I felt like I was playing a part in a movie! I started pulling my hair back with rhinestone barrettes, and wearing mascara and bloodred lipstick – very forties. In a way I was mimicking Jimmie Vaughn's girlfriend, who I thought was the bomb. She wore bright red lipstick and mascara, too. I was fourteen years old, on the road and caught up in a fantasy world of being part of the backstage scene. I loved the music, but sometimes the boys who hung out with bands made me uncomfortable. The guys were much older. I was always the youngest one in the room, and it would be many years before I felt comfortable around guys. However, I did learn early how to fit in in a man's world. I had to come up with a lot of clever anecdotes and comebacks. I learned about jockeying for position and holding my own. I found a way to survive. The blessing was that this experience on the road prepared me for what was to come. The burden was that I should have been at home going to school, hanging out with high school friends and cruising the town square on Friday nights.
That I should have been in school, studying, having a normal life – that's all hindsight. Back then, the fact that I was missing school didn't concern me. I was living in my own fantasy world. I put feelings of school and home behind me. There was no turning back. I was ready to go out on tour!
Mom had wanted "something more" since she was a child, and was so caught up in her fantasies that she really had little choice. She had to follow her dreams. She was starting to write songs, and to sing harmonies. Still, I can imagine leaving Ashley behind to pursue music then, and later when we had a record deal, was something that continued to haunt her. Mom has said that the fact that Ashley was with Nana was comforting, and very helpful in easing the pain of the separation. But Ashley had to have felt on some deep level that she was abandoned.
Mom and I were starting to make music together, and I think Ashley sometimes felt that she was in the way. I have such clear memories of Ashley coming into Mom's room to say something when we were practicing our music, and Mom holding up her hand to stop her from interrupting.
"What do you want?"
Ashley would silently turn and leave the room. She definitely was not getting what she needed. I've often said that parents too often want their children to fit into their agendas. It doesn't mean that they don't love their children or make them terrible parents, but it can't do a child a lot of good to know that she has to be the one who fits in. Ashley fit in by turning inside, by being quiet and self-sufficient. She created her own reality to survive, discovering that she could travel anywhere in the universe when she read books. Her imagination and ability to survive on her own has made her the champion that she is today.
I know I took up a lot of the energy in our family dynamic. When we really got serious about music, I was a young teen, desperate for Mom's approval. I had music fever. For so many years, Ashley was there for us, and I still grieve because I was so caught up in my own success. I was trying to live up to expectations, to keep it together, and didn't take the time to nurture my relationship with my only sister. If I attend an awards show or something that is Ashley's event, I try to walk behind her so I don't crowd her light. I feel it's necessary to celebrate her – it's Ashley's turn.