Even though I was a yo-girl in high school with a predilection for gangsta rap, I always had a soft spot underneath my Cross Colors hoodie and marijuana pendant for soft rock. I attribute this mostly to my grandparent’s house; they always had Lite FM on in their kitchen, and some of my best memories are sitting on a stool at their kitchen counter, eating a grilled cheese while Phil Collins and Gino Vanelli filled the room.
In the mid-nineties, before my Pappap died, I started seeing infomercials for a new Time Life music compilation called Body Talk. It was chock full of all my favorite Days Of Our Lives power couple power ballads, like Steve and Kayla’s Kenny G and that Joe Cocker song that always played when Doug and Julie had romantic flashbacks. (I recently had a mild argument with a co-worker about this and of course I was right; bitch, I BETTER be right, I kept a goddamn Days of Our Lives scrapbook in elementary school.) And what CD collection would be complete without Hope and Bo’s sex jam “Tonight I Celebrate My Love.” I begged my Pappap to order it for me, and he did. Because I’m the best.
Every month, I’d get a new double CD in the mail and run up to my room to listen. Richard Marx, Gregory Abbott, DAN FOGELBURG, MOTHERFUCKERS. You want a Crystal Gayle and Eddie Rabbitt duet? Body Talk’s got you covered. It was all there. All my favorite “70-year-old in a 16-year-old’s body” classics. I’d slip in some England Dan and John Ford Coley in between Scarface and Foxxy Brown tracks on my signature mix tapes that none of my friends ever wanted me to play in the car. These tapes could seamlessly soundtrack a drive-by shooting and a quiet evening with knitting needles and a cup of Earl Grey. That’s just how I do.
The fourth collection arrived one day and I can remember listening to it my room and pausing when I got to a song on the second disc that I had never heard before. It was Billy Preston and Syreeta’s “With You I’m Born Again” and it became my new favorite song that I had to listen to over and over and over and over again. And then I made my friends listen to it over and over and over and over again. Of course, none of them liked it. They were teenagers. Teenagers don’t want to listen to some lame love song that their parents probably fucked to in the 80s.
But I just really loved this song. It would make me cry so hard and get all swoony. So it went on one of my mix tapes.
I was at Lisa’s house one day and she had begrudgingly allowed me to put on one of my tapes in her room while she got ready for us to go out. All of my friends back then typically let me have my way because they knew I was still on the same emotional plane as a five-year-old with Downs. I’m sure the tape was bursting with all of Lisa’s faves, like Bone Thugs n Harmony and 2Pac. (Lisa was into alternative back then and hated rap, but tolerated it in my presence. I guess she never learned that good friends don’t let friends listen to rap.)
Somewhere in the midst of all of this, my love jam came on and I got all somber and melancholy. With me in the background plotting my suicide, Lisa had accidentally knocked her calculator off her bed (do kids in school still use calculators?) and it broke. She picked it up tenderly, cradled it in her arms, and began singing along with Billy Preston and Syreeta in hopes of serenading her calculator back to life.
From that day on, it became known as The Calculator Song.
In last night’s episode of “Glee,” the club was doing some duet contest; Rachel and Finn wanted to purposely blow it so Rachel devised a plan where they would sing a really bad song, because that would be the only way they could lose.
They fucking sang the Calculator Song and I almost died. It was after midnight when I was watching it, and I didn’t want to call Lisa that late. So instead, I ran upstairs and woke up Henry, excitedly telling him all about it.
“OK,” he murmured before falling back asleep.
IT WAS A BIG DEAL FOR ME.
I went back downstairs and stewed in my urgent need to share this amazing moment. It was Hell, keeping it to myself.
I haven’t heard that song, ever, outside of that damn Body Talk CD. Up until last night, I couldn’t be convinced that it wasn’t recorded specifically for Time Life.
Finally, I managed to fall asleep around 1:00AM, after some of my buzz wore off.
Once I took Chooch to school this morning, I called Lisa. It was a little after 8:00AM and I figured that was late enough.
I excitedly ran through the story, pausing occasionally to choke on obnoxious giggles.
“And guess what song they sang!” I yelled.
“I don’t know,” Lisa mumbled, clearly not fully awake.
“THE CALCULATOR SONG!” I squealed, laughing all over again.
“Ha,” Lisa said with little conviction. “I’m going back to bed now. I’ll call you later.”
OK FINE. I’ll just be sitting here, listening to my precious slow jam all morning long. Maybe later I might slip some Peabo Bryson into the mix.
My Body Talk collection was never completed. After my Pappap died, a few more still came in the mail, but then my grandma was like, “Yeah, I’m not paying for this shit.”