Main | Wednesday, August 04, 2004


My sister and I were riding in the far back seat of the station wagon, when 'Michelle' by The Beatles came on the radio. We immediately launched into our version, singing the French stanza especially loud.

My bell
Funky monkey
Bo-banana shell
Banana shell

Unable to continue past our made-up lyrics, we collapsed into giggles. My mother whirled around from behind the steering wheel.

'I have TOLD you kids that I will TEACH you the correct words! Now STOP THAT!'

My sister and I looked at each other.


'Do you think that's funny? Do you WANT people to think that you are stupid? When we get home you are both going to sit down with me and write out the correct words in French!'

It was ironic that my mother was such a stickler for something like that. She got the words to songs wrong almost ALL the time. And when she got the words wrong, she got them WRONG, as in, not EVEN close.

Years after the 'Michelle' incident, I was driving us to the grocery store . I only had a restricted license at that time, and Mom had to ride in the front seat next to me. I was concentrating on keeping her huge '62 Impala convertible between the white lines. As usual, Mom was riding with both hands in front of her on the dashboard, always bracing for the gory accident I was surely about to cause. The radio was blaring 'You Sexy Thing' by Hot Chocolate..

Mom got a puzzled look on her face. 'Why WON'T she wear a bra?'


'In this song, he says 'I believe in miracles, wear a bra, you sexy thing.'

'Mom, he's saying 'I believe in miracles, where you FROM, you sexy thing.'

'Oh. Well, it should be 'Where ARE you from,' said my mother, the grammarian.

I looked over at the world's biggest Elvis fan.

'You ain't nothin' but a hound dog?'

She looked pained. 'Point taken.'

A few weeks later, I was watching the Village People perform on American Bandstand. Mom walked in and sat down just as they were finishing.

'Oh, did they do the Coast Guard song?'

'You mean, 'In The Navy'?'

'No, they have a song about the Coast Guard too.'

'No, they don't'. (The gay son KNEW the Village People repertoire.)

'Yes, they DO. I hear it all the time on the radio.'

'Sing it for me.'

Mom thought for a second. ' Join the Coast Guard....of love. Join the Coast Guard....', she trailed off, uncertainly.

'C'mon, Mom. The Coast Guard....of LOVE?'

'Well, it's SOMETHING like that,' she said. She got up and went into the garage.

A few minutes later I heard her singing while she folded laundry.

They won't shoot
They won't shoot
They won't shoot
At a new recruit

It was months before I figured out that her 'Coast Guard' song was actually 'Love Rollercoaster' by the Ohio Players. It was totally a milk-out-of-my-nose moment. To this day, I hear that song with my mom's words.

Join the Coast Guard of love
Oh yeah!
It's join the Coast Guard time
Lovin' you is really wild!

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