Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Was Retro When Retro Wasn't Cool

I am convinced that I had a previous life, in the 1940's. It would explain why I am so old school. Why I have a fondness for "mid-century" design and for vintage cars, and out-dated control panels with chunky dials. And why the hell I was listening to Glenn Miller records at the age of 13!

 In this previous life, I was a volunteer rolling bandages for the USO during World War II. I was only 16, but I did my part for the cause and worked tirelessly.

My name was Garbo. My parents had named me after the actress Greta Garbo, hoping that I would take after her class and beauty. They didn't give me her first name, because they were afraid people would tease me, giving me the nickname, "Regretta."  They hadn't anticipated how my classmates would mangle the name Garbo just as readily, calling me "Garbanzo," "Hobo" and "Garbage."

I was a cheerful little bandage roller, dancing at my station as the radio in the warehouse played the big bands of the day. I just loved swing music! But my tender life was cut short one tragic afternoon as I rolled bandages, when a big stack of boxes, full of rolled bandages, fell on me and and knocked me dead. Cranial trauma. You wouldn't think bandages could be so heavy.

Anyway, I shot out of my body quicker than you could say "Loose lips sink ships." But at that particular moment, the radio was playing one of my favorite songs, so I hovered over the scene, and while USO staff struggled in vain to revive me, I listened. It was that Perfidia tune that goes, "And now.....I know my love is not for you....and so I take it back with a sigh, perfidious one, goodbye...goodbye...goodbye....goodbye......GOODBYE!!!!".....

 I couldn't stick around very long, because my soul was light and wispy like smoke, and it kept trying to rise. And that's the last thing I remember from that life. I guess about 19 years or so passed, and then I was sent back down in 1963, and given a new body---no small inconvenience for my mother! She had thought our family was already complete.

Though I was only a baby in the mid-sixties, I already had the soul of a young, teenaged girl, whose life had been interrupted. And so I quickly latched onto the pop music surrounding my toddlerhood, embracing the hippie counter-culture, but ever holding an odd, inexplicable wistfulness for 1940's swing. And every so often, it surfaces, just long enough to embarrass my children. The arm goes up and the hand flutters back and forth, to the long-ago rhythm of a big band tune.