(34) Playing with the Queen of Hearts

Juice Newton is coming to Southwest Florida.  I’ve heard the ads for her appearance.  I’m not planning on going, but it got me to thinking about Juice and her place in my life.

It was August 1981.  I was in my second year of marriage to Scot.  We decided to go visit a college friend of his — Brian — who was in a Masters program at The Ohio State University. There isn’t a lot I remember about the weekend except for Saturday morning.  And Juice played her part.

Brian was somehow involved in the agriculture program at OSU.  We had to light out very early on Saturday morning, while the sun was coming up and a haze still hung over the dewy grass.  We drove a hilly road.  Brian’s friend and girlfriend were along for the ride — I think the friend was involved in the program as well.  I don’t remember any of the names.  What I remember most succinctly about that morning in Columbus, Ohio was hearing “Queen of Hearts” on the radio, and the girlfriend — someone with dark curly hair — singing every word.  She was a supremely confident person.  I envied her.

Up until then I hadn’t even liked the song.  But somehow that morning, the sun coming up, the delight of the car flying over the hills of mid-Ohio,  I was suddenly hooked.

When we arrived at the farm, it was evident to Brian that one of the cows had given birth the night before.  We were sent on a hunt through the meadow to find the newborn. I didn’t find the calf, but she was found and taken care of.  I remember the cow didn’t seem all that interested.

Later we made pancakes back at Brian’s house, and this was a problem for me because I was well into Richard Simmons’ “Never Say Diet,” and pancakes were off limits. But, of course, I ate them anyway.  Besides the extra calories, we also came home with fleas.  Such is the farm life!

I became a fan of Juice because of that morning.  I had liked “Angel of the Morning,” because I remembered the old Merilee Rush version from the 1960’s.  But it was other songs that really caught my attention.  In early 1982, she came out with an album that had my all-time favorite, “Break It to Me Gently.”  I didn’t even know it was an old Brenda Lee song.

I think it was Juice’s proximity to my life during the time when I can see now my marriage was starting to go downhill and would eventually collapse.  Because of that, I didn’t listen to her for many years.  It wasn’t until last year that I finally downloaded some of her music.  When I hear “The Sweetest Thing I’ve Ever Known is Loving You,” I want to cry.  But I don’t know why.

Juice is coming to Southwest Florida.  I am not planning on going to see her, but I recognize today that she has a place in my heart and my heartbreak. Something was breaking open inside of me when her music came into my life.  It’s only in retrospect that I can fully appreciate that fact.  Thank you, Juice. Thanks for being there when I needed you.

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