During the four-hour-long drive home from Boston the other night, I was able to enjoy something that is a rarity—listening to my own music. A standard road trip usually involves my daughter acting as the DJ, making musical choices based on her own whimsy. I spend a large portion of the trip begging her to allow me just a few songs to listen to as I do the difficult task of actually driving. She appeases me once every ten songs or so, but usually only with choices that she either likes—or at the very least—tolerates. So, as I set the iPod to shuffle, I immediately began to anticipate the joy of being the one in control. As the first song began to play—one I hadn’t heard in many years—I was suddenly transported back to another time in my life.
“Wonderwall” by Oasis, 1995 I am twenty years old, sitting in a pub on the campus of Lancaster University in England. The music comes from a jukebox in the center of the room—this song plays over and over again each night. It doesn’t matter how many times it’s played, everyone in the pub sings along. On the surface, each night looks like the last: me and some friends having a drink in the evening, talking music, books, life—but for me, each night is magical.
“The Joker” by The Steve Miller Band, 1973 / 1990 I am sixteen, it is my first summer living in Cape May. I am so young, and yet so eager to grow up. The summer is spent working as a chambermaid during the day, and hanging out at the beach each afternoon. I don’t remember the first time I heard this song—the summer was filled with classic rock and sunshine—but to this day, no matter when I hear it—the sun always shines when this song plays.
“Ode to My Family” by The Cranberries, 1995 It is 1996. I have just graduated from college, and am home in Cape May. My favorite way to start the day is to go for a drive with one of my closest friends. She usually picks me up before everyone else in the house has gotten up, we go over to Wawa for a cup of coffee, and then head down to the Point to watch the Atlantic as we drink our coffee and talk about life. On the way there, we would listen to this song, belting out the words, and feeling happy to be together for that moment.
“Now and Forever” by Carole King, 1993 It is 1993, I am a sophomore in college. I have seven roommates—most are seniors getting ready to graduate to the real world. I am lost most of the time. I wasn’t an easy roommate to have—my life had been turned upside down when my dad walked out earlier that year. As I struggled to maintain the outward appearance of a student under control, these young women saw me falling apart, and stood by me even as I tried to push them away. They reminded me to find the joy in the simple things, like watching Melrose Place and singing along to sentimental music.
“The Flame” by Cheap Trick, 1988 I am fourteen. It is to be the last summer with my best friends—the last summer before I am to begin high school at a place where I know no one else. It is a summer brimming over with emotions: nervousness and excitement to begin the next phase of my life; sadness about saying good-bye to friends I had spent each day with since beginning school nine years earlier. I would lay on my bed, listening to this song over and over again, dreaming about my future.
“One Love” by Bob Marley, 1999 It is September 1999. I am twenty-five and it is my wedding day. Even though it is two weeks past Labor Day, we are fortunate enough to have an incredible reggae band drive back up from North Carolina to play at our wedding. We are all on the back porch of our friends’ Bed & Breakfast—everyone dancing, laughing, singing along to the music—as friends and family help us to celebrate the life we have promised to share with one another.
This soundtrack of my life lasted most of the drive home—and in that brief span of time, I relived more than twenty years of friendship, laughter, heartbreak, and joy. For a moment, it saddened me that my daughter couldn’t share the journey with me—that she couldn’t also be witness to those times in my life—but it was that thought that made me realize something important. It doesn’t matter if she likes my music or not, she’ll never truly know the fourteen-year-old me or how it was to dance the night away with her father back when he was twenty-two. When I force her to listen to the music of my life, I am really just helping her to create her own soundtrack—and for each of these songs, I can’t be certain what she will remember, but there is a good chance it will be of road trips with me ecstatically singing along.
So, as I continued on my drive, I started to listen for songs that someday may flood her with memories of her past. These are a couple that I hope will bring her joy when she is older:
“The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars, 2011 Every time we hear this song, we all stop whatever it is we are doing to sing along. I hope she thinks of her brother in the backseat of the car, bopping his head to the beat of the rhythm, unselfconsciously belting out the tune.
“Mad World” from Donnie Darko Soundtrack, 2001 / 2011 There aren’t many songs she can agree to listen to with her sixteen-year-old cousin, so for most of our trips, he wears headphones. That is until this song comes on, then he takes them off, and he listens right along with us. He doesn’t sing along, but for those few minutes, we are all sharing the same moment.
My advice to my daughter is to take the time to stop and listen. When there is a song that she likes playing on the radio, she should take a look at the world around her in order to take note of her life. I hope that by doing this, the song will somehow hold the memory of a moment in her life, and it will be there for her when she is older and needs the reminder.
Take a second to let me know what songs are in your soundtrack?