When I was 13, my parents went to Japan for the summer, leaving me and my brother with our aunt and uncle, who came to stay with us in our cabin in New Hampshire. My brother and I had jobs at a local summer stock theater. I was assistant to the costume designer and Tom was part of the set design crew. We worked long hours, surrounded by college students and theater veterans.
One evening, I agreed to babysit for the costume designer, who was the single mother of a four year old. They were renting a small house for the summer on the edge of town. Mary was an exotic figure for me, highly creative, opinionated, urban, and worldly. She had not had an easy life, and I became her confidant and comrade as she taught me how to measure inseams, fit suits, and whip together period costumes in a day. It was hard, hot work.
Mary dressed up that evening to go out in a silver, long sleeved dress. Before she left, she set out a record player and two records for me to listen to after her daughter went to sleep. It was 1982. I remember picking up both albums: Peter Gabriel Plays Live, and Kate Bush’s The Dreaming, and turning the covers over and over. Which one to start with? With the volume as low as I could manage so as not to wake up the four year old, I hunched over the speaker, and was overwhelmed by feelings of longing, loneliness, hope and rebellion—the door opened to a sophisticated world that I had so little knowledge or understanding of. Mary stayed out late, and I switched back and forth between records, finding my favorite songs, and playing them over and over.
Later that summer I’d saved up enough money to buy the albums, and convinced someone to take me down to Harvard Square, where I was sure I could find them. I still have them, and they represent for me the lure of the creative spirit, and the beginnings of a lifelong love of music of all kinds, of knowing that music is a gift, and at its best, a call to what makes us human.