My Life as a Song

I suppose it’s fitting, somehow, that the number one song on the Top 40 Charts the day I was born was “The Streak”:

Here [s]he comes, look at that, look at that
There [s]he goes, look at that, look at that
And [s]he ain’t wearin’ no clothes 1

All seven pounds of me were eventually bundled up (but not too much; it was nearly 100 degrees that day) and, throughout the rest of my life to this point, singer-songwriters seem to have been writing my biography, musically.

Music means a lot to me. I nearly always have some melody running through my head, and I sometimes feel that song lyrics say it best. Since I was a kid, I have attempted to learn to play – with varying degrees of success – five different instruments. I also sing… sort of. I joined my first church choir at 15, had minor roles in two musicals in high school, sang with an Italian-American chorus in my late 20s and love to get together with a group of friends regularly to embarrass myself at karaoke night. In some past life I figure I may have been some kind of crappy, wanna-be minstrel, and might have been a frustrated musician in this one if I hadn’t discovered that I can write HTML.

As a young kid, many of the songs my parents listened to on the radio made no sense to me. Why, I wondered, would love hurt? I had no idea what piña coladas were and did not like getting caught in the rain. But by age five I was a cat lover, and one song spoke to me like no other:

Pussycat, Pussycat
I love you
Yes, I do!
You and your pussycat face! 2

Music was there for me when I matured a little and truly fell in love for the first time (Don’t know what color your eyes are, baby, but your hair is long and brown. Your legs are strong and they’re so so long and you don’t come from this town 3), as well as when that relationship ended nearly seven years later (I wonder how it’s gonna be, when it goes down. How’s it gonna be when you’re not around? How’s it gonna be when you found out there was nothing between you and me? ‘Cause I don’t care. How’s it gonna be? 4).

When I met my husband and we played out our courtship on the dancefloor during the swing revival, Mr Pinstripe Suit and Mr Hi-Dee-Hi-Dee-Ho 5 always had the answers we all wanted to know. We fell into an easy arrangement of domesticity and by the time we’d been together two years, we were spinning on a dance floor in a wedding gown and tuxedo, quietly, as forty-eight friends and relatives gathered around for our first dance:

And every time you think of me
I hope you think of true romance
And every time you want to leave
You give us both another chance 6

A couple of years later, we had a baby. Unfortunately, within the first two weeks, I found myself dealing with a screaming infant who had acid reflux (although it took us a couple of weeks to figure it out). My new son did nothing but eat, spit up, scream, and eat some more. All. Day. Long. I couldn’t even get a diaper change accomplished without a major screaming fit happening (usually the baby would cry too), and he wouldn’t let me cradle him in my arms; he had to be upright at all times.

My husband had become a volunteer firefighter right before the baby was born near the end of May, and could only take off a few days’ paternity leave before he had to go back to his day job as a high school teacher. So, while he got out of the house regularly and enjoyed his normal life, I sat at home, alone, with a cranky infant I couldn’t figure out how to soothe. Soon, the big black dog of postpartum depression was nipping at my heels.

I sat on the couch early one morning, feeding the baby and enjoying a rare quiet moment. the TV was already on from my husband watching it before he went to work, so I absentmindedly flipped the station over to VH1. A local band gone big had just released a new album and the video for the first single was premiering at that moment:

I need a sign to let me know you’re here
All of these lines are being crossed over the atmosphere
I need to know that things are gonna look up
‘Cause I feel us drowning in a sea spilled from a cup 7

I took a breath and relaxed a little. The baby even stayed calm during the video. Over the next couple of weeks, I put my son on Tagamet for the reflux and found someone to talk to. My depression did eventually subside and I was able to rejoin the rest of the human race.

Occasionally, I will hear a song somewhere that will strike a chord with me (so to speak). If the lyrics are well-written and profound, I respond emotionally rather than rationally, and they become part of me and of my story. After all, “I’m a war of head versus heart. And it’s always this way. My head is weak, my heart always speaks before I know what it will say 8.”

1. “The Streak“, Ray Stevens
2. “What’s New Pussycat“, Tom Jones
3. “So Alive“, Love and Rockets
4. “How’s It Gonna Be“, Third Eye Blind
5. “Mr Pinstripe Suit“, Big Bad VooDoo Daddy
6. “Try Whistling This“, Neil Finn
7. “Calling All Angels“, Train
8. “Crooked Teeth“, Death Cab for Cutie

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