Remember December

For funsies.

Hey Mr. Snowman, welcome aboard
You’ve joined a wonderful world
But I gotta warn you, there’s things you don’t know
Because your brain is made of snow

Remember December is not the only kind of month
With its crystalline cold
There’s others coming that you won’t like so much

Your small creator is fickle and young
And prone to temper tantrums
So man you’d better make every moment
count for something before you go

Remember December is not the only kind of month
With its crystalline cold
There’s others coming that you won’t like so much

Sweet little birds will peck out your eyes
Don’t take it personally
We’ve all got problems in our lives
As I am sure you’ll come to see

Beware of dogs and thirteen-year-olds
They’re unpredictable dolts
They might befoul you or decapitate
But they can’t take your luminous soul

Remember December is not the only kind of month
With its crystalline cold
There’s others coming that you won’t like so much

She Ain’t Gonna Be My Baby Anymore

My eldest child turned 18 this past week, so naturally my song for the week needed to be for her. Her dad Nathan and I took a walk together that we used for a cowriting session, which we extended when we returned home, and within a couple hours we had this very country song. Fun to have Nathan on the lead vocals this time. He wanted a song that expressed both loss and gain, grief and pride. I think we got it!

For better and worse she’s always been my girl
Ever since we met she’s been my world
But things have been changing for a long long time
Now I look back and I can see the signs
Something’s going on that I can’t ignore
She ain’t gonna be my baby anymore

She’s tall and proud and lovely as can be
She’s all dressed up but I know it’s not for me
There’s a spring in her step and a charge in the air
She flashes a smile and tosses her hair
She grabs the keys and walks out the door
She ain’t gonna be my baby anymore

There goes my baby
There goes my girl
There she goes shaking
My whole wide world
I just want to hold her but I know she can’t stay
She’s gonna leave and I won’t stand in her way
Where she’s headed I don’t know for sure
But she ain’t gonna be my baby anymore

I’m looking at her but she’s looking beyond me
Out where the big blue sky meets the sea
She’s got stars in her eyes, I’ve got a lump in my throat
She’s ready for the tide to carry her boat
And I’m crying a river back here on the shore
She ain’t gonna be my baby anymore

There goes my baby . . .

She’s shaking me awake from my sweet dreams
The sun is rising and she wants me to see
I never loved her more than I do tonight
I’m keeping it together with all my might
And I’m picking my heart up off the floor
She ain’t gonna be my baby anymore

There goes my baby . . .

Little Brother

I’ve written songs for both my parents, my husband, both my children, my brother’s wife and all of his children – but until week 51 of #songaweek2018 I still hadn’t written one for my one and only sibling, my brother Jeremy.

I’d been wanting to write a song for him for years, even attempted it a couple times before, but until this week I never had anything worth finishing. Thanks to my parents sending me some old photos, I was even able to put together a video collage.

Life without you well I don’t really remember it
It’s like you’ve always been around
Climbing trees and making faces at me

Little brother I once held you all inside my tiny arms
But now I look up to you

We rode our big wheels in the trailer park
Played GI Joe and Barbie dolls
Super Breakout and Super Mario

Little brother I once crushed you playing football in the yard
But now I look up to you

You got the chicken pox and I was jealous
Until I got it worse than you
And while I suffered, you learned to ride a bike first

We played in puddles and danced to records
And explored the woods out back
I guess we were best of friends

And now we’re grownups with families of our own
We send our kids to cousin camp
and barely remember what life without them was like

Little brother I once bossed you all around in every way
But now I look up to you

 

Know You

I wasn’t consciously thinking about #MeToo or the conversations we’re having around consent in this cultural moment, but as this song took shape I can see its influence.

Just this morning I finished the last in a three-part Radiolab podcast called “In the No.” Which I did not enjoy but forced myself to listen to for my own good, like going to the dentist or cleaning the bathroom. In general I don’t like talking about sex or seeing/hearing it reenacted (all of which happens in this series, including both staged and real audio recordings of sexual encounters), let alone discussions of BDSM (a main topic of the last episode).

But I’m trying to parent two humans who mean more than anything to me, and this is their world. I won’t – and don’t – always understand, but I want to be engaged and informed.

Though there were important moments of insight and perspective throughout the series, all my discomfort in listening was worth it for the very last few minutes of episode three, starting at 24:35, when Michael Lissack, director of Empowering Victims, said this:

“Unfortunately, [consent] frames the entire question the wrong way. Consent means that you’re giving someone permission to do something to you. We don’t do sex to someone else. We have sex with someone else. . . It’s the wrong word.”

And the very last words of the series, from an unnamed woman discussing her current relationship:

“It’s so nice to have a partner that can read your body language and be like, this doesn’t feel right, are you okay?”

“Consent” is legal language and an obvious and irrefutable baseline. It’s unconscionable that it’s taken us this long as a society just to get to the point where this is an expectation for everyone, including men in positions of power.

But as a measure of a meaningful relationship, consent is much too low a bar. I want to know my partner, in every sense of the word. And I want my partner to know me, and to want to know me. This is what I hope and pray for my children too, as they grow into adulthood and seek out life partners, to love and be loved, body and soul, heart and mind.

Here’s my song for week 43 of #songaweek2018:

Tell me all the things you think about honey
Tell me everything you know about love
Tell me all the jokes you think are funny
Tell me everything you know about love

I really wanna know
I really wanna know
I wanna know you

Tell me what scares you, what hurts and haunts you
Tell me everything you know about love
Tell me about the hands you couldn’t hold on to
Tell me everything you know about love

Tell me all the things you dream about baby
Tell me everything you know about love
Tell me what can make your legs get shaky
Tell me everything you know about love

I’m listening
With all my ears
And all my heart

Normal

I’ll be 43 this week. And still, I’m writing songs like this one, processing my childhood and the life that grew from it.

We are all shaped by histories we had little to no control over. Our agency grew as we did. Looking back at my history, some things seem especially strange now that felt completely normal then, as that was the only reality I knew in my short life span.

But of course I’m not unique in this. It’s a human thing.

There are several facets to the idea of “normal” in this song. There’s what I mentioned already – that what feels normal when you’re born into it can look anything but normal in retrospect.

Another facet for me, because of my particular history, is that I’ve struggled with feeling like a normal person much of my life – in two very different ways. First, when I was growing up inside fundamentalism, I learned that we the faithful were the chosen ones. We were “a peculiar people” and that wasn’t supposed to sound funny – because it was in the Bible, King James Version, which was the most highly regarded and the one I grew up with.

(We also believed that everyone outside our construct was destined to eternal damnation, burning forever in a literal hell. Sometimes I wonder if the “chosen people” idea was a way to help us cope with the horror of this belief. If you are constantly reminded that your “unsaved” family, friends, neighbors, grocery cashier, letter carrier, etc., etc., are doomed to that kind of suffering unless you can somehow convince them to join your club – I mean church – it might help to imagine them as somehow a lesser being than you are. Maybe they won’t feel the pain like you would. In this case I wouldn’t exactly call our outlook on “the unsaved” dehumanization because I think we were imagining ourselves as slightly above genuine humanity. We were “reborn,” “converted” – humanity plus. But it probably had a similar effect on our outlook.)

So that was one side of my struggle with feeling normal, the one I lived with while growing up in that environment.

The other side has been in the years since, exiting from fundamentalism, and feeling like an outsider trying to learn a new culture. For a long time I didn’t feel legitimate, because I had missed out on so many of the experiences that were common to my generation’s growing-up years. I don’t have memories associated with the music and movies of my generation, because I wasn’t allowed to listen to that music or go to theaters. I was married before I was even offered my first drink. The wildest oats I sowed was an all-[cis, straight] girls strip-and-run through the woods in my college years. Once. I think we might have howled at the moon for extra tension release.

Deeper than that, I just didn’t learn the everyday street-smarts that many people get growing up in a less sheltered environment. I was naive, shy, fearful. All those years of working hard to keep a long list of rules had ill-prepared me to live in a world where the rules weren’t always so clear, if they existed at all. I went into every situtation wanting to know what was expected of me, what I needed to do to make people like me, and I couldn’t always figure it out.

Only in very recent years have I learned that in most situations, there just isn’t a list of expectations for me to check off. There’s nobody standing by with a clipboard grading me. I don’t have to perform in order to be deemed a real live human being. I just am. And so is everyone else. I’m nothing special, and I’m the only me there ever was or will be. And the same goes for you.

That’s what I mean by normal, at least as I was writing this, my song for week 42 of #songaweek2018: (Wow, only ten weeks left!) The suggested theme was “socks,” so I stuck in some socks for good measure.

I used to live in Indiana
In a trailer park on the edge of town
There was a field where we ran and played
And I liked to pick Queen Anne’s Lace

It was normal, all so normal
Like shoes and socks, baby dolls and blocks
And black and white TV

I used to pledge allegiance to the Bible
And the flags of my faith and country
Every morning at the Christian school
Where they gave us all the answers

It was normal, all so normal
I was good as gold, did what I was told
And I won a lot of trophies

That was a long time ago
I still don’t know what I don’t know

I’ve moved a dozen times since then
Geographically, theologically
I own a single-family detached dwelling
And I took my trophies to the thrift store

This is normal, all so normal
I’m a bona fide, genuine
I have always been and I will always be
like every one of you looking back at me,
An honest-to-God human being.