Last night, I went to a farewell party for my Aunt Linda before she moves to Kentucky. A woman I admire and love and am finding that I will miss so much more now that she won’t be just an hour away… It was me and Wendy and a bunch of incredibly warm and feisty women over the age of 65. They all knew Wendy, obviously, but so many of them thought I WAS her initially, or were confused and immediately asked what the relation was since they saw such a strong family resemblance.
And then people asked questions like, Who’s your mother? What’s the relation? And for the first time, I genuinely resisted telling people who she was – what her name was. There was a pause – avoidance. I would answer first Wendy and I are first cousins. If they pressed on, I might mention that her father and my mother were siblings. Who’s your mother? They’d ask again.
I realize that I’m getting further and further away from her. Which is better, and what I want, but nonetheless harder, too. I don’t want people to think of us as being related. I am embarrassed by her, I loathe her, I don’t want to be associated with her – as much for myself as for what others likely think of her. I think I’m finally falling away from feeling compelled to tell my story and moved on to finally wanting to tell it – but on paper, here – not there.
And I am driving home and I am thinking about all of this – processing it while I am alone, in my car. With a solid grip on the wheel and possibly on reality, too.
But then Taylor Swift sings, I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here, ‘cause I remember it all – all too well. And I do – I remember it all, and all to well. Who knew all of this? Who told them? Sara Barielles’ “Gravity” talks of being pulled under, of how:
You hold me without touch. You keep me without chains.
I never wanted anything so much, than to drown in your love and not feel your rain.
Set me free, leave me be, I don’t want to fall another moment into your gravity,
Here I am, and I stand so tall – just the way I’m supposed to be. But you’re onto me and all over me…
And there’s Beyonce, and the Dixie Chicks, and Savannah Outen singing that,
Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.
And there are more – so many more. Ani DiFranco, Led Zeppelin, Jay Z, The Pretenders, Jeff Buckley, Adele. Thye are preaching to me from their pulpits, from their microphones.
When I finally had the money and got my own car as a teenager, I made a mix tape for the exact moment when I got in and drove away – when I felt free. And the first song on it was “Little Bird” by Annie Lennox. As I drove away from them, from my life, I heard:
They always said that you knew best
But this little bird’s fallen out of that nest now
I’ve got a feeling that it might have been blessed
So I’ve just got to put these wings to test
I have finished Devotion. I have learned that Dani Shapiro found her religion in many places – I think I have found mine here, in my car, alone. And I am angry, and I am scream-singing at the top of my lungs to songs that are anthems now, songs that have become my prayers. These songs that seemingly know what has happened and blare words of truth through the speakers of my car as I drive home alone. I have found my congregation in a chorus of voices, in songs being simultaneously sung to me, about me, and by me.
I am so many pieces of these songs. They are moments in my life. They somehow fill these aching holes – the holes that I am learning will never truly be filled – well, they temporarily plug them with their verses, and choruses. Their bridges bridge the gap between broken and whole. For a few moments, I can feel free.
And under my breath and at the top of my lungs I am thinking, I am saying, I am singing, I am screaming… Hallelujah.