After viewing Part 1 of the HBO film documentary about George Harrison recently, my eyes began to fill with tears. It took me back to a different place in time. I remember... It was 1964.
I was a second-grade, Catholic school girl. It is still vivid, in black and white. Sunday night, sitting on the plastic-covered sofa in our tiny front room with the television on as Ed Sullivan announced "The Beatles!" I was no longer sitting, I was on my knees, inches from the TV console, trying to get closer. (I was a four-eyed child since kindergarten.)
The very next day my brother and I gathered our allowances and ran off to buy our first Beatles record. I often frequented the small record shop on Archer Avenue to view any new fan magazines. My older siblings were also Beatles fans and we shared our growing collections of Beatles memorabilia.
That Christmas, I asked for my very transistor radio with earphones. I got it! Now I could tune in to WLS AM at 10 p.m. when they played the Top 3 Tunes. The Beatles were sure to make the list. It didn't matter how many times they played a Beatles song, I couldn't wait to hear them again. With every Beatles song, every word became memorized — and still is.
With the release of the film A Hard Days Night, our Beatles were now movie stars and could be viewed larger than life. When the movie finally arrived at our neighborhood show, the Brighton Theatre, I was there. The Sunday matinee started at 1 p.m. and there I sat for every showing, until my mother came to take me home.
The following school year I organized a Beatles Fan Club, which met Saturday mornings in my basement. We discussed our Beatle fantasies — who loved John, Paul, George or Ringo. Of course we listened to Beatles records and practiced new dances.
For Halloween, I asked to have a costume party. My family was in agreement and we decorated the basement for the event, '60s style. My friends from our block and I would dress up as the Beatles. Being the youngest of the group, I was to play George. We created our own costumes, making our 'Mop Tops' from nylons and black construction paper cut into hair-like strips. Donning our wigs and cardboard guitars, we performed at the party, lip-syncing new Beatles songs. Our basement 'cavern' was filled with everyone we invited.
From that time on, I formed a kinship with George, who became my favorite Beatle. By the end of my grammar school years, the Beatles were breaking up. I remember it was difficult to conceive the world without the existence of the Beatles. Because through their many changes, we changed. When their style of music changed, the music world followed. When they changed the way they wore their hair or their clothes, we followed. Their changes made changing acceptable.
Following their break-up, I was entering my high school years. Following George's journey into musical and spiritual evolution, I began my own journey into self-discovery. The loss of John Lennon was "historic," the loss of George was "a day in my life." While driving my children to school, the announcement of his passing crossed the radio waves. I was silent as tears rolled from my face; my children understood the silence. Gently weeping I remember, growing up with the Beatles was the best time to grow up.