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Love, Marriage, & Singing in the Car

1 Sep

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19 years and one day ago I married my best friend. He was smart and tall and smart and handsome and smart! He was mildly funny and he was smart. He was nice and good at being Jewish and decent. And he was so smart. Just my type.

We moved through our marriage by years, by 3 homes, by 2 births, by 3 children, by many vacations, by some disasters, by 3 separate times I took the car and drove around for hours until I was less angry enough to return, by the loss of 3 grandparents, by several jobs, by 1 fire, by 6 deceased goldfish, and by multitudes of laughter.

Along the way, I wished on many occasions that my husband be something, actually many things, that he is not. I wished him to be more laid back (he is not!). I wished him to be more thoughtful (so so but perhaps making progress). I wished him to be more fun (……). I wished him to be the kind of person that would crank the music up in the car with me and belt out the very best Sirius radio has to offer (sigh).

I am an unabashed, reckless car singer. Maybe you have driven next to me and seen me so you know. Maybe you have just heard about me. Or maybe you have even heard me over state lines. I am a legend in this regard. It’s not pretty and I am seldom able to get through a song without being told to stop singing but it is what it is and I am who I am and that person is an avid, unapologetic car singer.

I have begged my husband, in and out of 19 years, to please sing with me when a good song comes on (and come on, there are so many!). He will not indulge me. He does not think that it will be fun. I continue with “how can it not be fun?! It’s singing! It’s a great song! Pleaseeeee.” No dice. He simply will not sing.

I compare him to past boyfriends and tell him about the wonderful guys before him who would sing in the car with me and the great times we had. They are so much more fun than he was. He waits for me to finish talking and then changes the radio station to 1010 WINS which we listen to on a 22 minute loop until we die.

In the space of all the songs he is not singing with me, he is helping our kids with their homework, sometimes coming home early so he can properly accomplish this task. He is walking my parents’ dog when I am too lazy to do so. He is running out at night after realizing our sons do not have any food to make lunch for the next day of school. He is volunteering at our synagogue and as a basketball coach for our son’s CYO team. He is shoveling my parents’ driveway when there is a snowstorm so that when they return from vacation, they will have one less thing to worry about. He is doing everything except sing in the car with me.

Until finally, one day, he does. He belts out a song with me in the car. I can’t even remember which song it was. But I will tell you this: it was nothing like I thought it would be. It was terrible. In fact, it was so bad, I begged him to stop before the song was even finished. He can’t sing. He can’t car sing. He can’t even sing badly. I don’t know what the word is for the sound that was coming out of his mouth, but I will never be asking him to sing in the car with me again, even if the song that comes on is “Domino” or “Caravan” by Van Morrison. That dream has died.

Sometimes we fantasize about the things we want in our marriages, our lives, ourselves. The patience we wish we had. The parents we wish we were. The fun, breezy, car singers we want to be. Sometimes those fantasies are better left imagined. I am not going to ask him to be who he is not. But that is ok. Because who he is, is for the most part, more than I could ever ask for to begin with.

Happy anniversary to my tone-deaf beloved. For better or for worse. But mostly, for better.

 

The Soundtrack of My Life

30 Jan

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My father is singing Cat Stevens’ Moonshadow to me. I am 3 or 4 or 5 years old. I wonder about the limbless body singing until all the parts of him are gone and he is seemingly nonchalant, perhaps even grateful to be without eyes and a tongue. My father continues to sing the same song to me like a lullaby.

I am in a full body cast in a hospital. I am 6 years old. My mother is sitting, surrounded by sick children, with her ukelele, playing and singing Puff the Magic Dragon. I am proud and yet jealous. I do not want to share her with the rest of these patients. I want her to sing and wrap her oversized heart around only me.

I am in my Mustang convertible while Carole King’s Tapestry cassette plays on a loop. I am 17 years old. I am weeping. My boyfriend is going to college and every single song was written for me. I Feel the Earth Move, So Far Away, Home Again, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Where You Lead, Beautiful. My boyfriend makes several stops to say goodbye to friends while I wait for him in the passenger seat, disconsolate. He gets back in the car and gives me an inscribed locket I will wear until the picture inside is all rubbed out and he breaks my heart years later.

I am lost. I am 18 years old and without a sense of direction. I am listening to Van Morrison’s Moondance album. I am driving my car from Connecticut to New York and it is midnight. I finally find a commercial area where it feels safe enough to get out of the car and make a phone call. I call my father from a  pay phone. I beg him to rescue me. He tells me to find my way home and that it will be good for me. I get back in my car and blast “Caravan.” I circle who knows how much of the tri-state area before I pull into my parents’ driveway sometime after 2 am. I have found my way home.

I am standing amongst piles of boxes in my apartment in Brooklyn waiting for movers. I am 23 years old. The only thing not yet packed is my stereo. I am listening to Nanci Griffith CDs for hours as the movers have forgotten me. By the time they pick me up, I am distraught, fearing NYC condo regulations will forbid me from the late move and I will be temporarily homeless. Two men load up the packaged belongings comprising my life and offer me a ride uptown. I sit in the front seat of the movers’ truck as we drive up the FDR to my new home on East 81st. I lean my head against the window, listening to Nanci Griffith on my walkman, equally terrified and excited about this move. I dislike change even though this is a good one. My parents are waiting for me and it is all ok.

I am getting married. I am dancing with my husband to Ben Taylor’s version of The Beatles’ I Will. We are alone on the dance floor, moving in choreographed rhythm thanks to Ernesto of Arthur Murray’s East 86th Street studio. I can see him counting beats in his head as he leads me. We later break loose to The Emotions’ Best of My Love. We don’t yet know that both songs will feature prominently at the bar mitzvah of our first son.

I am in my apartment on East 75th Street. I am nearing the end of my 20s. I am pregnant with my first child. I am working from home for the day, listening to Counting Crows’ This Desert Life. My belly tightens and my son kicks and flutters every time this album plays. He has good taste. I know I will love him.

I am rocking in a glider in the bedroom of my baby boy. He is sleeping on my chest and I think I might never move. I sing him every song I know and love. It goes like this every night. Sweet Baby James, The Way You Look Tonight, Annie’s Song, An American Tune. I sing him Moonshadow and deposit him back into his crib. He tucks his legs beneath him, looks briefly at me, and goes back to sleep.

I am at the obstetrician’s office. I am alone. I am 7 weeks pregnant. My husband is traveling for business. For days I have had a premonition that my doctor will tell me he cannot find a heartbeat. The doctor squeezes jelly over my belly and after several minutes of searching, says “Lisa, I’m sorry. There’s no heartbeat.” I am even sorrier. Sorry to be right. Sorry to lose a baby I already loved. Sorry. I listen to Eva Cassidy’s cover of Fields of Gold over and over, weeping until I tell myself I have punished myself enough and I turn it off.

I am again rocking in a glider but I am in a new room in a new house beside two new babies to love. I sing them the same songs I sang to my first baby. I sing them Moonshadow. I put them into the same crib so they know each other’s presence.

It is my son’s 10th birthday. I am listening to the Circle Game. I cannot believe I am at the second verse. I do not know where the time has gone. I know I will be at the third verse in six short years. I am dragging my feet to slow the circles down, Joni Mitchell.

It is my birthday. 10,000 Maniacs’ These are the Days is playing on my desktop. We have just returned from dinner with my family and I am making my husband and sons dance with me in the kitchen. I will do this every year as long as they will. I turn up the music as high as it will go and watch my family in the reflection of the windows in my kitchen. They indulge me because it’s my birthday but I hope there is enough time in the song for them to feel how much music can lift you, how it can intoxicate you, how its joy is utterly contagious, how necessary it is to be in love with music: to let it infuse your heart, your mind, your soul. To let it literally play the soundtrack to your life.

The Things We Almost Didn’t Say

18 Dec

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I had a fight with my husband.

We don’t argue often and when we do, it always seems to be about the same things. Sometimes you wait for people to change, but they don’t. Not really.

And sometimes you remember why you fell in love with them to begin with.

What we fought about is not important; the outcome is. For the first time, literally ever, my husband wrote me a love letter. It is, without question, and aside from my children, the most beautiful gift he has ever given me. I have read it and reread it over and over and over. It makes me feel like a teenager. It makes me feel like the luckiest woman in the world to be married to this man. It makes me so grateful to know that I have decades ahead to spend with him.

Arguments are not fun. But sometimes, they are necessary. Quiet conversations about disappointment don’t always pan out. And let’s be honest, I am not a really “quiet conversation” kind of girl anyway. I am passionate and loving and very much a woman. I am also stubborn and impatient and very much a woman. Incredibly, he loves all of that in me. I don’t but he does. That is love.

When you start your life with someone, you don’t really know how it will turn out. You don’t know what kind of father, husband, friend, supporter they will be when you decide to legally bind yourself to them until you die. People evolve, life happens. I am so grateful that, as our life happens, we are still evolving together.

Today is his birthday. He does not want to go out for a nice dinner. He wants to bring home take out food so he has more time to spend with his sons. He is quite a man.

I hope he continues to say the things he almost did not. I don’t want to miss a thing.

Deductions

17 Apr

My brother and I took my mom out for lunch for her birthday. Somewhere between blowing out the candle and asking for the check, my brother excused himself to use the bathroom.  My mom whirled around, seizing the opportunity made available by his convenient need to empty his bladder:

“Lisa, we have to find him a wife. He’s getting KILLED on taxes. No dependents.”

I can’t tell you why he’s still single. He is downright adorable. He’s sweet, kind, charming. He’s hilarious too. We laugh at all the same things (some of which are terrible, leading to uncomfortable public situations). We still have that connection we did as children: we will zero in on the same thing and laugh uncontrollably — typically the kind that produces no sound but does cause endless tears, heaving shoulders, and sore abs. For a period of time after that, we can no longer look at each other without breaking into hysterics. Often this can last anywhere from 1 week to 3 decades.  We are ageless.

More important, I have finally forgiven him for not being a girl. I desperately wanted a sister. He seems to bear no scars for all the times I dressed him in a raincoat, put his hair in pigtails, and called him “Joan.”

“You’re threatening his masculinity!” My mother would shout. That didn’t stop me. If he wanted to play with me and my friends, he was going to be the little sister. Or the dog. That worked too.

He also doesn’t seem to hold against me the countless times I told him things tasted like watermelon because I knew he would eat them.

“Here! Try this chicken gizzard. It tastes just like watermelon! It’s delicious.” And then I would hold my breath and wait. He did not disappoint, reaction-wise, although the chicken gizzard was the last time he took that bait.

He was a great brother, still is. I don’t know many who could have survived having me for a sister. We hail from a colorful family of strong personalities and thankfully, he is one of them. If he was just some dopey wallflower, for instance, he never would have let my mom and me create the now defunct “pleasemarrymyson.com” in 2010. Although he was definitely mortified.

Perhaps he’s single because I was just too much to handle. Or perhaps he’s single because he’s looking for someone like his sister to laugh with until tears roll down his cheeks and his stomach aches. Who isn’t?

Regardless, my mom has entrusted me with this mission.

“So, Mom, you’re saying you want him to get married just so he can give less money to the government?”

“Yes. That’s what I’m saying.”

And then we laughed. ‘Til we cried. Because she’s pretty funny too.

**If you don’t hear from me within a week, call the cops because my brother killed me for publishing this post.