Music Meloncholy

Today I put all of our CD’s in storage.

Music CD’s not Money CD’s in case you were confused. (As if.)

I found it really hard to do. 

But I’m on a quest for de-cluttering my house before the holidays start. Those babies are nothing but dust collectors and space taker uppers. 

But they also symbolize over twenty five years of Grant’s and my life together. 

When we first met I think we were both still listening to the occasional cassette tape. I still have two huge cases filled with cassettes including some of my favorite mixes that I had recorded in high school using a recorder sitting NEXT to the RADIO. You had to totally pay attention if you wanted to cut out the commercials. The Walkman was the greatest invention of all time and pencils were not just for writing with: they were, with their erasers, the trick to winding messy mayhem back into crucial life tunes. 

We also both had (and still have) an extensive collection of records that we combined with our vows of ‘till death parts us unless you decide suddenly you don’t like music-then you’re OUT’. I have known a couple of really nice people in my life who don’t care all that much about music but I would NEVER have married one. 

Did you KNOW that the invention of the compact disc is mostly credited to James T Russell who was born in Bremerton Washington in 1931? He lives in MY STATE! Who knew?! In 1965 he joined Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of the Battelle Memorial Institute in Richland Washington. He is still alive as of right now but I’m not sure where he is living. I’d like to write him a thank you letter. Anyhow, that is your history lesson for the day. You’re welcome. 

Putting the CD’s away I was filled with melancholy. There were SO MANY homemade playlists: ones we made for our kids and ones our kids made for us when they got tech savy. “Stuff Mom Will Like”. Hundreds of purchased CD’s, used until they skipped from the scratches. Thousands of songs that would take a book to list, because of the memories they bring to the light.

When I was working in Montana for a week, super pregnant with Maria, I came home to a major event: Grant had traded his beloved truck in for a fifteen passenger van, later named The Rambuski. It was the ugliest thing I had ever seen and I honestly thought he had lost his mind. “I just thought it was time to show you that I’m ALL IN with this kid thing. I’m down. But I also spent two thousand dollars on a stereo system with six speakers.”

That van rocked Spokane and we filled it up with kids, their friends, football teams, soccer players cub scouts and there was NEVER a time when the stereo was not playing full blast, little heads and big heads bouncing up and down to request of the minute. Oh those memories, they just fill my eyes. Every kid remembers that rocking van, and the white one we bought later, the Whitebuski, that was traded in this year, with a Tom Petty CD still stuck in the player, for Grant’s dream truck. It took fifteen years to come full circle, complete with Bluetooth to play songs on his phone. 

We can put the CD’s away because now we have a family Spotify account. I lied about the Walkman being the greatest invention of all time: it’s second. To be able to listen to any piece of music on the face of the planet with a 4 second search? 

An epic gift from the universe. 

I can climb into history, take myself to a life moment that comes back in full color and smell from a song. Or into the minds of my children when then send me a song they love via text. I love to try to feel what they feel when they listen to a song. 

I will put the CD’s next to the box of records and cassettes and we will play them for the grandchildren and they will be in AWE of our ancient and strange artifacts.   

Plus, just in case there is a zombie apocalypse we will still have music to listen to, provided there’s gas for a generator. It’s good to be prepared. 

A Certain Kind of Silence

When I was in the sixth grade, our teacher Mr. Lee played the song “The Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel for the class and asked us to write an essay about what the lyrics meant to us. Mr. Lee was my very first male teacher and I adored him. I think it’s because he was the first man in my life who wasn’t related to me to spark the possibility in my mind that I might actually be interesting. His eyes would light up when he was listening to what I had to say, coaxing out what was inside me with genuine delight: words, thoughts, dreams, worries. I imagine he had this affect on many kids. I wasn’t the only shy child who had shit to say but needed a little encouragement to speak it out loud.

Screenshot 2016-04-30 at 10.37.46 PM

So, it stands to reason that I would want to impress Mr. Lee in all my twelve year old brilliance by getting into the heads of two legendary singer-songwriters and nailing my essay. Instead my head became so full of the desire for approval that I became paralyzed and could not generate a single thought. To this day, it haunts me, my inability back then to express what the lyrics meant to me. I have tried for years to remember if I wrote ANYTHING down on paper. I don’t think I did and the entire class discussion is a blank. I was so worried about being wrong and disappointing Mr. Lee that the whole point of the exercise was lost on me, which looking back was wonderful irony, considering the lyrics.

When the fantastic remake of the song performed by David Draiman of Disturbed went viral (it’s playing now, on repeat as I write this post) it made me realize I have unfinished business from the sixth grade that needs tending to.

Now, honestly, I’m still not completely sure how S&G wanted their lyrics to be interpreted and I don’t know that I really care. The question that Mr. Lee asked us is “what do the words mean to YOU?” Art in any form, by its very nature gives us full permission to engage on a personal level and connect ourselves in any way we choose. This is the beauty of art and also perhaps the difficulty, at least from the perspective of the artist. The interpretation is individually subjective and can be as different as night and day from one person to the next. So much depends on the baggage being attached to the art.

The song to me speaks about the painful ramifications of a certain kind of silence. What held me back from saying back then what I felt about the word ‘silence’? I had a teacher who was ready and eager to hear what I had to say. Why didn’t I speak up? Why was I afraid back then to tell about how a certain type of silence could hurt as bad as a slap in the face?  

I’m not talking about the kind of silence that happened when I was alone, either up in the arms of the chestnut tree or hanging out in the sanctuary of my bedroom. I was a pretty content kid and to this day feel the most peaceful and at ease when I am flying in silent solo.

I’m talking about the type of silence that turns your blood cold when you are in it’s midst. Walking unsuspectingly into a frigid wall of silence from someone you love without any understanding as to why. My mom was queen of the iron curtain and could go for weeks without a word to me when she was angry. Sometimes I was just an innocent victim of her internal rage at someone else, often my dad. Other times it was something I had done to receive her ostracism, though rarely did I find out exactly what I had done wrong. She would just one day be done with her silent treatment and move on as though nothing had happened. I was always so relieved when the silence ended. It felt dark and loveless.

Now, I do not mean to imply that my mom did this all the time. She was a caring, generous and creative soul who loved people so deeply that I think sometimes it physically hurt her. I like to believe that she doled out the silent treatment because it was to her better than what she wanted to do which was scream horrible obscenities at my sister and I.  I for sure was no princess. And I KNOW from experiencing motherhood six fold that children can be terrible little assholes from time to time.

Admittedly, I have tried a few times in my life to use the silent treatment with my kids. There HAVE been times that I have been so angry that silence seemed like a solution that would keep me from causing greater harm. But I can never seem to be silent longer than the time it takes to simply cool down.  Because shunning people this way feels as horrible to me as it does to be the one shunned. It is also seems completely useless. I am by nature someone who needs to speak, express, yell, listen, hear and then resolve things. You can not resolve anything with silence. In fact, conflict grows bigger and more powerful the longer silence holds it prisoner. “Silence like a cancer grows.”

To this day I can not handle that kind of silence from people. It tears me apart. And while I will probably continue to love certain people in my life who use their silence as a weapon, or maybe more fairly, as a shield, it for sure creates thick boundaries in the relationship that don’t need to be there. The lyrics “hear my words that I might teach you, take my arms that I might reach you, but my words, like silent raindrops fell” make me remember those desperate mental pleas: “Talk to me! Yell at me if you must! But please don’t ignore me!”  Because the indifferent silence is so loud in my mind that it is unbearable: booms of thunder that resonate exhausting questions timed with a heavy beating heart “Why won’t you speak to me? Why won’t you hear me? What have I DONE that you won’t love me right now?”

And so my dearly adored Mr. Lee, while I’m sure that there is so much more to the song than how a certain kind of silence can hurt like a motherfucker,  I bet you wouldn’t be in any way disappointed that the vision you planted in my brain no longer remains silent.