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When I was a kid, I was fortunate enough to have a teenaged aunt and uncle. Many afternoons, they hosted after-school record parties in the basement rec room, playing all the latest 45s. Amid all the joking and flirting and dancing, I'd lurk in the doorway, benignly ignored and blissfully reveling in the music.
I wasn't always ignored; sometimes I was the floorshow. I had a freakish talent for remembering song lyrics and one of my earliest memories was being lifted onto a table to belt out a few verses of "Flying Purple People Eater" or "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini".
Growing up in a small town gave us kids a front row seat to the social dramas of teenagers, in all their sophisticated and worldly glory. Biking to the perimeter of street dances or hanging over the stonewall during the neighbors' patio parties, we had limited access to the festivities but full exposure to the soundtrack. The Beach Boys' oeuvre appeared and reappeared when the temperature climbed, as did the mawkishly fatalistic separation songs like "See You In September" or "Sealed With A Kiss".
The radio was full of wonders. Riding in the backseat with my father behind the wheel, I was gobsmacked to hear "Johnny Angel" being dedicated to 'State Trooper John Angel'. I couldn't decide which was cooler, being named Johnny Angel or having a song with your name as the title. Hearing "Sealed With A Kiss" for the first time at summer camp I mused with seven-year-old gravitas that although I was too young for a boyfriend, if I was old enough to go steady, that's exactly how I'd feel.
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