I am fortunate to have a handful of vivid memories from my earliest years on this earth. Not surprising to those who know me, they largely center around music. Most notable are these two images: sitting on the floor in my room, using an old-school record player - the kind that only played 45's - to plow through my mother's extensive collection from the 1950's, sampling each one and rapidly compiling my handful of favorites; and, my brother and me piling into the car to go visit my grandparents or my cousins and squabbling about which 8-track would be the backdrop of our ride, prompting our parents to devise the every-other protocol (he chooses, then I choose, etc.).
My parents' collection wasn't entirely my cup of tea, but there were some gems in the bunch, including an incredible 1950's compilation, Elvis' Aloha From Hawaii, Mama Cass Elliott's Mamas Big Ones, a smattering of Neil Diamond and, my favorite, the Carpenters. There were two to choose from - A Song for You and Carpenters. I loved them equally, which led to one of my favorite Christmas moments - unwrapping my first-ever of countless records (yes, as in vinyl). It was Carpenters Now & Then. I was no more than five years old.
My new protocol was to pester my mother. Daily. Repeatedly. "Can we listen to the Carpenters?" Her reply would simply be to walk over to the stereo - one of those old-school, furniture-looking monstrosities that required you to submerge your body half way in to get the record on the turntable - and put it on. The same record. Every. Single. Day.
Enter my birthday, two months later. My Uncle Larry was kind enough to bestow upon me Carpenters The Singles. Victory. TWO records in my collection, both Carpenters. Everyone was getting the memo..... Dena loves vinyl AND the Carpenters. The coolest part about being a Carpenters fan? Karen was a drummer. Wow. My mind was officially blown.
My vinyl collection continued to grow as I cultivated an insatiable thirst for music. But the shining moment came when I was just seven years old. Mom came through with a what seemed like a miracle - tickets to see the Carpenters live. I can picture it like it was yesterday: I was playing baseball on my neighbor, Tommy's, lawn. Mom, two houses away, stood on our porch holding the tickets in the air yelling, "I got them!" I knew exactly what that meant. I floated home for dinner a short while later and began my countdown to the show.
When it was "the day", Dad came home with flowers for me to give Karen. I was excited. Super, crazy, pinch-me excited. When we arrived at New York's (now-defunct) West Chester Premier Theater, we entered the lobby and walked straight into a merchandise counter. I picked out a poster as my prize. We sat in our seats while my Dad wandered off to talk to a security man. He came back with the incomprehensible news that we may actually get backstage to meet them. THE them. Carpenters. Karen. My idol. What???