The Tide is High

I lived in an orange grove at one end of the country road, she lived in an old farmhouse, tucked in a vineyard, at the other end. My friend, Erin, and I read Nancy Drew mystery books, and we both solidly rode, sans training wheels, on our bikes.

In Erin’s family there was no “Dad,” only “Honey.” I recall the first time they all began to chirp, “Honey’s here! Honey’s here!” I thought it had something to do with bees and a delivery, when actually it was their father coming home from work. They’d all adopted their mom’s pet name for him.

Our country road was rough for bike riding. One day Honey put our bicycles in the back of his pick up truck, and drove us to the Exeter Memorial Building parking lot, where we coasted on smooth asphalt in the vacant lot, no traffic.

It was a sleepy Sunday in our small farming town. The sound of a lawn mower puttered in a distant yard. Birds chattered in lofty branches of the nearby trees. Music leaked from the cab of Honey’s parked pick up. It was 1981 and Blondie was bringing reggae to the radio with “The Tide is High.”

“The tide is high but I’m holdin’ on. I’m gonna be your number one. I’m not the kind of girl who gives up just like that, oh no…”



Blondie was new to my seven-year old ears. Urban and foreign. Riffs with bass. I loved the sound as I cruised the smooth of the memorial building lot.

My dad’s truck was always tuned to the twang of the country station, where the The  Oak Ridge Boys’ “Elvira,” was on continual replay. At home, my mom would wash dishes, cranking the cassette player, and encouraging us to sing along to “Happy Talk,” from the musical “South Pacific.

“Happy talk, keep talking happy talk. Talk about things you’d like to do. You gotta have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?”

Change was on the airwaves, and that was my last year with Honey and Erin. Their family would move to a house near the beach in southern California. My parents would separate later that summer. I branched out and learned to ride my bike on the country road, alone. I listened to music beyond the parental musical influences of The  Oak Ridge Boys and Rodgers and Hammerstein.

I discovered American Bandstand on television. Put visuals to my auditory world. The Go Go’s’ “Beauty and the Beat” had hit the charts. The band was all women, even the drummer, and “Our Lips Are Sealed” was rocking my world.








Love is A Rose

We lived in a country house, tucked back far from the quiet road, hidden among rows of orange trees. There was a white picket fence, ivy growing on the front porch, and a garden planted by my father. In the summer, the sticky scent of tomato leaves lifted to the air beneath black, sprinkling misters.

From inside the house, the sounds of Linda Ronstadt’s Greatest Hits leaked out through windows onto the lawn, where my six-year-old bare feet wandered. “That’ll Be the Day,” “Different Drum,” and “Desperado” played out adult dilemmas that I didn’t understand, but could sing to.

“That’ll be the day, when you say goodbye, that’ll be the day, when you make me cry. You say you’re going to leave me, you know that’s a lie, cause that’ll be the day when I die.”

Big words for a small mouth, but even though I was singing, I wasn’t registering the lyrics. It was Linda’s strong voice and the melodies that I heard and loved.

That album was part of my life soundtrack in the days before my parents separated. In less than two years, my father would move to his own place, leaving his turntable and a portion of his record collection behind. But until then, Linda’s greatest hits of love and loss were about a longing I had yet to know.

Before my family splintered, I do remember a certain, crystalline afternoon, standing by the roses in our side yard. Rather leggy, their thorny stems reaching toward light, they still held big, fragrant blooms. Even though I knew those thorns were to be avoided, I had yet to master picking a bud without getting stuck.

Those delicate pink folds held the sweetest smell. If only I could bend the stem my way without pricking my small fingers. As I gingerly reached to nose up close to the beauty, the song came to mind.

“Love is a rose and you better not pick it, only grows when it’s on the vine. Handful of thorns and you know you’ve missed it, lose your love when you say the word mine.”

In that culminating moment at six years old, there was a rose and a song. Everything clicked. Music reflected life. My first experience of metaphor, the words were about something I was holding in my hand…but more.

I may not have understood the full implication of the lyrics, but I did realize that Linda knew the sting of a thorn. No longer a little ditty to hum on the swing set, this song actually conveyed a cautionary creed. I got it, sort of.

So I resolved to no more picking. Only careful inhalations.


Making Music

photo courtesy of Lo
photo courtesy of Lo

we each
have been
trying to teach
to play
to tune

on the last day
of elementary
we three
mark your passage
with music


no one knows
but we try
different rhythms
random chords
a cacophony of chaos

despite the dissonance
each one of us
plays on
tuning in
to find some song

four years
we’ve danced
as family
banded together
testing tempos
learning grace

there is a moment

celebratory brownie crumbs
abandoned on the plate
your one hundred pound frame
ukulele riffing
a man’s eyes
above the glint
of moving metal
my own fingers strumming
head nodding
towards you

don’t stop
forget right
just listen
and play

is making music