The soundtrack of my life


Two weeks ago, when J was out of town, our neighbors invited the boys and me over for dinner.  This was very kind of them.  We were on our last night without Daddy, and the thought of looking after the boys alone for yet another evening gave me split ends.  When we go to our neighbors’ house, I don’t really have to look after the boys, because they have a little boy who is 6 months younger than Zachary.  We’ll call him James because he goes around telling people he is James Bond.  James tends to entertain my children for me, except when they are all fighting over fire trucks.


After supper, the parents did have other plans.  They were off to a Sex Pistols show.  Anna was worried about what she should wear so she would not look frumpy.  Her husband, Michael, laughed.  “Everyone’s going to look exactly like you.”

I had to agree.  All the Sex Pistols fans got middle-aged at the same time, you know.

The next morning, I asked Michael how it went.  He said it was the best behaved concert he’d ever been to.  People queued at the bar.  Some folks did get a little antsy about the show starting, however, because they all had to get home to babysitters. 

Going to a Sex Pistols concert ain’t what it used to be.

The music doesn’t always get older along with us.  Some of the music of my youth is frozen, crystallized in a moment and twined up with colors and smells and emotions. 

…The playground at M@rks Me@dow Elementary school.  The jungle gym off to the right, the giant expanse of grass, children running about in coats but no snow on the ground.   

Risin’ up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive

…My father and step-mother arguing, Dennis storming out of the house.  Coming back hours later, having been to see a movie.  Kate later driving the children to see Urban Cowboy on the premise that she should get to see the same movie he had been to.

Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places
Lookin’ for love in too many faces. 

…My freshman year crush, striking blue eyes, green sweater, glancing about the hallways, wondering if this is one of the days he’ll be cruel or kind. 

Oh, can’t you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches

…J and I watching Casablanca on our second date. 

It’s still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by

But, some of the music of my youth has grown up with me.  It takes on memories, but it also grows and changes.  As I age, it ages with me, even as it carries with it all the times we’ve been through before.  We got middle-aged together.   Because I am considerably less hip than my neighbors (my kids have no idea who James Bond is), the soundtrack of my youth is Simon and Garfunkel.  It was slightly less uncool when they were so last-generation.  Now they are so two-generations-ago.  Yet, their music and their lyrics are so intense, so powerful that they stretch and grow to absorb and contain ever more meaning. 

…JamieLA driving a car of friends, sometime around midnight.  We’d been to N@hant to drop off some of the kids, and now we were headed towards home.  Accelerating on the stretch of road bridging N@hant and the mainland, four teenagers singing at the top of their lungs. 

Making love in the afternoon
With Cecilia, up in my bedroom
I got up to wash my face
When I came back to bed
Someone’s taken my place. 

My junior year in college, my best friend, Sara, and I took the train to New York from Philadelphia.  We had dinner with my sister, then we went to Madison Square Garden, the smaller hall.  We were the youngest in the venue by 15 years, except for the kids who had been dragged along by their parents.  It didn’t matter. 

The last NJ Transit train left at 10:30, but at 10:10 we both looked at each other and shook our heads.  There was no way we were leaving before the last song, even if it meant we’d have to spend a whole shift’s worth of tips to buy Amtrak tickets home.  How often, after all, do Simon and Garfunkel reunite? 

Time it was
And what a time it was it was,
A time of innocence
A time of confidences. 

Later, we would end up living in separate cities.  I was in Philadelphia, Sara was in Boston.  Well, usually she was in Boston.  Except when she was monitoring elections in Azerbaijan for six weeks.  One day, avoiding dissertation work, I clicked on entertainment news. It was ten years later, and they were reuniting again.  I emailed her in Azerbaijan, but she was too busy protecting the democratic process to really notice. 

It was not to be passed up.  I emailed her husband.  We concocted a plan. 

Fast forward – a month later she returned.  Shot me a mock-frustrated email that she had heard they were doing a tour and she had been counting on me to hold down the fort while she was gone and now the tickets were all gone.  Feigning stupidity, I responded by forwarding the email I had sent her while she was abroad.  Sorry, I told her, I’m going with J’s mother. 

Then, the next day, she called.  She was annoyed with her husband.  They had made a pact not to get each other much for their birthdays because cash was tight, yet he indicated he had a gift for her and couldn’t wait to give it. It was almost too much for me to bear.  I suck at keeping secrets. 

His present to her was the tickets.  Mine was traveling up for the concert. 

Can you imagine us
Years from today,
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange
To be seventy.
Old friends,
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fears.

Last Thursday, making the boys’ breakfast, I turned on my soundtrack.  We had lost the CD, so we hadn’t listened to Simon and Garfunkel in quite some time.  (We’d been relying on Dan Zanes and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert soundtrack.)  So, when I turned to Zachary to sing a few lines I love, he was unfamiliar with the lyrics. 

I’m sitting in the railway station,
Got a ticket for my destination. 

“A train song!” he exclaimed.  Another generation brainwashed. A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door.  I opened it and accepted a parcel.  From Boston.  Birthday presents for both of the boys. And what was playing in the background? 

Sail on silver girl,
Sail on by.
Your time has come to shine.
All your dreams are on their way.
See how they shine.
If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind. 

It may not be “Anarchy in the U.K.,” but it works for us.


This is part of Julie’s Hump Day Hmmm.  Head on over to read the others.

18 responses to “The soundtrack of my life

  1. “Hello darkness my old friend
    I’ve come to talk to you again … ”

    Sounds of Silence – one of my favorites by them, don’t why. You Emily, since this summer I’ve been on a quest, in finding and downloading old songs I used to sing or listen to in my youth – it’s a lot of fun – and I am suprised over and over again, what kind of feelings and emotions are set free when I finally hear them again. Those song are so stuck with what had happened in that time. They really are a part of our life.

  2. I’ve been reading ageas and rarely (if ever?) commented. However gee this post struck a chord with me. I must post something meaningful soon (my last post was on what shoes I wore to work – I mean, really?) about music and how it means different things and different people to me. Thanks so much for making me think! All best.

  3. Can I make a plea on behalf of the name Kate not to inflict Marie’s personality upon it? How about Paula? Or Janice?

  4. And he carries a reminder of every glove that laid him down …

    Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart, you’re shaking my confidence …

    I love Simon and Garfunkel too. But you already knew that, didn’t you? 😉

  5. And here I had NO idea that you listened to Simon & Garfunkel or anything like that. One of these days you and I will have to talk music. I’m very eclectic in my tastes but Simon & Garfunkel were a staple of my youth to the point that I own no less than 7 vinyl copies of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. The only artists that I collect more obsessively are Led Zeppelin, The Sisters of Mercy and Nine Inch Nails.

  6. I neeeed to make you a CD. It is my speciality.

  7. This is one of my soundtracks as well….

  8. S&G songs run through the soundtrack of my life, too, thanks to my dad. Hopefully I will have time to write about it soon. Ah…the days of singing Cecilia at midnight in a crowded car. I will have to teach my boys the song…

    I have a friend like that, only for us it is Dylan. We went to see him in college. There were a bunch of folks our parents age and a bunch of teeny-boppers there to see The Wallflowers opening for him.

  9. thank you for this! I have a college friend (incidentally, we really like S&G, though Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers are probably more of ‘our’ band) who’s living several hundred miles away and going through a rough patch, and it’s hard not being there with her. It’s so comforting to read such a lovely post and know that these friendships, even when they change, endure.

  10. I love S&G too. Sounds of Silence is one of my favorites.

  11. love this. this was a great topic.

  12. Wow – that record’s been on my mind a lot recently – I grew up with it too – and I just the other day put it on my Amazon wishlist – how eerie to read your post.

  13. Love S&G…love true artists like that. Great post. 🙂

    Using My Words

  14. All day yesterday I went around with the song “We’re off to see the Wizard…” in my head. I think it’s time that I grew up, listened to some grown-up music, don’t you. Great post! Happy Thanksgiving and see you soon. Kellan

  15. Simon and Garfunkel. The sound of my youth. I have all of their old albums. (Yes, I said albums.) They are in the garage in a box, safely preserved along with all of the other classics: James, Carly, Linda, The Eagles (an original copy of Hotel California), Jackson, and the rest. I eventually recreated all of my favorites on CD’s but it just isn’t the same because I remember where some of the biggest scratches on my records are (usually because somebody dropped the bong on the turntable).

    Anyway . . . I will have “The Boxer” in my head all day now. Thanks for the flashbacks.

    Here’s a music post I wrote about my adult musical adventures:

  16. This post was a yummy reminder of all of those sounds, tastes and smells that I also grew up with. I didn’t become a fan of S&G until later, having grown up on the Carpenters. It is especially sweet to be able to pass on these songs to our kids, before they are old enough to protest. 🙂

  17. Darn it! I was raised in an uber-geeky house where there were three non-classical choices of music: my mother’s folk song collections (erm. no.), a slim selection of Smothers Brothers (go on, ask me all about the Fox song! Quack!) and just about every Simon and Garfunkle on the market. We even had the really really unknown one that has things like “Hey, School Girl” on it. So yes, I alone of my generation (I thought) rocked out to “Sounds of Silence” until I bought my first U2 album. Thanks. I’m going to have those songs going through my head all day now…

  18. oh this was great and beautifully written.