My iPod has been working overtime lately. As I’m packing up the house for our impending move, I’ve required loud and constant background music to keep me motivated. Often times, I play “Katrina’s Workout Tunes” to keep my heart pumping and the packing tape sticking. (Although my kids are still perplexed at how Audioslave’s “Like a Stone” made the cut. “It’s soooo sloooooow,” Sam complains. And then I think about Mile 18 of the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, and I know that until he is there — in my weary and worn out running shoes — he won’t get it.)
Brandi Carlile has also been a staple over the past few weeks — much to Mary Claire’s delight and Chris’s dismay. “All her songs sound the same,” Chris complains. But that’s because he doesn’t listen to the LYRICS. “The magic is in the words,” I explain. “How can you argue with a line like, ‘Followers living in your hollow words, I have seen your 9 to 5’s wash away your dreams.” Pure poetry as far as I’m concerned. I will forever remember her as the soundtrack to the Big Move of 2011.
But even Brandi and I have needed a little break lately. You know how it goes, don’t you? You can definitely overdo the devotion at times. Everyone needs a relationship break now and then. We’re going to take a little time to ourselves, Brandi and I. We intend to re-group and come back later — ready to appreciate everything we once loved about each other. (Well, that’s assuming she loves me, too. And because she doesn’t know me, that’s a big assumption. But I’m fairly certain she’d love me given the opportunity.)
During our “break,” I’ve re-discovered an old flame.
Sappy love songs.
The sadder, the better.
I have an iPod playlist titled, “Katrina’s Sappy Love Songs,” and it’s loaded with every imaginable emotion. Most of the songs hail from the 70’s and 80’s. Most have frighteningly bad lyrics. All of them bring back wonderful, angst-filled memories.
Here’s the thing. I read voraciously. Two weeks after I’ve read a book, I have trouble remembering character names, plot lines, etc. I often forget to send in school permission slips on time. I can’t remember what I wore yesterday. If I don’t take a list to the grocery store, I’m bound to come home missing at least three essential items. Sometimes my kids’ names elude me, and I confuse them with the dogs. But Sappy Love Songs? The lyrics are seared into my brain. Seared. I can sing every one of them from beginning to end. With feeling. And each of them evokes some kind of teenage memory that includes pegged jeans, blue eye shadow, Aqua Net, and cruising in my 1963 Ford Falcon.
Listening to Nite Lite Love Songs with Eric Garnes was akin to breathing for me when I was a teenager. I spent many hours trying to capture the perfect recording on my tape player and sending in my own love song dedications.
From Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” (Gail) to Toto’s “I’ll Be Over You” (David) to Dan Fogelberg’s “Seeing You Again” (guy who used to work for my dad in Dallas), every song meant something to me. (Or at least I assigned some 17-year-old meaning to it.) And we all know how I felt about Starship’s “Sara.” I spent many hours in my room trying to figure out how to emulate “storms brewing in my eyes.”
Some of my friends are impressed with my lyric knowledge. Some are frightened. Chris says that someday I’m going to be alone in my nursing home bed singing bad 70’s and 80’s songs to my incoherent roommate. He argues that I won’t be able to remember who he is, but I’ll be able to recite Luther Vandross lyrics like he was some epic genius. As long as Andi comes to pluck the random facial hair from my wrinkled face, I won’t really mind.
And there’s no reason for Brandi to be concerned. I can only stay away from “Closer To You” and “Dying Day” for so long. As my dear lyrical genius advises, “Don’t let the world outside there break you. They know not who you are inside. They’ve never felt your hell. Don’t ever let them crack your shell.”
There was a lot of hell at age 17. Whether it was real or imagined is anyone’s argument. But I’m holding on to those songs with all my might.
I’m doing it for Brandi.