My grandmother babysat me often and I liked being with her, listening to the same stories like showing up for her first job and the man in charge telling her she need not wear her hair in pigtails so that she would look more adult like. Now I wonder what that was all about, probably sexism or something suspicious but the way she told me the story it was about her embarrassment not knowing how to play the role of young woman in the adult business world of 1922. She was proud of obtaining and keeping that job. Next we looked at her old black tar paper photo album with silver photo edges that failed to keep the photos in place. Her not so secret excitement was for a particular man in the centre. They had something, the attraction was mutual. He traveled the world sending her pictures of himself on mountain tops in lumber jackets and racoon hats. She swooned. In the early 60s she had a brain tumour and the operation left her with only wisps of hair; she wore a wig. Later she developed diabetes and had to inject insulin daily then she got arthritis and it hurt. She confided a lot in me, “Bobsie, don’t you ever get arthritis.” One time silhouetted by the window as the sun filled her living room she told me she looked forward to dying. I said why? She said because there will be a big reunion of everyone she knew who had died, she couldn’t wait.
In the early days attending the open stages, usually I was the lone pianist among 40 singer songwriters. I started writing songs on guitar and one of the first was about her called In Her Dream. I felt a little embarrassed about how simple, maybe cliché, it was but from the very first time I played it, people were into it. This was different than my other songs. It’s a funny thing in songwriting, maybe painting, filmmaking too, there is a missing ingredient even when you think you finished it – the audience. People liked In Her Dream nobody called it cliché. Ever since then I’ve understood whatever my initial feelings, there is a unique chemical reaction after I present it. It’s like cooking, you think you did it right maybe you even feel proud but you put it on the table and see what happens. Is it ignored or devoured? Incredible how many times I’m completely wrong when I say come and get it.
I named my first record after that song and the lyrics were printed inside. One of my favourite people from those open stages was Kyp Harness and when he saw the lyrics to the song, even though he had already heard it a few times before, he told me that the chorus “In Her Dream There’s a Big Reunion Gone Come” was not what he thought I had been singing. He thought all along it was there’s a big green onion gonna come. It was very weird that we were friends and he never took me aside and asked what the fuck was wrong with me? Why are saying there’s a big green onion gonna come? One day I asked him and he replied “but I thought that was cool”.
My mother was the main caregiver for her mother and I grew up watching her help her mother navigate the post grandfather world after Herb died. There was a photo my mother had of her own grandmother embracing her then daughter and my mother painted a version of it two or three times. It occurred to me part of what drew her to spending months on that painting was the fact that she was now the older person helping her own mother who was the child both times. I used it as the album cover, named the record after the song.