Tag Archives: #music

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.

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Lemonade and James Taylor

6 Jul

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So I’m living out a little dream of mine.

Since the age of 13, I have been a James Taylor fan. I have seen him all over the East and so many times I cannot even estimate. But as all James Taylor fans know, the ultimate experience is the July 4th concert at Tanglewood.

A few months ago I was looking into planning a trip to the Amalfi coast. And then something personal happened and I just didn’t feel like leaving the country. I felt like making lemonade.

“I know what we’re doing. We’re going to Tanglewood for the 4th of July. We’re going to see James Taylor. I’ve always wanted to do it. That’s what we’re doing.”

G-d bless my husband who said:

“OK”

He’s not a big fan of James Taylor’s music or of music in general, probably. In fact, he could listen to 1010 WINS on the radio until we lose reception or die. But thankfully, he’s a big fan of me.

I found the last room at the last bed and breakfast for the holiday weekend and promised to do anything outdoorsy he wished.

As an aside, you should know I’m not outdoorsy. I’m indoorsy, to say the least. In all honesty, years ago, I lied to an outdoorsy guy I had a crush on. I told him that I loved hiking and gleefully packed my trail mix and canteen only to projectile vomit at the end of the hike from sunstroke and fatigue. It’s probably just not within me to enjoy that level of nature or that kind of guy. But marriage is about compromise: I got James Taylor, and he got me outside.

We arrived in Lenox at our Bed and Breakfast, and lo and behold, we were not the only people to have made this pilgrimage. But we were definitely the youngest by a decade or two. We hiked for a few hours (I did not vomit), we tooled around some small towns, and I even bought some turquoise. The Berkshires are like a drug.

The forecast for July 4th called for rain and it was solidly accurate. It poured all day long. We still bought supplies for a picnic under the stars on the lawn at Tanglewood. We prepared like the most beautiful evening was ahead of us.

And it was.

We entered Tanglewood at 5 pm, just 3 hours before showtime. My husband tiptoed across large patches of mud and found a protective canopy of trees under which we set up a blanket and picknicked in the rain for a couple of hours. The weather didn’t even matter anymore. All that mattered was that I was there, where I always wanted to be.

At 7, it stopped raining. People cheered. Scores of tents and umbrellas were dismanted as the sun shone through the trees. Candles were lit, citronella saturated the air, and a cool breeze settled over Tanglewood.

The concert was lovely. In truth, I did not love his set list but it wasn’t important. I loved James and I loved the setting and I loved the mountain air and I loved the Berkshires and I loved my husband. I even loved 2/3 of that hike. There was no place I would have rather been. Not even Capri.

Maybe we build things up to be “perfect” in our minds and when they unfold they are inevitably not going to be as we imagined. It’s disappointing when life does not happen in the way we romanticize it.  It was freeing to let the night just be what it was: and to me, it was the sweetest lemonade I ever did drink; it was perfection.

The Berkshires did seem dreamlike and hopefully, I only have 10 miles behind me and 10,000 more to go.

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