Category Archives: music

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.