Today I was riding shot gun next to Lacey on our way home from the beach. Lacey is my little sister. She is 19 years old and recently dyed her hair the color of Cheerwine. It was red and messy and free. She was singing to the radio.
Just then her phone beeped. I read her the text so she could drive. Mom had forwarded her something from a conversation with our neighbor, Mrs. Rhonda. Mrs. Rhonda used to watch our brother Bradley after school. Lacey knows her well from walking to her house each day and talking with her by the door while Brad got his shoes on and tried to find his glasses. Mrs. Rhonda also happens to be the mother of a boy Lacey loved loved loved in high school. She loved him after high school too, but she moved away and some sad things happened and after a million back-and-forths, she trained her soft-heart toward a strong-resolve to stay away from him from now on. She has succeeded in her distance for a long time. I would even say she is happy. She is drivin home from the beach with her red red hair, just singin along.
I read the text aloud. Simply put, Mrs. Rhonda said she loved little Brad and misses him. (Mrs. Rhonda is a tough love type of lady that hardly ever gets mushy about anything, so this is a big deal.) She also said she really misses Lacey. And then, just briefly at the end: “I know my son misses her too.”
I could feel it hit her in the stomach and just like that I looked over to see a few tears behind her sunglasses. I cried too.
I just knew. I knew because a million times in my life I have driven along, singing to the radio, and been blind-sided just like this. I knew because I was her. Her with the dyed hair and the sun tan and the fresh resolve to keep her tired heart moving forward. Mostly, I knew because I love her so big that I felt it in my stomach too. I wished I could show her: it gets better.
There are certain lyrics I love lately.
They just fit with me.
I’ll show some of them to you:
I will be rocks. I will be water.
I will leave this to my daughter:
lift your head up in the wind.
Those three lines don’t carry special meaning for me so much as they
SOUND so good to me.
The pace and syllables and short vowel sounds.
Ooooh. It’s a drum for me.
This one I love for different reasons:
Antarctica, my only living relative.
Antarctica, I can’t wait anymore.
Except she sings it like this:
Oh it’s delicious.
Stay with me here.
I kept singing it and singing it one day while Lacey (my sister) was over.
“What does that even mean?” she said.
“It means there is a place somewhere way out there that is isolated and frozen in time and even though it’s an unlikely place for comfort, it is her only chance to be close to someone alive.”
As I explained this, it just felt like an obvious thing– like of course that’s what it means– didn’t you feel that too? And that’s why I love words. Because who knows what Deb Talan really meant by it… but I know, for me, exactly what it means. Because so often I am trying to say something that I just can’t find the words for. I am trying to get out all of this STUFF in me and I need words for it. But I just can’t find them. So when I do find them, or when someone else finds them in an obscure reference to an uninhabited continent, I am in love. And I just keep saying and singing and writing those words. Expressing. To clearly express what once was just a stuttering voice in my heart: It’s an act of healing.
Though sometimes there is that little disappointment– why couldn’t I have written that?
I want so badly to own those words.
But I can. They can be mine too. That’s gotta be part of why people write.
Somewhere in there we are hoping to connect not just to ourselves, but to someone else out there.
These songs brought to us by Deb Talan.
Sometimes in a band called The Weepies,
and sometimes just her. Thanks Deb.