One of my Facebook friends posed an interesting question in her blog today. She asked if you could pinpoint five songs that comprised the soundtrack of your life. At first I thought that would be simple but once I started thinking about it, it became much more difficult than I expected. How do you take a life and define it by five songs? What would you focus on? How do you even begin?
Well it’s always best to begin at the beginning and so I started thinking about compartmentalizing my life in stages: youth, middle age, now. Then I started thinking about the most significant events in my life throughout those stages and tried to identify songs that would accurately fit them. I also just thought about songs that have had the greatest impact on me, songs that I’ve loved over the years and thought about why those songs meant so much to me. Then I took this entire mish-mosh and attempted to make some sense of it. Eventually it happened and I did narrow down the five. Here they are (can I have a drum roll please).
1. We’re Off To See The Wizard – Music: Harold Arlen, Lyrics: Edgar Harburg
I think my whole life can be defined by this song. After all what is anyone’s life but a journey down a yellow brick road. You never know what you’ll encounter, who you’ll meet, what hardships you will face, how long the journey will be or when the journey will end. This song and the pictures it creates in my mind so accurately pinpoints all the twists and turns in my life, a life that I feel was blessed with a protective Glinda watching over me more often than not, a life that has been truly blessed in countless ways. And although there were times when the wicked witch tried to beat me down, I was always able to pick myself up and find my way home. And for that I will forever be grateful because, as we all know, there is no place like home.
2. “The Russian Sleigh Song” – from the Three Suns Album: Ding Dong Dandy Christmas
No soundtrack of my life would be complete without a mention of the holidays. Christmas has always been a special time for me. From my early years when I made the yearly trek to go shopping downtown with my parents, to producing the annual Christmas plays at Hiawatha Park, to meeting my husband and going to midnight mass together, to decorating the house and making Christmas cookies. Christmas has always been THE holiday. Every year I look forward to hearing the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and watching George C. Scott play that character so masterfully in “A Christmas Carol.” Every year I get such joy out of experiencing the anticipation of Santa, be it in young children, holiday shoppers or myself. And every year I look forward to singing “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” at the top of my lungs. No soundtrack of my life would be complete without some sort of tribute to Christmas, the best time of the year!
3. You Don’t Own Me – Lesley Gore
Very early on in my life I became acutely aware of the differences between men and women. Besides the obvious, I began to notice the stereotypes that have been part of our puritanical culture for centuries and how they, even today, affect how women are perceived and treated. I will never forget the day that my brother told me that I was too independent for my own good and that I should just shut up and let a man take care of me. From that moment forward I never wanted to be dependent on a man for anything and can say that I have succeeded in doing that throughout my life. Don’t get me wrong, I love men and have been blessed with knowing some pretty spectacular ones. The men who I love, the men who are my friends, all the men in my life past and present are men who did not feel emasculated by strong women. They treated women as equals, they did not live their lives by defined roles, they were loving, caring, honest and fair minded. They viewed relationships as partnerships and were not afraid to let women succeed. When I thought about this phase of my soundtrack, I actually thought of defining it with Helen Reddy’s song “I Am Woman”, but that song is a little too radical for my beliefs regarding women and men. All I’ve ever asked of men is “don’t tell me what to say, and don’t tell me what to do, just let me be myself, that’s all I ask of you.” Because, after all, you don’t own me!
4. The Way We Were – Barbra Streisand
This song defines many facets of my adult years, the joys and the sorrows and the memories of them all. It makes me think about leaving Hiawatha Park and the video that one of my student’s produced showing clips from the productions over fourteen years with this song playing in the background. Even to this day whenever I watch that segment I cry like a baby. This song defines the joys and sorrows I faced in love. It defines the joys and sorrows of my family life and it now defines the joys and sorrows of the memories I have of both my parents who are no longer with me but who will always live on in my heart. It makes me think of all of those I’ve loved and lost and all of those that I still am blessed to have in my life. “Can it be that it was all so simple then. Or has time rewritten every line. If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me would we…could we?” Well maybe we couldn’t, but I certainly would.
5. Somewhere – West Side Story – Music: Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics: Steven Sondheim
“There’s a place for us. A time and place for us. Hold my hand and we’re half way there. Hold my hand and I’ll take you there. Somehow. Someday. Somewhere.” This song defines my life now, a life of accomplishments and memories but also a life with hope for the future. Hope that the many blessing I have had will continue, hope that all the people that I love are safe, happy and healthy, hope that laughter and love continue to enrich my days, hope that one day I will be reunited with all of those I have loved and lost, especially my mom and dad, but also the many wonderful pets I have had in my life that I have had to put down and still miss, hope that I continue to live life to the fullest and never take one single day for granted. Cherish the here and now and living a life of happiness and hope is what this song means to me. It underscores who I am now and my hopes and dreams for the future.
And there it is, the soundtrack of my life. Some pretty great songs… a pretty great life… so, what’s your soundtrack?