The screen door slams …
Unlike the opening to Bruce Springsteen’s iconic “Thunder Road,” my dress didn’t wave, and I didn’t dance across the porch like a vision as the radio played.
Like most 16-year-olds, I was in a hurry to leave the house. I slammed the screen door because, as always, I was leaving to go somewhere—anywhere. And that irked my mother, the de facto prison warden for most of my teenage years.
In the recent documentary, Springsteen & I, fans around the world talk about the legendary rocker’s importance in their lives. I saw the film with my mother this past summer. We’re best friends now. Even when we weren’t, we always had Bruce.
You can try to shove good manners and life skills down their throats, but what kids retain most are the things their parents are passionate about. It’s the sort of stuff that shapes relationships.
I was fed Springsteen in the womb, and that didn’t change after I was born. Bruce was always in the tape deck, on the radio. When my father would try to intervene on road trips, I’d yell, “Bruuuuuuce!” from the backseat.
I learned more from the Boss’ lyrics than I did from any textbook—all those rich stories and complex, flawed characters. As a Norristown kid, I could relate to his gritty blue-collar imagery. The words he chose were always right.
As for my mother, in hindsight, she has the demeanor of a Disney princess and the parenting skills of June Cleaver. She still can’t eat past 7 p.m. and is in bed before 11. She’s a creature of habit. Calm, even-keeled, sensible.
Except when it comes to Bruce. She’s slept on sidewalks for days to get tickets to his shows. She’s even tried to bribe ticket agents. Anyone who could make her go so drastically against type had to be special.
In 1999, my mother and a pal headed to New York City in hopes of sneaking in to see Bruce at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. They made nice with the bellman at the Waldorf Astoria, walked right in, and stood next to Harvey Keitel. For three hours on Bruce’s milestone evening, they mingled with rock legends—until they were politely asked to leave.
I wanted in on the adventure. I got my chance in 2004, when we trekked to Asbury Park, N.J., to wait outside a bookstore where Bruce was signing copies of his book, Songs, for a few lucky winners.
My mother makes her own luck. While Bruce was shaking hands with the fans out front, she touched his hand and asked for a kiss. Bruce granted her wish.
She said his lips were supersoft.
King of Prussia’s Katie Bambi Kohler hopes to one day get backstage passes to a Bruce Springsteen concert (and she hasn’t ruled out resorting to “groupie behavior” to do so). Visit her blog at cheesesteakprincess.blogspot.com and follow @chzstkprincess on Twitter.