Monday, 7 April 2014

On a Plain (Plane)

I was sitting on the arm chair in the corner of my parents house watching the endless coverage of Kurt Cobain's death.  I was in the middle of  watching MTV's Nirvana Unplugged when my mom joined me as she folded laundry.

"This reminds me of when I was your age." she said as she paired socks.

I gave her that apathetic eye role that only a 15 year old girl is capable of.  She ignored me and continued on with her story.

"The day the music died?" she said, both a statement and a question to see if I had any clue what she was talking about.

She told me about the girls at her school crying in the hallway because everyone had been so upset over the untimely death of so many young and talented musicians.  She explained to me that she had thought that it was very sad, but didn't quite understand the tears and strong reaction towards someone who her friends had never met.

Earlier that week a friend of mine berated me because of my reaction (or lack thereof) to Kurt Cobain's death.  I think this was the 1990's version of calling me a sell-out.  My friend was angry at me for two reasons: I had refused to wear all black to mourn Kurt's death and because I had declined an invitation to go light candles in the park in a vigil to Kurt.  I opted out of wearing black because I didn't want to.  My friend clearly saw some sort of kinship with Kurt that I just didn't get.  I declined the vigil because I had a babysitting gig, in which I got paid money to sit up late and watch Pearl Jam perform on Saturday Night Live.  I also knew my evening babysitting wouldn't end in someone puking peach schnapps on my shoes.

"I get that Kurt was talented, I get that he is and will be an influence on many people, but he was kind of a jerk and being famous doesn't make you a good person." I said to my mom (and no one else).

She nodded and sat down with me to watch the end of Unplugged and some interviews.  When Nirvana's rewritten version of Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam came on she was mildly amused at Kurt and told me how he had added "doesn't" to the lyrics of a song she used to sing at Sunday school.  She told me how she thought that Courtney seemed "troubled" which was my mom's polite way of saying a hot mess pile of crazy. I tried to explain to my mom why I liked Pearl Jam better than Nirvana and told her about how Kurt had punched Eddie Vedder in the face for no reason and how I thought he had always seemed arrogant in his interviews.  This was probably the longest conversation that didn't erupt in a fight that we'd had in months.

The Saturday night of the vigil I watched Pearl Jam's performance on SNL while the twins slept upstairs (there has to be some sort of irony about the insane number of twins I used to babysit as a teen).  When Eddie opened up his jacket to reveal a tribute to Kurt, my heart melted.  If Eddie could forgive Kurt then so could I.   When I got home from babysitting late that night there was a tape sitting on my bed.  My mom had stayed up and taped the SNL episode for me.

Kurt Cobain's body was found 20 years ago this week, it changed the course of music history.  Kurt's death was also an oddly warm bonding moment between my mother and I amongst a sea of teen angst.  This week as everyone talks about everything April 1994 I think about the death of Kurt from the new perspective of a mother: Addiction and illness doesn't care that you're a parent or a rock star.

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