18 October, 2011

My Favorite Driving Song

It was summer in Elkton, Maryland. I was eight (I think...The Elkton years have all melded into one golden era that seemed like it would last forever). We piled into the white Dodge caravan with Dad and headed to a friends' house. At that time in my family's life we didn't listen to very much music...I guess my 6,000 siblings and I provided enough sonorous distraction on our own. But on this day the sky was too blue and our hearts were too buoyant - we could not be without song. Dad tuned the radio to the oldies station and sang along to every single song. I felt jealous and intrigued - jealous that I didn't know any of the songs and couldn't join in, but intrigued by this glimpse of my father's history. These were the songs of his childhood and teen years, and as he sang along with a joyful abandon I wondered what memories each song was conjuring up for him. I knew the 30-something tall-dark-handsome family man and amateur landscaper; but these songs were awakening the boy who played a million sports, wore madras suits and spent a whole summer listening to rock records while reading "The Lord of the Rings."

Suddenly I heard it for the first time: "A long, long time ago - I can still remember how that music used to make me smile..." Dad's eyes lit up. He turned up the volume, rolled the windows all the way down, and lifted his voice. I remember it all vividly. I was young, but I remember having a keen sense that there was something different about this song. It was catchy, which we equate with happiness, but this song wasn't entirely happy. There was something lost, something being mourned. I didn't really understand it, but I loved it. And I loved that it was eight minutes long, giving me time to learn the chorus and sing it with my dad. I think that was the day I started to understand bittersweet.

I still love when my dad sings something from his past. And I still love to sing with him. And I will always love me some "American Pie" by Don McLean, preferably while driving fast with the volume up and the windows down. What's your favorite driving song?

2 comments:

Susanna said...

This one is tops Gin, just like you!

CFHeidel said...

It was The Ozark Mountain Daredevils (album of same name) and Molly Hatchett's Flirtin' with Disaster that got me from the Shire to Mordor and Mount Doom - and back that summer. I traveled vast distances in my dad's recycled black Naugahyde Lazy Boy recliner.