Posts Tagged ‘music’


Today’s pick-me-up

February 22, 2012

How did I not know about Frank Turner? This one had me at the very beginning. How can I not love a song with this lyric?

Things didn’t kill me but I don’t feel stronger
Life is short but it feels much longer
When you’ve lost the fight yeah you’ve lost that hunger
To pull yourself through the day

Plus, he’s a beautiful British boy with a guitar on a windswept beach. Plus, there is chair throwing. And undertones of The Pogues.

Plus (and this is a willful and skewed interpretation of the text, I know), I am taking the funny awkwardness of his wet trousers at the end as an ironic commentary on the scene in the Pride and Prejudice movie where Colin Firth jumps into the lake. I know I’m in the minority, but I’ve always hated that scene – not like Mr. Darcy at all, people.


Valentine’s Day 2012

February 15, 2012

Dot is playing with my phone. “Music,” she demands. “Music!” I open up a playlist that opens with Kelly Hogan’s version of “Rubber Ducky,” a perennial favorite at our house.

A few minutes later, Joni Mitchell’s voice wafts into the bedroom. I love her voice, the way it lifts and falls, the way it sounds like no one else’s, and I have a love affair with “Case of You,” haunting as a siren song, smoky as a bar room, somehow sacred and secular all at once. I am so glad to be home this evening, to be done with the workday, and I am full of love for my little family today, for N who is healing from his surgery (and who brought me chocolates and wine, as though I were some dewy-eyed thing he still needed to work at courting), for Dot and her funny, generous, ornery, powerful little personality. There are worse things than a day about love and somehow I am giddy with it and this song catches at me and pulls my voice up and out of my body, almost unexpectedly.

“You’re in my blood like ho-oly wiiine…” I warble, beginning to get into the chorus.

“No! Stop!” yells my child, who clearly prefers her music undiluted by parental vocal – I’ll be kind and call them – stylings. “Stop!”

I stop, but it’s difficult. It’s hard not to sing along with Joni, hard not to sing this one, even with my undisciplined and shaky voice, my faltering sense of pitch. My mind follows the lyrics and my voice longs to follow –

I remember that time you told me you said
“Love is touching souls”
Surely you touched mine
‘Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
Oh, you’re in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet
Oh, I could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet

My first exposure to this song was the movie Truly Madly Deeply, which I love, passionately. The fact that I love that movie so much sometimes makes me wonder, in my more fey moods,  if I’ve been preparing for tragedy my entire life, but I suspect what it really means is something more mundane, like I have a weakness for Alan Rickman’s voice, good acting and screen writing, and the cello (all true).

I used to think I’d never be able to watch that film again. Now I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever be able to watch that film again, or, if I can watch it again, what it will feel like. I know it would be, for me, a cry fest, but a good one or a bad one? Where is the line between wallowing and catharsis? Will I be able to get N to watch it with me some day?

And I wonder, often, if I will ever be able to stop longing for my very own version of this:

I don’t know what that would look like with an infant, but I’m guessing the gasping and sobbing would be, roughly, accurate. That clip, just three minutes, has fat salty tears rolling down my cheeks. I watch it and ache with longing and ponder the possibilities of catharsis.

What a tangle.

But Joni Mitchell makes me think of this film, and of all the bitter and sweet loves in my life. I listen, and love and grief and gratitude burble up into my mouth and I am lucky and longing and old and young and jaded and hopeful and foolish and canny all at the same time. And only the powerful fear of my thwarted two-year-old keeps my broken voice from joining the song.

And it is Valentine’s Day, and I wouldn’t trade my bitter and sweet loves for anything.

Even if one is lost to my grasping arms and one won’t let me sing along to my old favorites.



Be kind

April 5, 2011

Today I’ve been brooding, brooding over the unending rain, over missing my Teddy, over the way that cruelty is so stupidly and casually easy to so many people. This last seems especially horrible. We can’t control the weather. We can’t, usually, control life and death, or tsunamis, earthquakes, or the thousand random tragedies that wait for the unsuspecting every day. But we can control our own actions and words. When the world is harsh and uncaring, we can be kind.

I love this song. I love the way it seems to be about the lack of human kindness and the longing for it at the same time. It feels like today. And I’m going to keep it in my head (not hard with a Randy Newman song, after all) and remind myself to be kind. In the face of the rain and the grief and the world-weariness. I will slip up, but I’ll keep at it. Being kind is going to be my great Fuck You to cruelty and ignorance and tragedy.

I am so grateful for all of you who light candles in the dark, who speak caringly in the face of fear and cynicism and anger and ignorance. Thank you for sharing your kindness with me, for reminding me that human kindness isn’t a joke.



Double Agents

August 6, 2010

It’s Dot’s first concert in the park.  Performing is Victor Johnson, very much a local celebrity, and with him is an absolutely brilliant fiddle player who reminds me of how much I wanted to learn to play the fiddle (not the violin, the fiddle) when I was growing up.  The music is lovely – guitar and fiddle and tunes that, even when they are completely new to me are imbued with the sense of the familiar.  There’s a baby mosh pit up in front of the musicians, with children ranging from very tiny to pre-teens, and they’re all spinning and hopping and dancing with the abandon and energy of the very young.

We’ve walked here, pushing our stroller, and Dot is very glad to get out, to be held up to look around the park.  She is so interested in things now, and the noises and bright colors and sounds make her eyes grow wide.  N dances with her, lifting her over his head, moving to the rhythm of the music, and she smiles the beautiful, gummy smile that makes my heart plop right out of my chest and dissolve into adoring goo.  Other parents see us and smile, probably remembering when their own kids were so small.

We are surrounded by parents.  We are part of a large group of parents.  We are part of a large group of people I went out of my way to avoid not too long ago.  And here’s the second strangest thing: we look like we fit in. The strangest thing?  For this moment, surrounded by music and life and good will, we feel like we fit in. We are happy to be here, happy to be a part of this.  The part of my brain that used to look forward to the future suddenly jerks to life and says, next year, she’ll probably want to join the baby mosh pit.

Then he goes into “You are My Sunshine,” and Dot starts to wiggle – she knows this one, you see, from all of the times I’ve sung it to her.  This sweet, sad song is one my grandfather taught all of his children and grandchildren.  After his funeral, we held hands and sang it around his grave.  As the first verse goes into, “Please don’t take my sunshine away,” tears well up in my eyes and even though I should be used to it by now, to the way that a wave of sadness can hit me out of the blue, I’m almost indignant. We’re still dancing; Dot’s still happily kicking and wiggling.  I know what’s coming next and try to brace for it, and then –

The other night, Dear,
As I lay sleeping,
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, Dear,
I was mistaken,
So I hugged my head and I cried.

I look at N, and see the knowledge in his eyes, too.  We look like we belong here, but we’re misfits, marked with grief that can be brought to the surface so easily.  We are achingly aware of our missing almost-two-year-old.  The sunshine and general air of happiness, our joy at being able to do this with our beautiful and vibrantly alive daughter – these are wonderful things, and part of who we are.  But the fact that grief lies just below the surface and can be easily whistled up – that’s part of us, too.

We leave before the concert is completely over.  We’ve enjoyed it, we’ve enjoyed pretending and not-quite-pretending to belong to the throng of families, even though we know we’re double agents and will have to report back to Grief and Wailing headquarters before the summer is over.

I look over my shoulder before we make the turn that will hide the park from view and wonder how many more of us double agents are there.


Birthday present

July 22, 2010

Today is my birthday, my thirty-sixth, which means I am three dozen years old, which feels as though it should be momentous, but mostly, well, isn’t.  Too much else is going on.  When I was young, I would have been horrified at the thought of my birthday not being a big deal, but today I find it soothing.  I’ll finish up at work, N will give me a present and make dinner.  I’ll try to get Dot to sleep so that we can watch Enchanted April and maybe make out a little on the futon.  An embarrassment of riches.

Though perhaps I should mention that I count as good any birthday that doesn’t involve anything as horrible as me staring at a reality tv show in a futile attempt to combat the despair of being on bedrest due to CDH complications.   I still think of that woman I was then and I wish I could fold her in my arms and tell her, You’re right; it’s bad, really bad, and it’ll get better and then much worse.  But even though it’ll be horrible, you’ll somehow get through it.  And you’ll never have to do this again.

Knock on wood, of course.

I used to think that the universe gave me presents.  Sunsets, birdsong, smiles in corridors, signs of hope, rain when I was sad.  Now, I’m suspicious of any such thoughts.  Sometimes I am thoroughly scornful of them.  Yet every once in a while I catch myself wondering.  Maybe the universe, or my fairy godmother, or some benign spirit is capable of gifts, but only small ones.  Maybe the life and death stuff has to be set at random for some reason I don’t/won’t/can’t comprehend.  In any case, I’ve received a small and sparkling birthday present.

I had no idea who Regina Spektor was until yesterday, when N called my attention to a song a friend had put on a mixed CD for us.  The friend is also the chair of his department, and also (and perhaps not irrelevantly) the father of another baby boy who died too soon.  I listened to the song in the car, to it’s playful piano and almost-but-not-quite-cheery tune and I smiled.  And then I focused on the lyrics.  I listened to it again.

And she was singing to me, singing for me as I try to cope with memories and travel planning and missing Teddy like crazy and being relieved that I don’t have to lie on the futon and stew in despair again.  This song felt like it was made precisely for this summer with August staring me down and asking me how much I can take.  How can I not love a song with lyrics like this?

This is how it works
You’re young until you’re not
You love until you don’t
You try until you can’t
You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath

No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again

And I wanted to share it, in case you needed something like this today, too.

On the Radio


Burbling up

November 13, 2009

I was doing dishes yesterday evening and found myself singing again.

It’s kind of a big deal.

Singing used to be part of my daily life; I grew up going to church every Sunday, and singing hymns was my favorite part, perhaps because it was a relief from all of the being quiet and listening.  My Mom and her brother  both have wonderful voices, as did my Mom’s dad.  Grandpa’s voice was a rich, deep tenor, the kind of voice made to sing Christmas carols à la Bing Crosby.  My Dad has a better voice than he’d ever admit to, sings in the church choir with Mom, and tends to hum when working on projects around the house.  I took voice lessons in high school, sang in the choir in college, and even though I let the singing go in graduate school, I still sang around the house, especially when there was water involved.

Water used to make me sing.  I’d sing in the shower, I’d sing doing dishes, I’d sing watering plants and, yes, I’d even sing in the rain.

I sang to Teddy when he was in my belly, singing along to favorite songs I wanted him to know – folk songs, Beatles songs, pop songs.  I sang lullabies.  I’d stand in the shower rubbing my giant belly and hope with all my heart that he’d be okay, that he’d grow up to know about silly songs and sweet songs, that he’d find music that would speak to him even if it was music that he’d play too loud, that would drive me crazy.  I let hot water and music and hope pour over my belly.  It was, perhaps, a kind of prayer.

I sang to him in the NICU, when we knew we’d lose him, sang with a cracked voice one lullaby about how his daddy would buy him a mocking bird.

After that, I didn’t sing.

Not in the shower, not in the car.  Once in a while, last winter, I’d try to sing along to a favorite carol but it was always forced, and I gave up.  I was so grateful to that winter for the deep snows and the quiet, and maybe quiet is what I needed.  Maybe my voice or whatever it is that makes me want to sing in the shower needed to winterize before it could appear again, like the bulbs I planted in my flower bed this fall.

In any case, yesterday I found myself singing while I did the dishes.  My voice is creaky from lack of use, and more pitchy than it used to be.  Some notes are out of reach for now and will be for a while.  But a bit of me that was lost, that bit of me that wants to sing while doing the dishes, is coming back.

Fancy that.



Friday song

October 29, 2009

I’m pulling them out now, the songs I listened to with Teddy.  Sometimes this is very sweet, and sometimes it’s salt in the wound.  But I’d forgotten how much I love Dar Williams and how much I love this song.  On hard days, the first verses resonate most strongly, but I’m starting to think that I might realize the last verse someday, too:

‘Cause when you live in a world
Well it gets in to who you thought you’d be
And now I laugh at how the world changed me
I think life chose me after all