As I started thinking about the soundtrack of my high school and college years, I came up with a list of songs that was way too long. That’s not surprising, music was always playing, in my car, in my room, in my headphones, at concerts. There is always a song playing when I return to a memory from those years, and though my memory may sometimes insert the incorrect song, that is only because it has such a large collection from which to choose. This part of my story may seem disjointed, but isn’t that appropriate? This is the time when we are “finding ourselves” and the intensity of emotions involved in that search doesn’t always lend itself to clear memories.
I left middle school behind and started my journey toward becoming my own person, not someone just lost in the crowd. I said good-bye to pop music and started the only place I knew to look for some good sounds, my dad’s album collection. I discovered Abbey Road and found my voice. I had found the soundtrack of my life, unfortunately I was living in the wrong era. Thankfully, I found some friends who were, too, and memories were made, for better and worse.
This part of my story could be a novel, so instead of a narrative, I offer a playlist, with a few songs from my generation thrown in for good measure.
Brown Eyed Girl, Cecilia, and Blue Sky (by the Allman Brothers) are long nights with two older boys and my neighborhood girl friend, driving around in my mom’s Jeep Cherokee, singing and talking, stopping to climb on old railroad bridges, driving up to the mountains to watch the stars fade and the morning fog roll in, or finally giving up to go home and watch The Breakfast Club and talk until we all fell asleep on the couch.
Jewel’s You Were Meant for Me and James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James are getting in the car at a playground, late at night, after a heartbreaking kiss from one of those older boys, a dark, brooding, poetic boy who would one day truly break my heart.
Ramblin’ Man is a July 4th Allman Brothers concert at World’s Fair Park in Knoxville with that same boy and his college roommates.
The entire U2 Joshua Tree album is wanting so badly to get in that boy’s car and ramble across the country but being too responsible to do it.
Blessid Union of Souls’ first album is my senior year boyfriend and gang of friends, late nights watching stars from the boat in the middle of the lake, pizza after the football game on Friday night, staying too late at my boyfriend’s house and trying so hard not to get in trouble. A summer of carefree, mountain kid fun, no moonshine involved, trying to forget the dark, brooding boy away at college, and knowing that I broke his heart on purpose because he scared me.
The Bridge by Eddie from Ohio is newfound freedom my senior year of college, dancing with new friends at my first InterVarsity retreat.
Gillian Welch, Lyle Lovett, and Townes Van Zandt are discovering new music with my dad and going home to the mountains for concerts at the Down Home.
Long December by the Counting Crows is going to Tucson for Spring Break to visit the boy, hoping I can hide how much I like him while I listen to him talk about the girl of his dreams, sitting out in the desert at night and looking up at the stars, feeling as arid as my surroundings.
The Sound of Silence is the summer after my freshman year, when that boy came back and kissed me and we lay in the grass watching the stars and saying so much without saying anything. Funny, I can’t really remember any other songs from that summer, just words like “marry” and “forever” and “Arizona.”
April, Come She Will is sitting in my dorm room that September, reading a way too short and impersonal e-mail after weeks of silence while my insides go numb.
There is too much dark and depressing and melancholy music too mention from the next few years, but there were some moments of light. Bobby McGee is my crazy friend Katie doing her Janis impersonation at an InterVarsity retreat and making me laugh. Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls is my roommates and high school friends coming together for front row seats at the Indigo Girls concert. Like a Rolling Stone is driving two hours with Mary from Minnesota to see Dylan in concert with a bunch of folks our parents’ age. The Weight by The Band is my Southern Lit class taking a road trip to Oxford, pouring a libation on Faulkner’s grave, and drinking too much Jack and Coke in his honor. Nanci Griffith and the Floating Men are road trips up to the mountains, just to get away from the darkness for a while.
And Lucinda Williams and Dar Williams are trying to get over him by running off to Europe for the summer before beginning my “real life.”
At some point after college, I threw out a lot of that music that reminded me of him, and I started over. I moved into a commune and learned to trust people, I entered a healthy relationship with the man I was to marry, I actually got married, and I have two beautiful boys. I still love music and enjoy introducing my boys to it. We started with bluegrass, Rich Mullins, and Johnny Cash. And as I settle into a life that is less dramatic and more secure, I am rediscovering some of my old friends. I'm making my Dad proud by teaching my boys the Beatles and singing them to sleep with Simon and Garfunkel. Thanks to the internet, I may even buy a few of those songs back from the darkness and give them some new memories.