Raise your hand if you’re one of those people who develops insane levels of emotional attachment to music. Me too. Certain songs remind me of a day, or a year, or one particular party, or one particular car ride, or a person. I know you know what I mean.
When I was around late middle school or 9th grade or so, I went on a tear where I made these mix cassette tapes. I know it must have been around then because I guess it was mid high school when we started burning CDs. So I must have had like 20 of these tapes I made. I gave them goofy names– “[dumb thing] mix!”– and mined most of the material from the radio. I used to trick my little sister by playing the tapes (which in her doe-like youth and innocence she assumed was live radio) and dumbfound her by saying “Now they’re going to play a Ford commercial. Now they’re going to play ‘Wannabe.’” She thought I was some kind of mystic. Kind of hilarious thinking about it.
Occasionally songs from my mom’s CD collection made it onto the tapes. Technically the collection was built by both my parents, but as I understand it they were a hotly contested item during divorce negotiations and ended up going the way of my mother. She finds some comic relief in that today, that there was a time where she had a Grisham-esque courtroom throw down over a CD collection. That she lost all her savings in legal fees but dammit she got to keep Dark Side of the Moon. So, it was unfortunate my mom got dumped, but I at least grew up alongside a very pleasing soundtrack of Carly Simon and Roseanne Cash and John Denver.
This Harry Chapin tribute concert was among the collection. It also somehow made its way into my humongous CD portfolio thingy which I recently dug out; now that we are no longer urbanites I spend a lot more time in the car and have been enjoying some old favorites. I also marvel at how little music is actually encased in that giant thing!
Anyway, I was in a folksy mood today and Harry Chapin seemed like the right choice. Then track 7 came on and I am doing a pug head tilt. I had no recollection at all of the preceding six tracks, but this particular song was insanely familiar in a crazy distant kind of way. And I am wracking my brain as to why just this song is ringing 258952 bells in my head.
Yep, I realized I knew it from one of my mix tapes. Something about it had caught the ear of my 13-year-old self; onto a tape it went where it was listened to many, many times, only to have fallen through the cracks long before the Great iTunes Migration of 2005. I also was floored that I immediately recognized the voice as Bruce Springsteen, which unbeknownst to my young self would go on to become my absolute, #1 #1 #1 favorite artist. Years before I would hear Backstreets, before my 17-year-old self would drive across the 81 bridge with the windows down and Born to Run turned up as high as the Taurus station wagon would allow, I had singled out his one track on the album. Whoa.
It’s a beautiful, beautiful song with even more beautiful commentary from Bruce. And I don’t know if it was the shock of the nostalgia, the tenderness with which I recalled my little tape-making self, the 9/11 footage I had watched all morning while my tummy jolted with the kicks of my tiny baby… but it brought tears to my eyes as I sat listening to it at a red light here in 2012.
It’s worth 7 minutes, especially today, if you have them…
May we always, always take a break from our busy lives on this day to remember, or reflect, or send up a prayer, or hug somebody, or do whatever floats your particular boat. I am e-hugging all of you right now.