They’re Playing our Song

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.

Mr. Man, the Snuggly Cat himself.


Songs of Mothers

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.