I started to compose a compendium of songs I’ve loved and to tell you why, but I became flooded with memories and thoughts and buds of who I am now, that I kept it to one song for today, with more labyrinth emotions evoked by song on their way. Because you can only become so sopped with the weight of someone’s life, it’s one song at a time.
Love Will Keep Us Together/Captain and Tennille
I’d just turned eight, and lived south of San Francisco in a then-small town named Foster City. We’d only lived in our brown and white shuttered home for six months, but I knew I should stay there forever. Kids my age peppered and salted the street, and after-dark Ghosts in the Graveyard and Red Rover marked the early summer turning into autumn. I held on to this time with both hands, refusing to vacate this settled place I’d found, but we moved each year, so my blooming intuition told me we wouldn’t be in my beloved-and-newly-adopted city long. Still, I fantasized about always staying in Northern California, even writing my dad a heartfelt and tearful card when the inevitable we’re-relocating-once-again talk came as it always did, alerting us all we’d be in Chicago within three months; telling him in angry crayon that I wouldn’t live next to a “muddy lake.” I lamented the move by oft wandering our ivy-covered front yard, haunting the backyard koi pond bridged by the wooden slats that clomped so satisfyingly, and trudging through our neighbor’s rock garden, singing, Love Will Keep Us Together. We lived in a cul-de-sac across the street from the bay where everyone would boat to the Safeway. A marina bustled behind our fence and that going-somewhere-else restlessness captured in sailor shouts heading to sea still pumps in my heart today. It was 1976 and I recall very clearly the bubbly feeling that the whole world was something I didn’t know yet. In spite of my impending-move sadness, it was the hoping happiness I remember. Even so, Stephanie Saito threw me a going-away party and the pictures I see now show something of my always-bittersweet poking behind my newly procured gold-rimmed owl-eye glasses. I saw the party in “Fly Like An Eagle” lyrics, another song I sang religiously, and so asked my mom if I could be a singer and she said, “If you do something all the time, it could be your life.” It’s funny the things you remember your parents telling you. Some is true, and some…a fabrication to gird hearts and souls from untimely demise by unfortunate reality. Our Midwestern move turned out to be the last of my childhood (we’d make one more after I graduated from high school, back to California, this time Southern, and I didn’t love it near as much as in 1976). I never became a singer, mostly because I couldn’t sing worth a damn.
Other songs permeated my soul during this time, ones I grew to love and still do, even if they’re passe and maudlin. I absorbed whole Neil Diamond’s “Beautiful Noise,” Helen Reddy’s “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady,” and “Sara Smile.” I see pink ballet shoes and a neon travel agency with that Hall and Oates. Always will, funny how images stick to your bones, super-glued there by lost melodies…