Sunday, April 24, 2016

"Some day, my Prince will come..."

In 1981, I was sixteen years old and had just received my driver's license. What I didn't receive was my father's respect for earning them. I remember driving over to my dad's house (my parents have been separated/divorced since I was five) to show him what I had accomplished. My dad looked at me and said, "Did you learn on an automatic? Well, you don't really know how to drive then. You shouldn't have your license. You don't really know how to drive until you can drive a stick shift." He meant a manual transmission, one with a clutch and a gear stick. Did his words deflate me a bit? Of course. Did they hurt my feelings? Yes. But then? It pissed me off.

Later on, I told my friend, Tracey, what my dad had said. Tracey and I were a month apart in age and grew up on the same street with only three houses between us. Tracey knew how my parents were, as she'd witnessed all the drama at my house for the first sixteen years of our lives. She was that one friend I never had to explain anything to, including how I felt when it came to my dad.

Tracey offered to teach me how to drive a stick shift. She assured me it would be painless and told me I would not hurt her car (something I was worried about). We headed out to the opposite side of town from where we lived, so no one we knew could witness my struggle. (Annnnd, it might have been a way of flipping the bird at my dad, since Tracey drove us to "his" side of town to practice.) We ended up in the empty back parking lot of SouthPark Mall in Charlotte.

I'll never forget how nervous I was. Tracey thought I was taking it all a bit too seriously. She thought I needed to lighten up a bit and not overthink it. After she explained the basics, and I tried it a bit, my attempts would end in a grind, a jerk, and - most of the time - her little Toyota conking out. I would just cringe at my lack of ability, but Tracey just laughed.

Once I knew what I was supposed to do, Tracey said I just needed to practice...with some music. With mischief in her eyes, she whipped out a cassette tape and stuck it in the car stereo...

I'll never forget that moment. I'll never forget the shock at hearing music I'd never heard before, singing about things I shouldn't like to hear,...and loving it! And I'll never forget how it made me laugh! We were both laughing so hard, as I practiced shifting gears, tears were falling from our eyes.  After all, there's absolutely nothing like learning to drive a stick shift to Prince's "Jack U Off" blaring from the car speakers - nope, nothing like it.

And that was the very first time my Prince came to my rescue. But it certainly wasn't the last...

Thank you, my Prince, for being a crucial part in the soundtrack of my life that taught me many things: how to laugh at myself, how to appreciate life without taking things so seriously, how to love others, how to love myself, to feel sexy. Yes, your music has always made me feel sexy and beautiful - no matter how I look or how old I am. There's not many men on this planet that can do that for a woman. Not only did you do it well, you did it consistently. Your music has always been there for me, and there are no words that could ever truly thank you for sharing your tremendous genius and talents with the rest of us. Rest in peace, love.

While that was not the first time Tracey Rollins ever came to my rescue, it wasn't her last either. And I hope, wherever she is, she is loved and adored and appreciated for the excellent human being she has always been.

Thank you, Tracey, for everything. I love you. 

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