I received a nice bonus from work a few weeks ago – but remember that “nice” in the non-profit world is different from “nice” in the corporate world. I am still grateful as this was unexpected. I went ahead and purchased an MP3 player, something I’ve wanted for a while, but felt selfish buying when we’re still reeling from the two-and-a-half years of having two mortgages. However, my father always told me that if I received a merit bonus from work, I should buy myself something since I worked so hard for that extra money. I bought my player last week and have been having fun downloading songs. As I was listening to some of my favorites – some I haven’t listened to in a long time – I realized how closely some songs are linked to memory. There are some songs out there that I just like listening to, and then there are those that can bring me back many years to a time and place I will never forget. They bring me back to my childhood, to old boyfriends, to sad and lonely times in my life, to bittersweet moments, and to so-happy-that-you-cry moments. The songs are as varied as the memories, and here are just a couple:
“Watching the Wheels” by John Lennon: 1980. Summer vacation with my family. We’re driving across the country in our 1979 Ford Econoline van – it’s not fancy, but it does have an AM/FM radio, which we listen to for most of the drive to Wyoming. My father drives while my mom switches between navigating and working on a crossword puzzle. My sister and I sit behind them singing along to the music. This is our favorite song at the time and we would sit and wait to sing the last few lines: “I’m just sittin’ here watching the wheels go round and round. I really love to watch them roll. No longer ridin’ on the merry-go-round. I just had to let it go.” We sang without having a care in the world. Our parents were in charge of everything , and we were just along for the ride.
“Nightswimming” by REM: The summer of 1995. Mike and I are fresh out of college and spending one last summer together before he moves. Over the past few years, he and I had a very complex and confusing relationship. We always wanted to date each other, but something always got in the way. Physical distance. Friends. Other boyfriends and girlfriends. Our own fear. The one constant with us was that no matter how much distance or time apart, we always found ourselves back in the same comfortable place. We spent most of the summer together – late nights talking about our futures. He was moving away and I was searching for a job. We both were trying to figure out who we were and what we really wanted in life. He had a girlfriend back at college and I wanted nothing more than for him to fall in love with me. One night, sitting on my parents’ driveway, he confessed to me that he didn’t think he could move…and that I was the reason for his change of heart. “You’re being silly,” I said. “You have to go.” Why did I say that? We decided to spend as much time together as possible before he moved. We spent every day together, sometimes going out again at night. One night, not long before he moved, he drove me home from St. Charles back to my parents’ house. We had a 40-minute drive ahead of us and I hoped and prayed that we would miss all the stoplights, giving me just a few more minutes with him. But at 2 AM, that wasn’t about to happen. We were both tired, and I fought to keep my eyes open, enjoying the comfort that comes along with knowing someone so well that you can sleep in front of them. The ultimate vulnerability. This song played in the background. I looked out the window, then back at him, and again out the window. I watched the scenery become more familiar as we got closer to home, wishing we could drive around together until the sun came up. I can still recall those lyrics:
Nightswimming, remembering that night.
September’s coming soon.
I’m pining for the moon.
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit
Around the fairest sun?
That bright, tight forever drum
Could not describe nightswimming.
You, I thought I knew you.
You I cannot judge.
You, I thought you knew me,
this one laughing quietly underneath my breath.
The photograph reflects,
Every streetlight a reminder.
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night, deserves a quiet night.