Letting the music back in

This morning I knew I’d be spending at least an hour in the kitchen making cut out sugar cookies for Christmas. I’m usually very comfortable with silence, but occasionally I’ll listen to a podcast while I’m working or stream NPR on my computer. Today I decided to try listening to music. And you know what?

I think I just might like to listen to music again!

I don’t blame you if you’re thinking, what kind of weirdo doesn’t listen to music? Well, that was – and probably mostly still is – me. I’m guessing that getting out of the habit of listening to music may have crept up on me when my son Chris was a teenager. Oh, there was plenty of music in the house. It’s just that it was his music, not mine. I liked some of what he listened to, but more often I tuned it out, and when Chris left for college, living in silence went from being a new, rather pleasant oddity, to becoming the norm. As much as I loved it when Chris was home, I relished the peaceful quiet when he returned to Athens.

At about that same time, someone I worked with introduced me to NPR, National Public Radio, and I was smitten. I relished the combination of news and entertainment. I still do and count on NPR and its television counterpart, PBS, for a sane view of our world and outstanding documentaries and dramas. I mean, “Downton Abbey.” What’s not to love?

But back to this morning . . . . so, I wasn’t sure where to get music, but my computer suggesting downloading the free Spotify app, which I did. I certainly wasn’t interested in committing to buy music, so “free” was the big draw here. I discovered on Spotify that a wealth of music of different genres was there for the taking. I decided to start with a “hits from the ‘80s” channel.

Oh, my goodness! What fun! Before I knew it I was dancing around the kitchen and singing along with Billy Joel and Toto and Phil Collins. Although I was a teenager and young adult in the late ‘6os/early ‘70s, I find that the music from about 1985 to the early 1990s resonates with me just as deeply.

In 1984 my husband and I separated, and we were divorced by the following summer. What I felt when we split, more than sadness or anger or anything else, was a tremendous sense of relief. I wouldn’t say I was happy at first, of course, but by the time Chris and I moved to California to temporarily stay with my sister that fall I was starting to get excited about where life might take me next. I remember driving in my unairconditioned Ford Escort down California 101 between Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, listening to Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer,” singing along at the top of my lungs, hot air blowing through the windows. My brother-in-law told me people in California didn’t need air conditioning (obviously, he never wore panty hose). I showed up for more than one job interview sweaty and disheveled, but – I was free. That part kept feeling better every day.

For the next ten years I moved on to successively better and more interesting jobs, returning to Cleveland, then on to Dallas, and back to Cleveland again. I also threw myself wholeheartedly into dating. In 1985 I was only 34 years old (which I feared was old to be “out there” again) and gamely went with friends to clubs in Cleveland’s Flats district to dance and swill cocktails until closing time. It’s really fortunate that I had the stamina to be (I think) a good mother, hard worker, and enthusiastic seeker of love and laughter in those days. It makes me tired just thinking about it now.

On this quiet Sunday morning in December, I’m remembering that young woman with affection and even a little bit of awe. I love this newfound appreciation for the power of music and how the memories attached to those songs are making me smile and dance and sing along again.

As an aside, I never did find true love. Husband number two evaded me. The ones I wanted didn’t want me, and vice versa. Today I realize that’s exactly how it was meant to be and I’m so grateful not only for some fun, and even scandalous, memories, but especially for where I’ve ended up today.

I’ll be turning on Spotify again soon, for sure. I’m still smiling.

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