When I was little, I worried a lot. About things that had a .000001% chance of ever happening where we lived, like tornadoes or earthquakes. Things my Father called non-questions. He shut me down with that statement whenever I’d finally driven him to the point of exasperation, though he was still kind about it. But there was one fear that neither parent could ever quell.
For my first 14 years, we only took driving vacations, and only within North Carolina or to West Virginia to see my grandmother. (Except for a few train trips down to Florida to see my other grandparents when I was very small.) As my Father worked at the University, we took Spring Break when school took Spring Break, which was usually in March. My parents would load up the car and drive to the Outer Banks, staying in Buxton where the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse sat on the point, shining its beacon as a warning to ships far out in the treacherous seas off the easternmost point in the state.
It was a drive that felt like forever. We didn’t have a big four-lane highways back then. We took two-lane state highways, passing through rural farmland. I remember seeing so many old white abandoned houses that I wanted to grow up to rescue. We would stop in Willamston and have lunch at the Shamrock (it’s still there), and I always had stuffed flounder (it’s no longer on the menu), which was one of my “special occasion” meals growing up. I can still recall the wood of the captain’s chairs at our four-top, and the art on the paneled walls after all this time. After lunch, the drive turned from farmland to swampland, trees deep dripping with moss in uninterrupted mystery. What we were skirting is now the Palmetto-Peartree Preserve and the Alligator River National Wildlife Reserve, but back then, to a child, it was just the creepy swampland. Then suddenly, the swamp ended and we were heading over the bridge, through Manteo, across another bridge, and onto Whalebone Junction, where we turned right on Highway 12, which runs the length of the upper Outer Banks.
And that’s where the trouble started. Or more accurately, where I started being a particular pain in the ass.
By now, it was usually dusk. Not only was it a long drive from Durham, when you added trying to pack the car and two kids, stopping for lunch, and keeping to the speed limit, which my Mother did, the day was well faded by this time. Car headlights approached us as we traveled the 60 mile stretch of oceanfront road that was frequently washed out by Nor’easters or hurricanes. And therein lay the cause of my fears. Always, all the cars — all of them — were coming towards us. And we were the only car heading in our direction.
I was frequently near hysterical about this, absolutely convinced that something disastrous had happened at our destination, and that’s why everyone was coming towards us. They were all sensibly running away from the tragedy/monster/peril. But we were going towards it. Here we were, an innocent family, blithely travelling straight to our doom. Driving unknowingly right into the greedy, vicious maw of the beast. From my shotgun position, I kept swiveling around to see if there was anyone behind us, but no, there wasn’t. Just a long string of refugees from the terror ahead, passing by us, unable to gesture or indicate what was out there. My parents had enough of my nonsense after about 20 miles, so I would shut up and sit silently, staring into the darkness and girding my loins for our fate. As I recall, my brother, E-bro, was singularly unhelpful in this situation, but that’s what older brothers are for.
Of course, we would always live to tell the tale, reaching our haven of the Tower Circle Motel without being devoured or destroyed. Mr. Jack Grey would have left the light on for us and the door to our unit unlocked. There were no monsters or secret storms, just the sound of the crashing waves and the reassuring beam of the lighthouse flashing in its silent, trusted rhythm. We went on to spend a week with books and games and music and walks on the cold beach, times that I treasure. But every year, I went through this anxiety, without fail, until I grew out of it. I can’t remember how old I was when that happened. Curiously, my nephew had the same fear when he was small. That takes my mystical mind a-roaming to things like soul families and past lives. Did my nephew and I share a life long ago where we had a legitimate fear of something that destroyed us? Sounds a bit far-fetched, but one can’t be sure. I’m just glad that fear is a memory and that I’ve done a complete 180, going anywhere fearlessly and perhaps too often disregarding what might lie ahead. Roads, day or night, are made for adventure.
Daily gratitudes: Plans No change fees on plane tickets Nearing vaccine eligibility My baked salmon Getting called for Jury Duty!
Quote of the day: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” — William Shakespeare
I’m a writer. And I love that I’m a writer. However, this was not my chosen path. I’m a living example of “life’s what happens when you’re making other plans”. While I have always been a writer, there was only one point in my life (before the last decade) that I really wanted to commit myself to being a writer. It was spring of my sophomore year in college, and I remember it well.
I knew I didn’t want to stay in Boston. I was just too naive for the big city life that I thought I wanted. After escaping a sexual assault literally by the grace of God, and watching the building across the street from my house be engulfed in flames by an arsonist who was striking all over the neighborhood, along with some other distressing events, I knew I didn’t want to stay there. I went home to surprise my parents for a long weekend, and I told them I needed to move. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to stay in school. So I floated the idea of moving to Ocracoke Island, getting a restaurant job, and writing for a year. Surprisingly, they supported this notion. That may have been all I needed to hear — that they would support my stepping off the college track and trying something different — because I moved to Colorado and kept going to college.
I forgot what I had always wanted to be when I grew up.
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nurse.
How this could have completely slipped my mind when I decided to go to college, I do not know. My brother made this same observation a few years back. I was a candy striper from the time I was allowed to be. I volunteered in the old hospital until the new County hospital was built, and then I volunteered there. I logged more hours than anyone ever had in the program. I only stopped when I got a job to help pay for college. And then I just….forgot.
Maybe it was because I wasn’t very good at science. At my high school graduation, my chemistry teacher gave me a vase that he had hand-carved and told me I tried harder and did worse than any student he had ever had. Perhaps that threw me off my plan. I did avoid any science class I could throughout college, until in senior year, I realized I needed freshman biology to graduate (the only time I was ever grateful for a C minus).
Later in life, I remembered this goal. I thought about going back to school for nursing. But Ex-Pat had been a respiratory therapist at one time and was not encouraging. He said nurses were treated like the crap they had to clean up. So I let the goal go again, and just fell into a career path that took me to health care marketing for private companies. It was a pretty satisfying career. The goal came up again with Dr. Narcissist, who also discouraged me, so I let it go again. I don’t even feel like exploring the reasons he didn’t think it was a good idea. And I got a job writing.
But now, M encourages me to do anything. I’ve thought about going back to school, but when I think about how old I’d be when I finished and got my first job, it’s just daunting. I’ve seen my niece completely change careers from engineering to nursing and she couldn’t be happier. She’s found her tribe. I wonder if I’ve missed finding mine (with the exception of catering friends, because we definitely are a tribe unto ourselves).
I’ve told this story about falling off my path to K, and it’s been one of the things she fears most about her own goals. I suspect it’s one of those cautionary tales that will help her keep her focus. Not a bad thing. And as I continue to write, and get back to writing for myself, I am also trying to find the right path to providing care to others. There are a lot of forks in the road to explore once the world settles down a bit.
Have you followed your childhood dreams? Have you found your path? Your tribe? I wonder how many of us wanderers are out there.
Daily gratitudes: Flights of geese in the morning K’s new job Imam Bayildi Plants that grow despite me
When do couples usually get “their” song? Is it the song that might be playing during some particularly memorable moment? Something that seems like it’s speaking just to the two of you, that puts words to feelings you have, but couldn’t find words for? Do couples still even have songs? Gone are the days of making cassettes or burning CDs for partners as a sign of love. Do people just share playlists on Spotify now?
I know that at many of the weddings that I’ve worked, the first dance isn’t really the couples’ song, but just whatever the DJ recommends. There are hundreds of suggested “first dance” songs on the interwebs, and I’ve heard hundreds over the years. The memorable ones — which are often songs I haven’t heard before — are the ones that I can tell are that couples’ “song”. One of my favorites wasn’t a bride/groom first dance at all. The groom had the first dance with his little girl, who was about six, to her favorite song from Frozen, and his bride joined them towards the end. I thought that was pure lovely.
Looking back on my past relationships, I wonder why some, which were “meeting the parents” serious, did not result in a song, while others did. I believe it reflects the strength of the relationship. In those where we’ve had a song, we still think of each other fondly, even decades after the romantic relationship ended (with one exception — there’s always one exception). So, let’s travel down memory lane and take a peek at my relationship song playlist, starting with the first and ending with the finest.
The college boyfriend from Boston: “Genesis” by Jorma Kaukonen. The boyfriend was kind of a Deadhead, but also artsy. Our relationship was a bit stormy (my fault – I was young and stupid) but he still kept me company on my last night in town and saw me off at the Greyhound bus station the next morning. On that night, we sat on the floor in his apartment, on the carpet we’d carried home from Sears about half a mile away (a building which is now the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts offices, and in which I had a work meeting once about a dozen years ago, which was weird) and looked into each other’s eyes silently as this played. It’s a sweet memory.
The Ex-Husband (heretofore known as Ex-Pat): “Last Kiss” by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers. K thinks this is a terribly morbid song to be her parents “song”, and I can’t recollect why it was our song. Ex-Pat had a wonderful singing voice; I have a vague memory of him singing it to me, driving down Highway 93 in his old white Ford Falcon station wagon very early on in our relationship. He also serenaded me with it from a stage in a bar while I was playing pool one night. Another sweet memory.
One Dear Friend: “The Girl from Ipanema” and “I Thought About You”, both by Frank Sinatra. We were as close as a couple could be without ever being a couple. We danced to both of these songs, the former on a balcony in New Orleans in the afternoon light, and the latter in an Italian restaurant in Las Vegas. And we both loved Frank.
The Captain: “Roam” by the B-52s (a song he shared with others that he sailed with) and “My Romance” by Carly Simon. We were in a cab in San Francisco one time, talking about music, and Carly Simon’s name came up, and he made the cab stop and wait while he ran into a music store we just happened to be passing, coming out with a double Carly Simon CD, from which we gravitated to this song. When I knew of the Captain’s death, I was in the car in a traffic jam in Washington, D.C., and was listening to Rod Stewart’s “Sailing”. I cannot listen to that song now.
Ex-fiance Dr. Narcissist: “Come Away with Me” by Norah Jones. This relationship was just what you’d expect from a narcissist, so needless to say, it ended terribly and has taken a decade of recovery and ongoing recognition of how much gaslighting I experienced. In this relationship, I loved like never before, which makes it that much sadder. This song is never to be played in my presence, which is a shame because it’s a beautiful song.
And saving the best for last, my husband M: We have two pieces of music that we think of as our song. “Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, which obviously isn’t a song, but we discovered early on that we both liked classical music and that this was a favorite of each of us. You don’t find a lot of classical music lovers out there these days, so I got lucky. The other, which is an actual song, is “True Companion” by Marc Cohn. We’d both wanted a true partner to be in love with, which is what this songs speaks to, and we were blessed to find each other.
I’ve had two weddings (although M says we actually got married three times), and neither was large enough to merit music or dancing. They were both outside, so in the first, the music was the wind in the pines and strangers singing acapella to us from the next rocky promontory over. In the second, the music was the sound of the waves. That sea song was sweet enough — no other accompaniment needed. On our next trip to the Retreat, I think I’ll ask Alexa to play both of our songs. It will be a nice housewarming.
Do you have a song with your partner? If so, tell me what it is in the Comments. I’d love to hear it. One day, I’ll write about having a soundtrack to my life, something I think we all have.
Daily gratitudes: Hawks on light posts Housecleaning room by room Halo Top ice cream Snuggly Cat
P.S. Mr. Man and I also have a song: “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” by Ava Gardner from the musical Showboat. I have loved this song for decades and only realized this weekend that it actually references “Mr. Man”. It was just meant to be.
I am not much of a singer, being very shy about my voice, which is something that a therapist would no doubt have a great time unpacking. I actually think I have a pretty nice singing voice, judging from my enthusiastic performances during The Drive. I especially like it when I have a bit of a cold, because then I get my sultry 900-number voice and sound like a torch singer. Only once in my life have I ever done anything like karaoke. It was in Dallas, on top of a grand piano, after much alcohol, and the evening ended with the police recommending that I leave town and not return (though not because of my singing).
If I sing in someone’s presence, it means I trust them with some deep and sensitive part of me. I sing in front of M, which reflects the strength of our relationship. And I sing unconsciously in the kitchen when K is home, because I’m happy she’s there and I feel I can be completely myself with her. I hope she remembers when she gets older that her mother used to sing incomplete versions of The Lumberjack Song, among other ditties, in the morning as she lay in bed. I usually add my own lyrics when I forget the actual ones. My Mother also sang snatches of songs in the kitchen. That’s where a lot of my kitchen songs (and ones I used to sing to K in the car) come from. They’re all old songs, and when I say old, I mean from the 1940s. Think Fred Astaire movies and Cole Porter tunes. My Mother had a lovely, sweet, singing voice
I sang to K at night when she was little, as my Mother did to me. Every night when I was small, my Mother would sing Rock-a-Bye Baby to me. If I had bad dreams, she would cuddle me in the big rocking chair and sing to soothe me. My two favorites were “I Wonder as I Wander” (fitting for the little wanderer that was me) and “The Cherry Tree Carol”. I’m sure there were others. In fact, decades ago, my Mother made me a tape of herself singing my favorite lullabies. Even though I treasure it, I have had a very hard time keeping track of it. But I know that the tape will reappear when I need it most. Of that I am certain.
The songs I sang to K were not the same as those my Mother sang to me. My favorites to sing to her were “When Halley Came to Jackson”, “Down in the Valley”, “End of my Pirate Days”, “Go to Sleep my Zoodle”, “Go Tell Aunt Rhody”, “Meet Me in St. Louis” (which is a song that saved her life when she was very tiny because she had been crying for six straight hours and I was home alone with her and called the doctor because I wanted to drop her out of the second story window into the snow and I discovered that singing this song to her over and over made her stop crying), and a lullaby that I created when I was pregnant called “Go to Sleep, my Little Love”. Again, I’m sure there were more. She doesn’t recall the songs too well, but I think that’s a factor of age and where she is in her life. If she has a child, she will remember my singing to her, and find her own songs to sing to her wonderful little person.
I’d love to know what songs you sing (or sang) to your children, and what songs your mother sang to you. I have a dear friend who is having her first child in May and I’d like to put together a little collection for her. She and her husband are exceptionally musical, so I know they won’t be shy about singing to their little guy who will, as so many children before him, feel the love in those songs.
The title of this post is, once again, something that could take any number of paths, but allow me to clarify. One thing you didn’t know about me: I am an animal person. I love almost any animal — monkeys and mice are really the exceptions to that statement. My love of animals has evolved significantly over the years. As a child, my interest was rather ordinary (with one exception, to be revealed at a later date). We didn’t have dogs or cats when we were growing up. We had two turtles for quite a long time, and two gerbils. And once a cat wandered into the house. That was it.
Our neighbors had a wonderful little black puppy when I was about seven and if I was well-behaved, I was allowed to go over to their back stoop to play with Gremlin, and occasionally, the Jack Russell terrier (whose name was Ethelred and he could perfectly imitate the sound of an ambulance, always doing so when one passed by) on the other side of the duplex next door. I reached out to the lovely former neighbor a few years ago, finding her through some internet sleuthing, and she said they’d had other dogs, but never one as special as Gremlin. It warmed my heart that she still remembered the little girl next door, many moves and half a century later.
My house is full of animal-related objects, some cute, some bizarre, but all adorable in my opinion. Others might disagree, and focus more on the bizarre aspects of what I like to think of as my cabinet of curiosities, though the collection far exceeds the boundaries of any standard cabinet. I also have a skill as an animal communicator, which many people may think is a total crock, but it’s actually a thing. I have some training as a shaman, and for whatever reason, that training has resulted in a deeper connection with animals.
I tell you all of this because in future posts, I’ll explain my connections, deep or shallow, with many and varied species of animals. I look forward to sharing and I hope you look forward to reading. I leave you tonight with an image of Clyde in a rare moment of semi-serenity. You’ll have to wait to hear his story.