On Thursday evenings, when I get home from work, I feed the boys a quick supper and we head back up the Charleston way for their music lessons. Usually, Teddy plugs his phone into my stereo and plays some of his music for me and I get to have a peek inside the brain of a 17-year-old for the span of our shortish-longish drive. But I’ve just recently gotten my van back from the shop—all traces of the accident I had before Christmas gone—and I forgot to put my MP3 cord back where it belongs. So, last night, they suffered slightly through some of my mom music before plugging up their ears and withdrawing into their personal devices.
We were like three islands floating side-by-side down the highway. Music is an important thing in my life. It names things in me that I don’t always have words for. Music has helped me heal—is still medicine for me—from a great many things. I hope it works that way on them too, but I learned a long time ago that I can’t make them appreciate everything I do. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
I’ve been listening to this cd in my car, and for reasons I could probably explain but just really don’t want to, I have to play certain songs over and over. The stories of addiction and anger and, yes, redemption, make me cry. The boys always ask why I want to listen to music that makes me cry and I say, “It’s just good songwriting, that’s all.”
When they were littles, I would play Lennie Kravitz’s Greatest Hits over and over on the way to and from preschool and around the valley. Teddy was no more than two or three at the time and he was entirely consumed with everything that had wheels. The boy learned to talk by naming the different kinds of construction vehicles that came to and fro in our neighborhood, developing the empty lots. There is a song called “Mr. Cab Driver” on that album that my boy loved because it referred to a vehicle. Unfortunately, the song is about racial issues and Mr. Kravitz uses the “f” word near the end of the song. I grew skilled in anticipating the upcoming bomb and turned down the volume every time the word was uttered.
I don’t do that anymore. Though I still fight the urge.
I know how powerful art can be.
So, last night, we were these three islands floating down the highway and I was letting that happen. I was getting lost in my music, letting it take me places I probably shouldn’t have gone. I know what the Bible says about taking captive every thought; but for me, that looks different than turning the thing off immediately. I have to push the pause button, tie the thing up, and look at it from every angle—study it until I understand. Only then can I be free.
So, last night, I heard a holy whisper … so soft … so gentle … asking me how I can connect these two parts of me—the me from the past and the me right now.
I turned the volume down. I wanted to listen to my boys breathe.
It didn’t take long before they realized that outside of their earbuds there was silence. It must have made them wonder because shortly thereafter, a voice from the back seat said, “Tell us a story, mom. Tell us a story from your life—one we’ve never heard before.”
I closed my eyes (only briefly because I was driving) and touched the place inside that the music had left bare earlier. I told them a story about addiction and brokenness and anger and, yes, redemption.
Even the 17-year-old turned off his personal device.
I’m a morning person and happiest in a place with no walls. Give me a bed of grass and a blanket-sky and I will dream deep in wonder. But a good story takes me to this place too. And a poem? Even better. You can always find me here. Or connect with me on on facebook, twitter, or pinterest.