Frozen Memories

My sister Dani and I are the first and second children out of five. Since we’re essentially just one year apart, we always came as a package deal. We were basically one kid more commonly known as DaniandSuzy.

“DaniandSuzy, come inside!”

“DaniandSuzy, clean your room!”

“Where are DaniandSuzy?”

“DaniandSuzy, take your bath!”

We pretty much did everything together. I’m sure at this point everyone in my family would want the audience to know that I bossed her around and she always happily acquiesced to my myriad demands. Me the bossy britches, Dani the pleaser. I guess some things never change. Whatevs.

As children, we spent almost our holidays at our Nanny Sally’s small, brick house on Henderson Road. It was homey, loud and crowded with a colorful cast of characters who weren’t all blood related.

We loved Nanny’s house. It was lively and so comfortable. I loved the way it smelled of stale cigarette smoke and food cooking. There were collector’s bottles of Wild Turkey whiskey lining the family room shelves, and ribbon candy in a glass dish on top of the console television. We were allowed to drink Diet Pepsis out of the outdoor fridge. We had so much fun there. So many happy memories were made in that house and yard.

We had a lot of cousins to play with on holidays at Nanny’s. Some were older, some younger, but we had hours of fun with them. We also had two older step-cousins named Jimmy and Larry whom we didn’t really know that well and only occasionally made an appearance. Their feathered hairstyles were so rad. In stark contrast to our Catholic school girl naïveté, they were totally edgy and a lot more worldly. Let’s face it, though. It wasn’t that hard to be more worldly than the Clark girls. We couldn’t have been more sheltered if we lived permanently in a farm cellar in a one-horse town in Oklahoma. Bless our hearts.

On one particular holiday at Nanny’s in 1988, things got a little weird for us, the easily shockable cellar children, DaniandSuzy.

When Larry, one of the step-cousins, appeared after a multi-holiday hiatus looking a little like Alice Cooper (that may or may not be a slight exaggeration), we were equal parts fascinated and terrified.

Larry proceeded to tell us he had joined a “death metal” band. This was quite the revelation to us, as “death metal” wasn’t exactly in our wheelhouse crowded with Debbie Gibson, Wilson Phillips and the like. We had no idea what “death metal” actually meant, but the sound of it kind of gave us the urge to clutch a rosary and give ourselves a little holy water spritzer.

I wondered silently how “death metal” might differ from “heavy metal”; how, exactly, the musical metals were differentiated. For the record, I’m still unclear on that in 2019.

Larry treated us to a sampling of his band’s signature song which I immediately classified as “devil music” due to all the anti-Satanic videos Catholic schools were peddling in the 80’s. The song was quite memorable, and, I dare say, a little disturbing.

I would pay big bucks for a still picture of our faces during that performance.

After that all-day holiday affair in 1988 no doubt consisting of eating dry turkey and delicious scalloped potatoes, trying on Nanny’s jewelry, using her adding machine, doing “routines” and watching the dads and uncles play poker with nickels and dimes, we went home with those experiences—and the death metal revelation—filed away in our cache of childhood memories.

We reminisce often about all the good times we had at Nanny’s house. It’s interesting how our perspectives and memories differ. Dani probably doesn’t remember that I wouldn’t eat Nanny’s cheeseburgers because they always seemed to taste like tin foil, or what it sounded like when Nanny’s heels stuck with each step to her wedge “slippers” as she walked. And I’m sure there are things tucked in Dani’s memory that have escaped mine.

But even more interesting is how some of those memories are frozen in our minds in exactly the same way, to be thawed out on a random Tuesday night while I fold laundry.

Which brings me back to Larry, whom I don’t think we’ve seen or heard from since that holiday in 1988, so I’m unsure about how things went for the band (but if I was a betting gal, I would say not great).

Last night, Dani suspected she found Larry on Facebook under a different name. When she texted to ask if I thought she was right, the death metal band memory immediately floated to the surface. I mean, obvi.

I asked Dani to jog my memory for the name of Larry’s band. I immediately received this text back:

FROZEN AMPUTEES.

Bingo. It all came flooding back at once.

I guffawed, furiously typing a reply that surged through my fingers as Dani’s gray text bubbles blinked simultaneously:

I looked in the freezer,

And what did I see?

A frozen amputee staring at me!

LITERALLY, as I hit send, I received this message back:

I looked in the freezer,

And what did I see?

A frozen amputee staring at me!

You guessed it: those were none other than the lyrics to Frozen Amputees’ 1988 (not so) smash hit, coincidentally titled Frozen Amputee.

Y’all probably heard us laughing all the way up and down the Atlantic coast. We cried with laughter. CRIED TEARS.

We both had some explaining to do when we startled our husbands with the sudden howling. How does one even begin to unravel, completely out of context, the story of a step-cousin in a death metal band called Frozen Amputees who sung in the 80’s about hacked up bodies when she can’t even catch her breath to get any words out over all the hysterical laughing? I tried my best. Maybe you just had to be there.

Clearly, cousin Larry, his death metal band and his jolting song lyrics were indelibly imprinted on both of our very impressionable young psyches. We both held that memory tightly in the back of our 40-something year old minds until a random weeknight on which I needed a good laugh. It really hit the spot.

You see, even though now we are grown-up moms with families of our own, living very different lives and separated by several hundred miles, these treasured memories that marked us, and the belly laughter they evoke, are really the fibers that will always hold DaniandSuzy together.

DaniandSuzy circa 1977. She was smiling even though I was probably pinching her thigh.
DaniandSuzy many years prior to being exposed to the death metal genre.
No caption necessary.

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