Turn it Up

My dad used to dance with me. I’m not sure I actually remember it, or I just believe I do because I saw it on video 1,000 times growing up. But I do remember listening to music in our house, especially on weekend mornings. Some that would be considered bad, even in nice music circles, but I can recite the words to almost any Anne Murray song on command and certain bits will choke me up. Yeah. My brother must remember it too, because a few days ago, during one of our ongoing Blackberry Messenger conversations, I made reference to our less than lovely financial situation. And Joe. (This is why I love him, why I’d be friends with him even if he weren’t my only brother.) He says:

"And even though we ain’t got money." "I’m so in love with ya honey."

To which I immediately picked up and started humming the rest of the song…then singing… then singing loud, “AND IN THE MORNIN’, WHEN I RISE, BRING A TEAR OF JOY TO MY EYEEES, AND TELL ME, EVERY-THINGS, GONNA BE AL-RIGHT.”

So. I was singing Anne Murray to my phone, but on the upside, whatever I was so twisted up about had vanished and I was belly laughing.

I want Alma to know about music, so I play it every day. Mostly for me, but sometimes just for her, meaning I’ll play a song that we can dance to and I can sing. When she was growing in my belly I would press the little headphones of my ipod to it and wonder what the music sounded like underwater. She went to a few concerts with me that way, too. When we first brought her home from the hospital, I remember playing Sigur Ros and watching her drift off. I played Bon Iver for her over and over and over, because that’s what I’d been doing the entire year prior, so. Sometimes she seems to react to certain songs, or perhaps she’s just reacting to me “dancing”. Tonight I held her before bed and sang to Ziggy Marley’s acoustic version of “Love is My Religion” and she tried to eat my face. We’ve got time.

I have a lot of memories around music. Memories that I can taste and feel and smell more than see. I don’t recall a lot about my parents being married, and only small clips of moments before the age of 9 or 10 are available to me anymore. But I do remember sifting through my dad’s record collection and putting on the giant headphones that swallowed each side of my head and suctioned me away. I listened to the soundtrack to Annie and Grease that way until I could sing every single song on my own. I listened to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, even though the songs gave me nightmares. I listened to Tina Turner’s songs and coreographed entire videos, complete with giant hair and too short mini-skirts, where I was the only star and the only audience. This is how I remember my weekends; how I remember spending a lot of my time growing up.

Later, my dad owned a country western bar and we used to go there before it opened so he could get things done. There wasn’t much for my brother and I to do while we waited, so I’d turn on the lights that hung over the dance floor, put in Chris Ledoux or Garth Brooks or Brooks & Dunn, turn up the volume and take the stage or perform some hideous solo version of the two-step or a line dance. I can hear those songs exactly as they came out on the giant speakers and echoed through the empty room; I can smell the stale beer, grease and cigarette ashes stomped into the carpet and wood. I was almost a teenager at that point and would’ve been too self-conscious to do that in front of anyone else, but I remember feeling so happy and free and like there were a million possibilities.

I’ve been thinking about music more lately, simply because I can listen to it again. It’s not that I stopped listening altogether, but over the past several months I noticed myself forcing it, turning down the volume, stopping songs mid-track, or just closing it up completely for days at a time. I can’t explain it other than to say it would push me over - or into - a place where I couldn’t breathe and my heart was squeezed too tightly. And I’d be pissed. Pissed that whatever was going on had made it so that I couldn’t even listen to music. MUSIC. I was worried that my insides were turning a little black, or worse, that I was turning into someone made of glass, who would break if the wrong song came on the radio, or they heard someone say something mean to a spider.

But one day, or over the course of many days, weeks, months, I started noticing that I was listening again. Even to the sad ones. And I didn’t have to turn down the volume.

This is good news. It means I’m not missing out on things. Like this: