I remember, with absolute clarity, the first time I heard December, by George Winston. It was a cold, dark winter night. Royce and I had been out on a date that ended with us lounging around his downtown Belton abode. An old building across from the old train depot, which has been a dozen different businesses since then. But at the time it was an old building that Grady Bailey rented to Royce and Shelby for a few hundred bucks a month. They lived here while in their last years of college at University of Mary Hardin Baylor. There was a big couch in the middle of the room, a stereo system to fill the space, and white christmas lights lined the room to add soft lighting. It was then – and remains now – one of my favorite places that brought me a sense of peace, calm, and safety. I miss that downtown space.
Royce had a robust vinyl collection even then – and one included George Winston’s DECEMBER. He slipped the record on the player and we laid side by side on the couch (it was a strange large square couch – or something like that – it was college furnishings so who knows where it came from!) staring at the ceiling, listening to the piano, feeling the emotions of it all.
And I knew I was in love with this man. This quiet, sensitive, man who was also focused, driven, compassionate, supportive, tender, and kind. Royce was literally everything I had ever thought a man should be – for me. The way he managed his own life made me think I could trust him with mine – with ours- and with whatever the future brought.
That was the fall of 1993, and it would be only a few years later that the future would really start to take shape – and by the future I mean one in where I have to leave him, and bring our children back to Belton, and struggle to start over. To find my footing. To hammer out a future of myself. And leave this man whom I loved but who didn’t love me, so that I could simply breathe again.
And I miss him everyday still. Not the man whom I walked away from. The man who broke my heart and nearly destroyed my spirit, my children, my future. But the man who took my hand, and walked me into that place in downtown Belton, and slipped on George Winston, and talked to me about how music moved him, and what the songs made him think of, and how much he enjoyed sharing the record with me, and of the intimacy abandoned years later in our marriage when life demanded choices be made – and the wrong ones were.
It’s been five years since I left San Antonio – and my husband – for good. I’m 40 now, and Royce has been a part of my life since I was 17 yrs old. More than half of my life. Although he’s no longer a part of my day to day life, he’s still involved in my life to a degree as we still have children to raise. And we’ll have weddings to attend together. And grandchildren to welcome into this world …together. My Aunt Glinda told me something, a few months ago when I was struggling with an aspect of divorce, “Divorce never ends.” That’s all she said. It’s all I needed to hear to put things back in perspective and move past an emotional hurdle. Divorce really only changes the dynamics of a family unit. It doesn’t change the reality that there is a family unit.
I still love to listen to George Winston – and all of his albums hold a special place in my heart – but December brings up these emotions that I think are tucked away and resolved, every time I play the album. And I wonder…when will all the hurts heal? When will I be able to listen to this album and not immediately be pulled back to what I remember as one of the most beautiful times of my life. Or …rather…when will I be able to listen to this album and remember the beautiful times without thinking of all the “but, then…” realities? Will there ever be such a time?
I still have that vinyl. One day I will have a stereo system with a record player, and big speakers, and will lay around on my couch, and let the music fill the space.