curb appeal, but for the most part it was a quiet street with quaint Tudors and colonials.
Except for the house directly across the street from ours.
This particular house was large, but very rundown. It seemed to cater to a revolving door of renters, because no one wanted to take on the task of owning a fixer-upper. We were always curious who would rent the house next. For a few years, a race car driver and his wife lived there, along with their Alaskan Malamute named Zachary, who would pull us down the street with his leash attached to our Big Wheels. After they moved out, a group of five guys became the new tenants. We quickly discovered they were musicians. We weren’t quite sure if they had other jobs, but for several hours each day, we’d hear drumming, singing, and electric guitars. During the summer, my mom always pushed our windows wide open so we had front row “seats” to this mini concert each day, which echoed up and down the street.
The other families within earshot of this house were less than pleased with the noise emanating from it and the other local kids labeled this house as the one with the bearded hippies, but to us they were just our neighbors who played music. Then, without much warning, the five hippies moved out and the house remained deserted for years. The kids on our street began calling it the haunted house, and as it fell into further disrepair, the house became scarier each day.
In 1973, a year or two after the hippies had left, one of the guys from that house showed up at our front door and gave my mother a copy of their first recorded album. He told her that in one of the songs, the lyrics referenced her and my dad with the phrase “doctors and their wives.” He wanted her to have a copy of the album with that song because, as he explained, my mom and dad were the only neighbors who never complained about their practicing at all hours.
My mother was flattered that he came back to gift her with the album, but never realized that the fledgling band across the street had now become the Blue Oyster Cult. Although my parents got a kick out of hearing the band’s rock and roll music each day, their musical knowledge was strictly limited to classical so even as the band member told her they were now known as the Blue Oyster Cult, that name did not register even the slightest recognition with my mother. In fact, it had so little meaning to her that she neglected to tell us about the album when we got home from school that day.
It wasn’t until my mother mentioned the album-gifting story to my brother and me many years later that we clued her in to the legendary rock star status of the Blue Oyster Cult. She laughed at being so uninformed about their fame.
I joked with my mother that she and my father were partially responsible for their success, by allowing – and enjoying — future rock stars to jam. The Blue Oyster Cult may have been the ultimate rock band from the 70s and 80s, but now I know my mom and dad were the ultimate cool parents on the block too.