February 20, 2011 § 2 Comments
At 17, I spent months preparing to see Tom Jones live in Las Vegas. I pushed myself to the limit just to accomplish my mother’s bribe to get me out of the womb tomb of home. I was nervous about leaving my safety zone. Whenever I wasn’t home, I felt like a modern-day Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, running though an obstacle course of insecurities and just wanting to click my heels to get home.
While I had the support of my family and a lot of prayerful support for all of my free-floating anxieties, as I look back as an adult, I wish someone had been able to talk to me realistically about my fears. Like a typical teenager, I thought I was the only one on the face of the earth who had these weird feelings and thoughts. I didn’t even know there was a name for panic attacks. And there were no Lucinda Basset infomercials at 3 am in the morning to identify symptoms and share successful solutions that gave birth to her Midwestern Center for Stress and Anxiety.
One thing I wasn’t nervous about was the fact that we three sisters and Mom would look good in Vegas. We were all into fashion, and Vegas in the 70s was not the Vegas we know now. It was not the “family place” it has become; it was a place where adults went to gamble, see the shows, and enjoy the hotels. No schlepping around in ratty t-shirts, jeans, and flip-flops. You dressed up when you went to Vegas. You wore your best jeans or “pantsuits” or mini-skirts during the day, bikinis with cute little cover-ups at the pool, and lovely cocktail dresses, gowns, or sophisticated pant outfits for the shows.
And so we loaded our luggage into “ Sea-foam,” Mother’s big ol’ Cadillac with a white-beige leather top and gorgeous aqua bottom that looked like a wave on four wheels, and hit the road. We were all really excited, which helped get us through the flat four-hour ride through the desert from Newport Beach to Las Vegas. Once we got there we decided to eat lunch at The Flamingo Hotel, because – duh! – even Mom had listened to the Live from Las Vegas album a gazillion times and wanted to check it out.
We arrived at the Hotel International and it was huge and gorgeous and modern and Vegas beyond our imaginations.
Our bevy of beauty and the ugly duckling, (I am now able to identify this as a distorted belief, but at the time, it was my tiny world view), explored the hotel and took advantage of the April sun and pool. Later we played the slot machines. My sisters were well over 21, and while I was still a teen, my height and quiet manner feigned maturity, allowing me to appear to be of age. I was able to pull down a few slots myself, and I felt like such a grown up! I think we spent a whole $35 in quarters, and someone won back about $25.
To tell the truth, however, the only thing running through my adolescent head was that Tom Jones is here. He is in this hotel. I am going to see him. I am going to hear him sing. Like a calming mantra slowing my breath, I was breathing in Tom Jones… Breathing out Tom Jones… Breathing in Tom Jones… Breathing out Tom Jones… Calming my nerves and soothing my anxious soul… I was only 17, and waiting to see… the singer who saved me.
August 19, 2010 § Leave a comment
I have loved three men in my life, respectively, my father, singer Tom Jones, and my husband. My father was married to my mother for over 60 years before he passed away days before his 91st birthday. It is well known that Tom Jones married his first love. And I am married to the love of my life.
Tom Jones is what I like to call the object of my transformation, but in object relations theory of psychology, he was technically my object of transition. He came at a time and place in my life when, as a teenager, I was teetering in the abyss of a black hole. While life appeared so simple for so many, it felt so complicated for me.
This is my story of how Tom Jones saved my life and how my path to maturity took a twisted turn into song, sound, celebrity, and sanity. It’s a fun superficial story – a sexy pop star, backstage visits, and Vegas in the 70s baby! It’s also a journey that took me years to fully understand. Would I have gotten to peace, love, and joy without Tom Jones? I don’t know, because he is inextricably linked to my delayed development.
Shortly before my mother passed on, I bought the old TV show, “This is Tom Jones” DVDs, which we watched in her bed together. Time and space and illness disappeared and we were as giddy and giggly and had as much fun as we did when we watched it together four decades ago. My mother was very religious with conservative values, and I decided this was my moment to ask her why she encouraged and allowed me to chase my Tom Jones dreams. She reached out her hand, squeezed mine gently, and looked at me with love in her eyes and said, “Because he was all you had, Judi.”