My aunt Carol passed away earlier this week. In memory, I'd like to share a story about her.
When I was 12 or 13 years old, Aunt Carol got an MTV jacket.
This was in the 80s. MTV was, for someone my age at that time, the coolest thing on television. They actually played videos. The videos were amazing and creative, usually short stories acted out by famous musicians while they sang, as if it were a single scene from a pop musical. Cyndi Lauper, Boy George, Madonna - these were all new musicians. I watched MTV as much as I could. It was the best thing on TV.
So knowing someone with an MTV jacket while living this far south of New York City seemed like the coolest thing ever. You couldn't just buy them. In fact, she didn't. She knew a guy, he gave her the jacket.
Note: one thing about Aunt Carol is she knew lots of people. She knew a tour manager that handled major rock musicians. She knew Steve Wozniak back when he was working on creating his first personal computer (she had the prescience to tell him that no one would want a computer in their home). She once had a pub in England that Mick Fleetwood frequented - although she didn't know him, exactly. In typical fashion for Carol, she didn't recognize him. He was an odd stranger who would occasionally show up in her little country pub, and it wasn't until a friend of hers in the music business came in and said hi to Mick on his way up to the bar - which led her to ask him who the odd stranger was since everyone knew he wasn't from their town - that she learned that her mystery patron was a celebrity.
So she had this MTV jacket that some impossible and fabulous person gave her, and when I laid eyes on it I couldn't imagine a greater symbol of cool. I'd only seen VJs on MTV wear those jackets. I told her that I wanted one. She apologized and said that it had been given to her, so she had no way of getting another one. The explanation went over my head. If it were something that she'd bought for a ridiculous sum of money, I would have understood. If people were just giving them away, then how hard could it be to get another one?
For Christmas that year, she gave me a box set of books, which contained The Hobbit and the full Lord of the Rings trilogy. I remember she included a card with the gift, which I no longer have, but I recall that it said that this was a better gift than an MTV jacket.
I'd like to tie this up neatly and say that Carol is the reason that I read lots of books - but that's not true. I'd like to say she's the reason why I often give books as gifts - but that's not true either. I do that because I like to read and I like to pass on books that I enjoy to others, which I'm certain is what she was doing when she gave me the Tolkien box set. Mainly, I want to say she was right; the books were a better gift. I'm glad I still have them on my bookshelf now, instead of the memory of an MTV jacket that I would have discarded years ago.