My oldest daughter, Hadley, and I have entered into the phase of our relationship I like to call “who controls the radio.” It’s a title I’ve held for decades — since I could sit in the front seat of the car. My dad, bless him, said not a word when I popped in “Pump Up the Jam” by Technotronic as I tossed his Best of Creedence Clearwater Revival or Bach cassettes aside. My mom put up a good fight and often won a few battles with her Motown songs, though she didn’t stand a chance if she even so much as suggested Joan Baez. “I will throw myself out of this car,” I would warn her.
My Hadley, who I have to remind myself daily is no longer the baby girl who happily sang along to anything I played, insists her songs are the songs we must listen to as I drive her to the bus stop, to soccer practice, to play rehearsal.
They’re not all bad, Hadley’s songs. I love Lizzo, and thanks to her I’ve added Bazzi’s “Myself” to my running playlist. He has a great line about being concerned about the comma that I hope to focus on. I hope Hadley will too.
One song she still likes that I introduced her to is “Summer Girls” by a group called LFO. She and I have been listening to it since last spring. Hadley won’t say why she likes it and I haven’t asked, but we listen to it almost every time we are in the car.
I like the beat and melody, but it’s the lyrics I love the most. I think they’re the sweet and honest attempt of a boy trying to express how he feels about a girl he met one summer. The rapper will say a line that’s revealing and then he’ll rhyme it with something ridiculous, which seems quite on-brand for a teenager.
For example: “Fell deep in love, but now we ain’t speaking / Michael J. Fox was Alex P. Keaton.”
Or: “There was a good man named Paul Revere / I feel much better baby when you’re near.”
My favorite line of his is a nod to William Shakespeare, specifically, the balcony scene when Romeo sees Juliet and breaks the rhythm of iambic pentameter: “It is my lady — oh! It is my love!” In “Summer Girls,” the song’s rhythm takes on a rushed tone and the melody changes slightly and there are more words in the musical bars, thus adding to the intensity of what he says: “Came in the door, I said it before, I think I’m over you / but I’m really not sure.”
Riding in the car with Hadley, I think up at least five personal essays I could write on these eighteen words alone, and I wonder whether she could too. We won’t talk about it, she and I. We will bop our heads to the music, sing along, and look out the window to where we are headed.
It’s hard not to feel for teenagers and their attempts to articulate how they feel, which is why I love this song, and why I’m glad Hadley likes it too. I appreciate that it could offer her a way into that expression.
Because more and more, Hadley will look to others to help her express herself, and my giving up control of the radio is yet another sign that I must let her go.
I’m thankful to listen and share a few melodies with her as she heads for the sycamores.
When I found out that February’s theme was “Wise Love,” I wondered, “Is love wise?” And then I thought of LFO’s “Summer Girls.” The pairing of the silly and serious might not be wise, but it is clever and it also allows us to grapple with a concept like love that, let’s face it, is baffling.
This week play around with the silly and the serious and see if you can write a poem that expresses how you feel for someone or something.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s one from Richard Maxson we enjoyed.
Dear Mary Oliver
What if I lived in your face,
in the lines there, like a tattoo
and my fingers could read
the braille of time and space,
around your eyes.
I have thought of them as
doors that I could enter;
you would be there, in white,
on the floor, cross-legged,
smiling at my sudden shame
because you too burst in
once somewhere, unprepared,
fully grown and a little tired
from the middle road,
tattered with care and duty,
wanting for your own the stone
of sound that carries the river’s words,
in its rushing foam and fury—
but now you speak of sweet gazelles,
and the grandeur of thrush’s song;
you say, continue on, if you dare,
you say there is a cave, somewhere,
behind a waterfall, sit there listening until
you hear a silence. Then, enter it.
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