When I was a kid, a young kid, I had a pretty great family life. My dad worked his ass off running his company and doing odd jobs whenever he could find them in the 80's. I never went without even though my mom was a stay-at-home and we where in a recession. When he wasn't working dad was taking me on bike rides on the river trail, taking me fishing, taking all of us camping and building me and my sister doll house furniture. My mom and I had a great relationship and spent a lot of time together. We would go out on lunch dates, she took me to musicals at Music Circus, endless trips to McKinley park, dance lessons, swim lessons, ice cream at Gunther's, she was my campfire leader and she was always the mom with the most classroom hours at the end of the school year. I had a very close relationship my aunt even though she always lived out of state and I had the love and support from my grandparents and other extended family members. I had an amazing childhood but somewhere along the way it slowly started to fall apart.
When I was ten my parents split up and life was never the same again. My mother had made some new friends in our neighborhood and soon became a party mom. Her drug use which had been minimal in the past became a recreational activity and eventually became the focus of her life. That left my sister and me to fend for ourselves. I'm older by five years so I stepped up and made sure we had dinner every night, got our homework done and tucked my sister into bed while mom was "at the store" for hours. Once my sister was in bed I would wait up and make sure mom got home okay. As soon as I saw her pull up to our house I would quietly go to bed.
Middle school is a time for kids to explore different sides of their personality and for exploring who they want to be. I was struggling. I didn't think I had a personality and was afraid of the person I might be. After all, if my mother had given up on me I didn't have much chance of being a likable and lovable person. At that time I didn't understand that addiction was an illness and had nothing to do with me. I tried to do really well in school thinking that maybe that would make my mother proud and me worthy of her affection. After middle school I became obsessed with my grades. It was the only part of my life I had control over so I put everything I had into them. My grades continued to get better and I eventually graduated high school with a 4.0.
I didn't talk about my life with anyone. Looking back, I don't remember being embarrassed or fearing judgment from others so I don't think that's why I never talked about what was going on. I think being away from home was a welcome break from the stress and gave me the opportunity to be a kid so I kept my two lives separate. My best friend didn't even know. We have been very close since we were in the fourth grade and had spent lots of time at each other's houses. Back then our household dysfunction wasn't yet obviouse to the casual visitor. In the last few years I have shared more of my story with her and anyone else who asks and she's always surprised by what my reality was.
In 1995 I was in the eighth grade and I spent a lot of time in my room listening to music. My tastes were changing and I was listening to less of the R&B I grew up with, and that my mother still listened to, and more rock. One day I heard a song titled "Name" by the Goo Goo Dolls and it quickly became my favorite. As soon as I got paid (I worked as an assistant at a family child care home) I went out and got their album, "A Boy Named Goo" and listened to it nonstop when I was home. When my mother was out of the house, which was frequently, I would turn up the volume as high as I could stand and listen to it while laying on my floor. The vibrations in my chest was comforting to me and I identified with the songs "Name" and "Naked". They aren't uplifting songs by any means but they made me feel less alone. Like I had some kind of connection. Music is like that.
The next few years (my first two years of high school) got worse but then, life changed again and, things got better. I wasn't as alone as I thought I was. When I was dealing with my demons there where people who loved me and cared about me trying to make things better without making anything worse. This might not make much sense right now but someday I'll write about the next chapter in my life and where these people were when I was fourteen and fifteen and the pieces will start to fit together.
Throughout the changes life thew at me the Goo Goo Dolls became a constant and continued to be a source of comfort and connection. "Name" isn't my favorite anymore, the Goos have released five albums since then, (not counting the greatest hits, teasers and concert disks, and yes, I have them ALL) but when I hear "Name" live I get misty eyed. Not because of the hardships and not-so-good memories but because it reminds me that I'm resilient and comfort can be found even at the worst of times.
And that's how I became obsessed with the Goo Goo Dolls :)