I think about today’s songs, and the first word that comes to mind is “happy”. The songs aren’t always happy, but they are the songs that cause me to forget all inhibitions and sing along as loud as I feel. They’re chore songs, so to speak. I remember vacuuming my slanted summer rental in Boulder one summer after a bag of birdseed fell into the stove, and rolled everywhere. In our pajamas, my two roommates and I drank wine and vacuumed out the stove, all while we danced and sang to Diana Ross and the Supremes. Top of our lungs sang. What a release.
I have been focusing lately on what makes me happy. I got the cutest phone call from my nephew L tonight just to say hi. We laughed as I told him a joke. Phone calls and one-on-one time with my nephews and niece make me happy. Today, I picked up Cathedral by Raymond Carver, a collection I haven’t read in a long time. I love Carver, and his craft never fails to amaze me. I read while I munched on juicy cherries bought at the farmer’s market yesterday. My clean apartment feels good to lounge around in with the sun streaming in the windows. These little things make me happy.
And then there are stars. I have this thing with stars. Poems about the stars, drawings of stars, starfish, songs about the stars. You get the drift. My favorite ee cummings line is “a single star is uttered and I think of you”. This, like the songs today, like the color cobalt blue, hit the core of my soul. It’s that agonizingly beautiful moment, word, song, shade–everything rolled into one. Stars and starfish litter my life and remind me of just simply being alive.
I haven’t worn it for a while, but I have a silver starfish necklace that means more to me than nearly everything else. My mom came to visit me in Connecticut for my 25th birthday, the year my Gram and I joked I had my quarter-life crisis. The stress of living and working with emotionally disturbed teens began to take it’s toll. On top of that, my best friend from childhood was working in Palestine as a peace negotiator, and her emails and updates became one of the texts for my 12th grade War in Literature class. Plus, I had other things going on in my life. Big things. I was far away from my family when I needed to be home, and when I picked Mom up at JFK, I crumbled into her arms.
We later, as usual, found ourselves strolling down 5th Avenue in Manhattan, window shopping. Our birthdays are a month apart, so we were celebrating in a sense. We ducked into Tiffany & Co. and browsed. I drive Mom crazy because I manage to always find the most expensive bauble and ask to try it on. Just for fun. Meanwhile, Mom tried not to have a heart attack. This routine has been going on since I was 16.
Then we came to it–the necklace I had my eye on for months. It was a sterling silver starfish. It reminded me of cobalt and cummings and Cheever, everything right with the world. Mom bought it as my birthday present. I didn’t take it off for three straight years. Not even once.
While we were at dinner that night, I couldn’t stop talking about the necklace and thanking her over and over again. She stared for a while then replied, “You know, starfish lose their legs but eventually, they come back. Don’t forget that. Things will grow back.” Everything bottled up for the past year came gushing out and I had never felt more loved and supported and so overwhelmed by loss and fear and anger in my life.
My necklace, starfish, and stars in general are my catharsis. They soothe, they strengthen, they heal. Today, as I think about my perfect day, followed by perfect songs, I pulled out my starfish and put her back on. If she could tell all the feelings and thoughts and emotions I have secretly told her, well, she could write an inappropriate manifesto.
I think about perfect things I love in life and smile to myself that no one else feels the exact way I do–how perfect things make us feel. We all have those perfect things. What is yours?
Someday We’ll Be Together–Diana Ross and The Supremes
We’ll Sing in the Sunshine–Dolly Parton
Raining Down Arrows–Mundy
Border Song–Elton John
Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right–Bob Dylan
Family Affair–Sly and the Family Stone