Some time last year--or maybe it was two years ago--my brother Kris sent me one of his signature CD care packages. He is an absolute nut for music of many kinds, and one of the most thoughtful ways he shows his love is to seek out music he thinks you will dig and send it to you. He sends MP3 CDs, so there could be hundreds of songs on a single disk and he might give you up to a dozen disks at a time, and not even for any special occasion.
So one of the times when Kris sent a music gift along these lines, he included a CD by a group called Natural Disaster. In telling me about the music he'd sent, he mentioned that ND, as they are called for short, is the name he and his friend Patrick have for the two-man group they form when jamming in Patrick's apartment. He thought this group of recording was at least mildly entertaining, so he'd included it in the care package.
At the time, for reasons I'll save for another time, the only place I listened to music was in my car. Even at that I hardly ever listened to it because I often opted for NPR instead. It took weeks before I even got around to giving the shortest listen to ND.
I don't know if I just wasn't in the mood for a jam session, or I wasn't taking it very seriously, or it had partially to do with whatever else was going on in my life at the time, but I ejected the CD after a few songs and tucked it away among the other things in my console.
At some point my brother asked me about it. And I told him I didn't really listen to the whole thing. And to my genuine surprise, this genuinely hurt his feelings. Like, we had a major talk about it and everything, and I felt horrible. I guess the way he'd kind of downplayed it when he first mentioned it, I didn't think he was all that invested in it, especially since they'd just been goofy around and making up songs as they went. When I realized that I'd been a rotten sis, I wanted to listen to it in earnest.
Except then I couldn't find it!
We talked about it again at some point, and he sent me another copy of the CD. And then I moved out of my apartment and I lost track of that copy. I felt like such a shitty family member at that point that I didn't even want to ever talk about it again to Kris.
Imagine my joy when, in the midst of the room move still going on this week (well, the rooms are moved, but I'm still finding places for everything), I came across the CD.
Today's New Activity: Sitting in on a Jam Session
This wasn't the first jam session I'd sat in on...I'm not even sure you can call what I did sitting in on a jam session anyway, given that it was recorded. But having these guys' voices keep me company through the mundane tasks I was doing was a real joy, and it did feel like I was right there in the same room with them. Maybe that was because most of the time when you listen to music, you don't hear the band members laughing.
Mostly, they were just goofing around, but a few of the lines made me laugh out loud and they also looped around in my brain for the better part of the afternoon. What I loved about listening to my brother play guitar and sing and make up lyrics like this was that it reminded me so much of the childhood hours and hours we'd spent doing exactly the same thing the year we got a "Star Studio" recording device/radio for Christmas. When I think about it, my Mom must have been thrilled with the success of that gift. We'd start one of our little recording sessions and she wouldn't see us again until some sort of food was found to be necessary in order for us to carry on.
There was one tape we made that we kept and revisited for years after. I even remember bringing it along on a nerd herd, er, church youth group bus ride from Arizona to Colorado when we were in high school. We must have lost it on that trip because I don't remember ever seeing or hearing it again, but it doesn't really matter because Kris and I can still sing every lyric to our two favorite songs from that recording (a modified version of Eye of the Tiger I'd performed--including a Russion-accented speaking interlude (Rocky IV had just come out and we'd seen it in the theater that week), and the #1 hit Oh Man, I Love to Burp, which was all Kris).
Natural Disaster was halfway composed of that brother I'd adored and emulated and laughed with and best-friended my entire childhood and adolescence, but he was all grown up. In the midst of my listening I had to text him one of the lyrics I knew he'd recognize, just to let him know I was listening to it and thinking about him.
One of the saddest outcomes of the way I'd chosen to live these past six years is that my relationship with my brother became pretty strained. Though Kris had been one of my closest friends my whole life, I found it increasingly difficult to relate to and talk to him. There was part of me that wanted to believe it was just a normal part of growing up--growing apart--but part of me always knew there'd been a change in me that I didn't know how to recover from. Most of the time I wouldn't answer the phone or call him unless I was alone, but even during those times I found myself searching to find that connection we'd once held so easily, and I just couldn't seem to.
We have come a long way in rebuilding our relationship in the past 10 months. My brother was one of the people who shook me the hardest (figuratively) when he heard the confused things coming out of my mouth during the darkest of those confused moments, and I knew at the time he was right. I knew that only somebody who loved and cared for me as much as he did could have been so honest. And I will be forever grateful that he was up here visiting last July, when some pretty awful stuff was going on with me.
These days, when I talk to Kris on the phone, it feels free and easy, like it used to. I laugh with him again. I laugh at myself again (which is always a good trait to have when you're talking to my brother--he's the funniest person I know, and some of his jokes are always sure to come at my expense. It's a true, brotherly, way of showing love).
I don't think Natural Disaster will be taking their act on the road any time soon, but now that I've heard it I will cherish this recording and the fact that--though it happened through less-than-ideal and even hurtful circumstances--I didn't get the chance to hear it until I was ready to appreciate it, for all the wonderful things that Kris is to me. I'm grateful for the chance to be reminded of those today.