My Valentine’s Day Love Story to Music

In Opinion/Personal, Personal, Random on February 14, 2014 at 8:26 am

I think I’ve finally figured out my love for music.  Despite bring completely oblivious to the technical side, knowing any real musical terms, or having any knowledge whatsoever on how to play any kind of instrument, I have still always felt very drawn to and moved by music.

There is that girly side of me that hears a song and says, ” oh my god, that’s EXACTLY how I feel right now!” There’s also the side of me that enjoys the pure creativity of it.  As a writer and (recently dabbling) painter, it’s very easy even without any real knowledge to appreciate another’s form of expression and that’s a very important thing for the artistic community, no matter what your craft is.  And a good play on words or an intellectual and beautiful flow of words that reads or sounds so elegant and pretty on paper or on the tongue set to a melody? I’m a sucker…

But what really sparks my love for music is the ability it has to remind me of who I am, that magical moment during the first few seconds of a song that somehow transports me to another time and place that I may not have even thought about in years.

Example A: anytime I hear Journey‘s “Don’t Stop Believing” I am taken back 4-5 years to a grungy Irish pub on a busy street a little over an hour from my home with 2 of the best friends I’ve ever had.  We’ve all started our lives outside of the college world now – jobs, responsibility, marriage, kids even – and it makes it hard to stay in touch as much as we’d like. But as soon as  that very well-known bit of music begins, whether it be on the radio, a cover by a band in a bar, or a terrible karaoke rendition, I’m right back in my early 20’s with my two best ladies on each side singing our hearts out and living it up alongside at least a hundred other strangers doing the same exact thing. No care in the world, being invited to sing and shimmy on the bar top, feeling as free as we possibly ever may in our lifetimes.

Example B: To understand, I must delve I to the deep dark secrets of my life a bit.  My mother wasn’t even 20 years old when she found herself single and pregnant.  Granted, being single was her decision. I can’t imagine how hard that was for her, but I also know how impossible it would have been should she have stayed with my father, who already had 2 daughters and a wife that he was separated from, in addition to a drinking habit. My mother wanted what was best for me, and being raised in a complicated situation such as that one wasn’t it in her mind, nevermind the fact that when she ended her relationship to get away from the alcohol abuse, my father returned to his wife, did not seek a divorce, and denied that I was his. So she did a terrifying thing and not only took on the task of being a young mother on her own, she also fought in court to prove that he was in fact the father and should be required to help her financially. That didn’t go far, because she refuses to agree to give me his last name or allow visitation, and though she knew it would be even harder, she vowed to give me the best opportunities possible on her own and in a positive environment.  Because of this fact, I had the amazing opportunity to be raised with a very involved and amazing grandmother and 2 uncles that stepped up to the plate to do all the things a father is supposed to do.  Helping me learn to walk, letting me put bows all in their hair, teaching me basketball, taking me fishing, and giving advice on boys, even when they started their own families and had children of their own.

This is pertinent information for 2 reasons: it sets me up for my example c, and also explains why the unexpected death of one of my uncles was more like losing a parent to me.  This January made 9 years, and for some reason it weighed heavily on me this year than it has in a few.  Possibly because I feel comfortable enough to allow myself to be emotional again after several years of blocking and bottling and building walls, who knows.  My uncle was a guitar player, just for fun on the front porch with his acoustic he’d had as long as I can remember.  The last song I ever heard him learn, play, and sing was “Last Kiss” in the style of Pearl Jam.  I remember sitting in the living room at his house and he was singing the melody and the part of the lyrics he knew, asking for help of who sang it so he could look up the guitar tabs online.  We talked about the song and a few days later when I visited again, I could hear him practicing and singing in the background while the rest of the family engaged in conversation.

Shortly following his death, I remember that song coming on the radio and I promptly changed it.  I wasn’t ready.  After that, I don’t ever recall hearing the song again and the memory of that whole event slipped my mind completely.  But when I began dating my boyfriend, who happens to amazingly share the same name as well as many of the fun and playful qualities of my deceased uncle, and began introducing him to my family (who all separately stated how eerie it was that my boyfriend had said or done something that was so reminiscent of my uncle) I also had to revisit this story.  It had been years upon years since I’d had to recollect all the events, but this time it was different.  I felt a release to be able to talk about it and not have to fight to hide a tear falling down.

I didn’t mention the story of the song – like I said, I had no memory of it anymore.  Until the week of the anniversary of his death.  While relaxing at home one day, my boyfriend playing Pandora from his phone on a random oldies station, the original version of that song came on.  All of a sudden, like I was hit in the face with a snowball -, it all came back.  The sound of his guitar, the way he sang, seeing him sitting there and working to learn it just right.  I felt a little sad, as I sometimes do when I’m struck with a memory of him.  A week later, my boyfriend and I were in his car listening to Sirius radio and lo and behold, the Pearl Jam version came on.  Again, I was taken back a decade. But this time, I didn’t try to fight it.  I didn’t have any tears, either. I did subconsciously do the old southern woman thing where I rested my hand on my chest like that would help anything.  But I wasn’t overwhelmed with sadness.  Instead, I was so happy that the universe had put this song in my path not once, but twice.  I was glad that I had this happy memory back and it was no longer lost under layers of sad times or hard times, because isn’t that the way you can help a person carry on once they are no longer physically here?

And finally, example c: as stated, my mother raised me on her own.  My grandmother and uncles helped tremendously, but once she got her own apartment for us, a lot of day-to-day time was just us.  All of her attention and time was devoted to making me happy and I’m not sure that I will ever be able to repay her for the sacrifices she made for me throughout my years growing up.  Another thing I may never be able to fully repay her for was being the first and most important influence of my love for music and instilling in me that amazing taste she had in the mid 80’s.  I was raised on VH1 and MTV when they actually played real music.  When I was 2 years old, I could hear a Def Leppard song on the radio, know who it was, what the song was, AND whether it was done before or after the drummer lost his arm. Yeah, I was a pretty awesome kid.

Anyways, probably the most significant music it got from my mom was “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” and “One Tin Soldier.” Both are somewhat depressing songs that have extremely important and grand messages.  Obviously, as a child they were way over my head.  But I did know that when I was sick or sleepy and nestled in my mom’s arms, there was no better sound in the world than her singing those 2 songs to me.  Of course, she also sang “You Are My Sunshine”, but something about the others has always stuck with me.  I hadn’t heard them in years and somehow came across them when I was in college and just hearing the song made me feel safe.  I occasionally come across them from time to time again, and to this day in my late 20’s with my mom over 3.5 hours away from me now, I still think of those songs when I’m upset or sick and they still put me in that happy safe place.

And that, my dear readers (if you’re all still with me after all that rambling) is why I truly love music.  Its emotional. It connects. It gives us back things we’ve lost. It makes us feel better.  And it’s all without either the music or ourselves trying to make it happen.  It reminds me of the most important times, events, and people in my life that may never happen again for one reason or another. And in the words of the great Emily Dickinson: “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” Its a comfort to know that I can always find a connection to my past and those in it just by turning on my radio.


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Singing Heart

Poems by Karem Barratt


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