When The Road Is Weary And All You Have Are Your Favorite Songs To Bring You Home

image - josefa holland-merten
image – josefa holland-merten

What are the songs from your childhood that take you back to a special moment every time you hear them? What are the lyrics and melodies that have stayed with you all these years?

No one in my family played instruments but I’d like to think we were a musical family. My parents always had the record player or radio going while they either worked at home in their greenhouses or at the farm market they owned. They loved live music and took me out with them whenever they could.

Johnny Cash. Elvis. Dwight Yoakum. Bill Withers. Aretha Franklin. Carole King. George Strait. The Staple Sisters. These are just some of the musicians that kept our family company. In the long Michigan winters sometimes it seemed like music was the only thing that kept us alive.

A couple decades later and every time I hear one of the songs I grew up with I’m brought back to being a little girl on my parent’s farm. But times have changed, my father has passed, the farm is gone and I’m left with nothing but the memories of a distant time.

Home has been a transient place for me for so long I stopped identifying it as any one location or address ages ago. Because what is home, really? It’s the place we know we can go back to. The place where we feel warm and safe, loved and cared for. A place we can let our guard down and be ourselves.

We often assume this must be a physical place. But I think, for those of us that were forced to grow up much faster than we wanted to, home means something entirely different.

I’ve traveled so many places, moved so many times, and lived so many lives I’ve learned to associate the idea of home as a place within myself. It’s within the images and words from another era I relive within my mind when I want to reflect on my past. It’s within the songs I listen to, the lyrics I repeat to myself, the melodies that overcome me.

Home is not a physical place for me but rather a cerebral construct I’ve created over the years to retreat to when the world becomes too much.

Like tonight I am in Detroit, on my way to Mexico in the morning, and a few moments ago in this bar I heard that Bill Wither’s song “Use Me.” I’m reminded of dancing to this song in Nicaragua last fall with a cute boy from Argentina, and of dancing with my father to the melody not too long after he had his bone marrow transplant – hospital gown, IVs and all.

Maybe I can’t ever go home again but I can turn back to these moments in time when I felt free and weightless.

This winter has been unusually tough on me. For months I felt like I was barely living, doing just enough to survive. It has been so dark, and so cold for such a long time, and I’ve felt very lonely for most of it. Then there are moments like tonight where I hear a song and instantly, my guard goes down. The moment is fleeting in its comfort and for a brief pass in time – I’m home. Sometimes all you need are your favorite songs to bring you right where you need to be. TC mark

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