For Sunday Scribblings writing prompt - "Observations"
Ever notice how you can relate to whatever’s playing on the radio? Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just an egomanic-drama queen who sees my life as a film and the music playing in the background as my own soundtrack. I mean, didn't The Beatles get together right before I was born just to write songs for me? Hey, they did sing "Michelle"... and that's my name, so I practically thought so.
It’s the morning of my eighteenth birthday. I’m driving my metallic-green VW bug to school. I turn on the radio. The Beatles are singing “They say it’s your birthday…” And I smile wide as though they wrote that just for me.
It’s a brilliant blue-skied June afternoon. I just got out of school and am driving to the beach in the same VW bug. The sun is landing like diamonds on cars that I zoom by. Wind whistles through my car’s little winged windows, whipping my hair around my face. The guy I went to the prom with is sitting in the passenger seat. “Hey, can I drive your car?” he asks. I pull over and let him take the wheel. The radio is on. He pulls away from the curb as The Beatles sing “Baby, you can drive my car…”
An earlier summer, while cruising down El Camino Boulevard with my girlfriends, I see a cute boy driving in a car somewhere between Heidi’s Pies and the Hillsdale Mall. We meet, and spend the following weeks talking on the phone. On weekends we rendezvous at a McDonald’s on El Camino Boulevard. Then one rainy Saturday night, he and his friend Mark never show up to meet me and my friend Jackie. After almost an hour of waiting, we get back into Jackie’s Nova to return home to Pacifica. As her windshield wipers swish-swop, Phil Collins' voice pours out of her radio: “There must be some misunderstanding. There must be some kind of mistake. I waited in the rain for hours… and you were late…” Oh, as if my pain isn’t sharp enough, those lyrics make the night all the more tragic (because as a teenage girl, a boy not showing up is a tragedy).
Yesterday, I’m driving down the 101, taking my daughter to live on her own for the first time, to her very own college apartment up the coast. My husband is following us in a van carrying all of her stuff. We’re excited for her. Her future, like the ocean below the 101, is spread out and waiting. Sarah Mclachlan’s voice oozes from the radio, “I will remember you. Will you remember me? Don’t let your life pass you by… weep not for the memories…” My glasses get steamy. I’m such a mellow-dramatic sap. As the music plays, one part of my brain focuses on the road ahead of me while another part of my brain plays a transparent slideshow of my daughter’s childhood. The photographic-memories overlap on top of the dotted lines of the 101. There she is dressed as a kitty for Halloween, selling lemonade for 5 cents, graduating from eighth grade, carrying her surfboard down the beach…
Back in the Valley, just hours after moving our daughter into her apartment and returning the moving van to the rental company, my husband and I drive over to Brent’s Deli in Northridge. We split a pastrami reuben and fries. It’s a weird day. The sky is mottled-gray. The air feels thick and muggy. I munch on pickles and look around. There’s a rocker dude in the booth in front of us – jet black hair, goatee, tattoos up his arms, maybe a little eyeliner smudged under his eyes. He’s wearing a Joan Jett and the Black Hearts T-shirt. That reminds me of driving with my daughter earlier in the day. I remember a Joan Jett song came on the radio. I try to remember what song it was, but can’t recall. Guess I was feeling foggy.
Music is floating from the speakers at Brent’s Deli. Here we are, just minutes from Reseda, as Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin” plays overhead: “She’s a good girl, loves her mama, loves Jesus and America, too. She’s a good girl, crazy bout Elvis…Loves horses and her boyfriend too. It’s a long day living in Reseda…” And then I hear my daughter’s words in my head from the day before. “Welp, it’s my last day in the Valley.” Just the week before she told me how she was excited about leaving, and how she’ll miss everyone, “But, you know, it’ll be nice to get away.” I know. That’s how I felt twenty years earlier when I left home.
So… she’s on to her new life. And so are we. Before leaving, Lauren finally returned my guitar, so I’m going to pick up where I left off teaching myself chords, and playing mangling the few songs I taught myself, like “Mrs. Robinson” and “Moon River”…
Moon river wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style someday
You dream maker, you heartbreaker
Wherever you’re going I’m going your way
Two drifters off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
As The Beatles would say, “Obla Di Obla Da… life goes on.” And I'm pretty sure they wrote that just for me, just for days like yesterday. Or does everyone think that?