friendships, joys of music

finding roots in my own backyard

I stopped in the middle of the aisle in the grocery store; my ears straining to hear the background music.  They say supermarket chains do a lot of research on the target demographic shopper and play music to keep them in the store; filling their carts.   The older gentleman glared at me in annoyance; finding my cart blocking the produce aisle.  The words were out of my mouth before I could register what I was saying,

“Who sings this song?”

While I grabbed my smartphone and busily tried to activate my Shazam app, the man looked at me incredulous.  And then he half-snorted and half-laughed as the song reached the chorus.

“The Eagles.  Lyin’ Eyes.”  We grinned at one another and I apologized for blocking the aisle.

I LOVE this song.  It brought me back to clothes lines waving in the breeze, the wildflower garden outside of my bedroom window, the smell of clothes being ironed and my mom humming, off-key, to the local radio station.  It’s amazing how our brains and neuronal pathways can immediately take you to a certain time and place.  To a simpler time.  A happy space.

My hubs and sons know my tendencies to stop in random places when a song catches my fancy.  And when it does, I find myself on YouTube enjoying the tune, over-and-over again until I finally get my fill.  I am very fond of the repeat button on my car stereo and when my middle son showed me how to loop songs on YouTube, he instantly regretted it.  Those who know me well understand this quirky part of my personality.

I realized at a young age that if I paired a well-liked song with a task, such as trying to memorize chemical formulas or literature, that I could retain and recall the information quickly and accurately.  The song and lyrics became background noise and I would become ultra-focused on the sights and sensory inputs before me.  It is how I can still, decades later, sit in front of the ivories and play Bing Crosby’s, ‘White Christmas’ with no practice at all.  It doesn’t come out perfect but my finger memory returns and with a few practice runs, the chords harmoniously come together as my fingers find the keys.  I do this once a  year; at Christmas.

When the P. Allen Smith gardening book appeared on our doorstep, my sons quizzically asked why I was reading it.  As a rule I don’t read through gardening books but while recuperating on the couch, at work, I found myself watching hours of PBS shows.  The green thumb gene seems to keep passing me by as I try to re-create the wildflower garden outside of my childhood bedroom window.  My hubs has exasperatedly watched me grow from one phase into another as I’ve gone through various vegetable gardening phases and a formal gardening expansion.

But as our schedules became busier with growing sons and work demands, the gardens lay fallow and weeds took over.   It was a visit to the local botanical garden that finally brought me back to the succulents that now grace my front entry.  They are sustainable in our drought resistance state, are low maintenance and are indigenous to our region.  But I yearn for the wildflowers of my youth.

I find myself returning back to my roots.  The ones that I ran away from at age eighteen to the bright lights and big city.

I have had some time to think about these things after recovering from surgery these past seven weeks.  I did a lot of reading and a lot of reminiscing.  And a lot of reflecting.

One of my favorite things about the holidays is that it is the time of year when people reach out to one another and when asked how I was, I would answer without fanfare that I was, “a little bit okay” (a phrase my mom would often say with a thick accent).

I loved receiving the greeting cards and annual letters and hearing the sounds of Christmas in concert performances. When the youngest belted out his trumpet jazz solo in, ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’; the older brothers, hubs and I were stunned.    A caccophany of sounds always fill our home; whether it be the sounds of any of our three sons playing their instruments, music blaring from playlists  or YouTube or all of these things at the same time.

Silence is not common within our four walls and I know that someday, I will miss all the noise and activity my family brings.

The doc had demanded that my husband keep me on bed rest and he took her words to a whole new level.  He left a cowbell, the one I used to cheer my sons on during their fall marching band competition season, on my nightstand which I refused to ring; even once.  The hubs relented and purchased a $19.99 skinny tree for the bedroom to decorate with my extensive ornament collection of my favorites.  I was to remain upstairs; my bedroom becoming my hospital room.  My sanctuary that few people enter outside of our family of five.

During the holidays my bed became hospitable and family and friends came to sit in bed with me for hours on end.   I found my hospitality gene from the confines of my own bed.  This was the best holiday season EVER.

I was embarrassed by the “food train” organized by the woman who wouldn’t accept my, “no” for an answer.   I was humbled by the school, book club and band moms who fed my hubs and sons during the hectic holiday season.   The women who stood with me on my wedding day, almost two decades before,  generously gave their time and presence in surprising and unexpected ways. As an only child with deceased parents, I felt rootless; my ties to my childhood home marked by two tombstones in a cemetery.

Through the years the weeds and bright lights clouded my perspective; the negative becoming my default mode.   I came to realize my frame of reference was all wrong.    The nostalgia and feelings from my childhood can be rekindled.  The songs were bringing me back; reminding me of the simpler times in life.  I can create my own garden of beauty.  It doesn’t have to be the wildflowers of my youth.  It merely needs to bring me joy.

My roots can be planted in my own backyard.

I’ve spent too many years trying to replicate things from the past.  Happiness isn’t found in creating an exact blueprint.  I must create my own footprint in this garden of life; my own version of beauty and music.

And then my words came.  Confined to my bed the hubs would lay nearby and I could finally articulate the words that were stuck on repeat in my mind.

I used to love to watch my husband work on cars.  When two different friends had car troubles, I had been surprised that the hubs had offered to look at them.  Countless hours were spent troubleshooting and watching How To videos on YouTube.  And when the cars were fixed, the hubs felt the contentment in paying it forward.   Helping others took his mind off of his own worries and he, too, rekindled his love of fixing and building things.

This past weekend the hubs and I weeded in our garden.  We’ve stopped using the excuse of ‘someday’ and have turned our attentions to ‘today.’  We are re-framing our perspectives, planting seeds and sons to grow on this Earth and simply living one day at-a-time.  Life will never be picture perfect.  But we both discovered that the relationships in our lives can sustain us through the tough times.

Lyin’ Eyes is on repeat in the background.  My fingers fly over the keyboard and my dormant thoughts, unlocked by this beloved song of the past, have emerged from my subconscious over the past ninety minutes.

When our thoughts and values are aligned we can do anything.



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