These are the songs you hear coming in from the back screen door songs during the late August heat. He’ll play his banjo but only if you ask politely. Whenever you hear that song, you’ll be reminded of the hum of his fingers, the buzz of insects and the glow of a summer night sky.
These songs are the short nights that turned to mornings right before our eyes. You know the ones — we all have them. When someone rudely reminds you that it actually belongs to a record label, you just laugh because you know that’s not true: that these songs begin to you now, they belong to your memories. Life if just a string of moments that later fade to sepia, moments that are colored by the sounds and songs you associate with them. As if the moment a friend walked into a room, you could hear their favorite song announcing their arrival in your heart and in your head, and each time those songs play you press “pause,” even if only for three minutes and thirty some odd seconds. Just to make the song play a little longer.
When my friend Bill died, I couldn’t hear half a second of our song. It hurt too much, knowing there would be no more drunkenly slurring the words in his kitchen. There would be no more screaming the lyrics collectively at the top of our lungs. Those Civil War hats donned in those days would be hung up forever. But the very time that took him away brought something else back — our song, and a sense of peaceful comfort in knowing that I’d always have it to remember him by.
There was this song that reminded me of a world traveler I know. He looks at maps with these wide eyes — devouring each line, picturing the road it represents. The kick of the base drum I once equated to the first footsteps of his journey, but, recently, I find it to be the sound track to my own impending adventure. He never knew it was his song. Maybe I’ll tell him some day.
At my best friend’s wedding, right when I thought I’d lose her to the divergence in our lives, she whispered something to the D.J before walking to the center of the floor. Upon hearing the opening chords, I lept into her arms — I couldn’t help it, it was our song. And, as if everyone else knew, the space slowly cleared, allowing for my girl and me to dance. Passenger side, lighting the sky — our star kept us together.
So here’s to the memories, the ones we made and gave away. This is a love letter to the words that calloused our broken hands when we thought we were already crawling, and mended our broken hearts when we thought they couldn’t break anymore. These are the songs that lulled us to sleep when nothing else could do it. From finding your way at 30, to our first loves at 17. These songs are property to the creator, but when we sing them, they become ours.