I’m always amazed at the tactile and transformative power of a song to bring me back to a time in my memory. Maybe it’s universal, but when a certain song comes on the radio, I’m suddenly transported back in time. It’s practically palpable.
On Mother’s Day, I was at Saint Anselm College. Well, not really.
While my NH alma mater certainly holds a place in my heart for a million reasons, I was actually in Maine, Kennebunkport to be exact, eating a long-awaited lobster roll with my husband and my littles. It was a brilliantly sunny day, and we had a great time together. But Sunday’s siren song is always behind us, so while I could have stayed, shopped and snacked all day, we had to get home to the inevitable prep that late Sunday afternoons always demand. A little grumpily, but with the martyrdom only moms can have, I got into the car to head home on the highway.
On the drive, the kids were happy, tired, and sticky (thank you Ben &Jerry’s “Two Free Scoops for Moms”) but they were beginning to get into that weird hyper phase that precedes a nap, exacerbated further by their carseat captivity. So Peter and I decided to pick out some calming tunes to soothe the backseat savages. Peter chose classic 70’s rock songs, as always. But my choices surprised me. I chose songs that took me right back to college, songs that anyone who graduated in the 90’s would find on their “Chillax Playlist.” But this time I chose them for different reasons.
When I was in college, my favorite song was “All I Want” by Toad the Wet Sprocket, a 1992 classic introduced to me by a dear friend. At the time, the cache of “I found the coolest alternative band” was as impressive as the song was, but again, the lyrics spilled over into my life. http://www.metrolyrics.com/all-i-want-lyrics-toad-the-wet-sprocket.html I loved it, and listening took me right back to sunny days on the Quad, watching people play Frisbee when I should have been at Humanities lecture. The lyrics repeat “All I want is to feel this way/ To be this close, to feel the same” and it’s just how I felt at that moment: young, invincible, happy and free. After I graduated, “Stay/Wasting Time” by Dave Matthews Band became my anthem – a semi-sexy little ode to being in the moment, to love, and to chilling out and being young that captured my heart. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/davematthewsband/stay.html.
What I realized, though, was that the songs I was wistfully choosing about being young and being in the moment still had relevance right now. Yes, my “present” is very different than what it was when I first heard those songs. True, my “moment” isn’t spent lying carefree on the college lawn, knowing the people I loved most were right on campus with me. But I remember being in that moment too – feeling lucky that my family afforded me the chance to attend such a beautiful college, lucky that I felt loved and valued, lucky that I was studying something that spoke to me so clearly. I was also afraid of not finding the right job, worried what path my then-boyfriend and I would take, and overwhelmed by the thought of the future outside my safe college cocoon. Being in the moment wasn't about the perfection of the moment - it was about being there, and being aware of what I was thinking and feeling.
There have been so many moments since my college days. My outfits, my body, and my definition of “family,” have changed substantially (my erratic sleeping patterns, ironically, are identical) but that realization of where I was in space and time, was a special one. I was with the ones I loved. We had laughed together and played together. we had celebrated my birthday and Mother's Day, and we had more responsibilities to meet together. So yes, the time was passing, but it was passing together. And zipping down the highway being pensive was something that would happen again and again, with music playing in the background. Maybe I'll be driving Emerson to her first day of college, when she's nervous and excited. Maybe I'll be coming home from a hockey game with my son, when he's proud and beaming, or exhausted and disappointed. The moments of reminiscence will always come as we make more and more memories, but looking around is always better than looking back, and though my ears may request songs of the past, my eyes will be on the ones I love.
So where am I? In the words of the Dave Matthews Band, "Where you are is where I belong/ I do know, where you go, is where I wanna be." So that's where I am: in the moment. Because it's the best place to be.