11 o’clock on a Saturday night. The house was quiet except for the possums scratching around inside the roof and the AM faintly rattling out of Mum’s clock radio.
Suddenly I heard the sproing of the mattress as she vaulted out of her bed.
“It’s Your Song!” she gasped. “It has to be! Your Song!”
I could hear the billowing of her flannelette nightie as she swooped down the hallway, huffing with determination.
The doors drew breath and the Royal Albert shuddered in the china cabinet. She fumbled for the phone and dialed furiously in the dark. 6-2-0-0-9-9
Back before we got 8-digit phone numbers, and before we got a touch-tone phone, my mother was obsessed with winning radio competitions. The first caller through gets a copy of Rod Stewart’s newie and ice-cold six-pack of Coca Cola! kind of competitions. It didn’t matter what the prize was, she just had to have it.
When our local station had their Non-Stop All Music Weekends she’d be glued to the radio, in the house, in the car, everywhere. If she went outside to hang the washing on the line she’d crank up the volume so she could hear the DJ over tractors and baaa-ing sheep, then whoosh back in with a trail of clothespegs behind her when The Call came.
She relied on me for my trivial mind. I was woken many a time by her switching on lights, shaking my bedclothes, swatting me with teddy bears, squawking desperately, “Shauna! Quick! Tell me! Who was the bass player in the Little River Band? Who married whom in ABBA? What’s the name of the duet Paul McCartney did with thingo?”
“Hurrrrry! I have to be the seventh caller through!”
The actual task of dialing was quite arduous as we had one of the phones where you actually had to dial – stick your finger in the hole of the corresponding number and spin the wheel thing, none of that modern keypad claptrap. When you were bursting at the seams to win The Very Best of Hall and Oates, the distance from zero to nine seemed an eternity.
But not many people were listening on that particular Saturday night and yes indeed Your Song was the correct answer and she won the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin LP. She also scored an ice-cold six pack of Coca Cola that joined the few dozen other ice-cold six-packs of Coca Cola gathering dust in our garage because Coke rots your teeth and we weren’t allowed to drink it.
Soon she was so good at the dialing that she’d have already won an album by the Friday night of the Non-Stop All Music Weekend.
But this didn’t quench my mother’s thirst for cassettes and vinyl. She got my sister and me to call because thanks to the joys of remarriage, we had different surnames so we could win again. If we refused to call, she’d dial herself and put on a funny voice and pretend to be my grandmother, her secretary, her dentist, her brother. A week or so later they’d be rewarded with a brown paper-wrapped Foreigner or Let’s Go ’88! in their mailbox. Even our dog Susie managed to score a Billy Joel record. Mum didn’t let her have the Coke either.