Tag Archives: reminisce

Day 35: Soulsong: Music that Moves Us

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Music has the power to transcend a murky soul or damn it further into submission. It takes us to a place where heartache heals, love prevails, passion ignites – where pain has a repeat button, and snotty tears break a shaking voice. And it’s so intimate in that way. We wallow with our favorite singer/songwriter when we need someone to understand that we haven’t moved on yet, but are too afraid to say it out loud, to admit to ourselves. We scream the lyrics to an empty room, wishing we had the courage to say those words aloud to someone… wishing those words were our own. We bob our heads at our steering wheels. We turn the volume up when we get ready on a Friday night, soaking in the energy of every pop!beat!ye-ah! We sing happily and freely with our friends at the bar, words uniting us, subtle reminders how similar we are. We cha cha slide, we macarena, we show how low we can go.

We associate songs to our experiences; those cries of pain to our own, or a distant joy that fuels us. We relate them to people; when we are in love, when we stop loving. They make us sick to our stomach – a reminder of a life you thought was yours, now mocking. And even though we shouldn’t listen to those songs – the ones that make us remember a time that now seems a million miles away – sometimes we do. And sometimes our hearts are broken all over again for it. But we are able to find another, and speak through a voice that’s not our own. We find strength through a streaming courage.

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Every time I hear the Spin Doctors I am reminded of driving to my brother’s t-ball practice in my mom’s minivan. Whenever my Format album is playing, I am transported to my 16-year-old self, the back seat of an old Civic, windows down, a car full of giggling girls. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s We Ain’t Much Different will remind me of my father until the end of time. I Want it that Way was my first couple-skate song in the fifth grade. I belted Lady Gaga’s Speechless to my steering wheel in a mellow dramatic frenzy for weeks on end when stitching up my heart. It still gives me the same feeling of empowerment, even more perhaps, now that I’m on the other side.

And, I know it almost seems too obvious, but Modest Mouse puts a smile on my face on the worst of days with “Float On.”

I’ve had Fun.’s Aim and Ignite album in my car for weeks (yes I’m still living in the age of CDs…) and every time I hear The Gambler, nearly without fail, I start sobbing uncontrollably. I’m not sure why- it’s not intended to be sad, nor do I feel sad when listening to it. It’s a love song. A life-long, old on the porch, sort of love song about falling in deep and having babies and growing old. There is something so beautiful about it to me that I just can’t hold back. I don’t imagine anyone else could really feel the same way toward it. And, that’s the beautiful thing about the music. It’s one of my soulsongs.

What are some of yours?

I swear when I grow up, I won’t just buy you a rose.
I will buy the flower shop, and you will never be lonely.
Even if the sun stops waking up over the fields
I will not leave, I will not leave ’till it’s our time.
So just take my hand, you know that I will never leave your side.

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Day 29 – 30: Looking Back

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My uncle Dan is in town from Florida for a couple of days. He is my dad’s brother, a Littlefield through and through, although completely opposite from my father.

We went to Florida to visit that side of my family when I was somewhere around the age of  12 or 13 and stopped in a gift shop at the Nickolodeon area of the park. We got a set of Pinky and the Brain little bendy action figures, and gave my dad Pinky (to remind him of my uncle) and my Uncle Dan got Brain, obviously my father. So, with that early association, that’s always how I have thought of them. Pinky and the Brain. One is a genius, the other insane.

Day 29. And boy, does that ring true. I’ve spent as much time as possible around my uncle as possible because I know it will be a while until I get to see him again, and who knows, I may not ever. We were sitting at the dinner table last night, and they were telling me stories of their glory years. My uncle had just gotten out of the military and was willing to pick a fight with anyone who looked at him cross-eyed. My dad, younger by two years, was much more logical and tended to be more of a runner than a fighter. It was one after another story about bar fights, fights with bike gangs, bricks, baseball bats – my uncle charging forward at full speed, and my father unsuccessfully talking him out of it. After one fight, to get back at a guy, my uncle doused his car in gasoline to set it on fire, but couldn’t light the matches and had to walk away. I’m surprised they survived it with as many teeth as they have left.

It was good to sit around and listen to their stories, to see them laughing and thanking their creator for making it out alive. Their youth was a lot different than mine and my brother’s, but it did make me wonder what stories we would be telling in 30 years…

Day 30. Tonight, my dad and uncle were in the dining room when I got home, looking through a ViewMaster (Google that if you don’t know what it is) at photos from the 50s and 60s their grandfather had taken. I adore these pictures. Not many people can say they have seen their father (in 3D) in a full cowboy getup, at age 3. They are old and spotty with discolored film, and you have to hold the viewer up to the light, and click through each of the pictures. It’s pretty amazing to think this was technology over 50 years ago. It still seems pretty darn neat today. 

It was so touching to see my dad and uncle as little boys, my grandparents who are no longer around, and what they had. They lived in an eight-foot wide trailer and had hand me down everything, and wanted for nothing. My dad’s first bike was nothing more than a pile of rust with wheels, but he had a beaming little toothy smile while riding it. They were dressed as cowboys in nearly every picture. “The only good indian is a dead indian!” says my uncle in a low, mocking voice. And they both laugh because I’m sure they heard it and said it a thousand times as kids. My dad tells me a story about getting a rifle for Christmas he had wanted so bad, and my uncle breaking it the very next day – not exactly the Jean Shepherd version of the story, but they laugh about that too.

My father is a very proud person, and both he and my uncle have a lot of pride in our lineage. These photos are a small piece of that – and I get it. I don’t even remember having met my grandparents, but my dad tells me I have his grandmother’s lips, and Arthur has the same lanky walk as my grandfather. There is something borderline spiritual about being able to see where you come from, and hearing about a past that you can almost make out, as if you were already there.

Our family has our genealogy traced back to the Mayflower, and if you asked my dad and Uncle Dan, I think they’d be able to recite half of the names. I haven’t decided if I care much about where I came from. Sure, it’s neat to say I’m related to William Bradford, but I’m not sure that I’ll ever allow it to have meaning. It seems pretentious to think that where we come from matters at all.

On the other hand, I can almost feel how close I am to parts of a past I know only through hearsay. I’m glad I have the pictures and the stories to help me connect the imaginary dots.