One of my mom’s favorite bands was Styx. You know, the south-side-of-Chicago band of the 70’s and 80’s…and 90’s. The rock-ballad band famous for “Babe” and “Lady” and “Mr. Roboto” and such. They are one of my favorite bands as well, because their songs are easily sing-a-long-able, they aren’t afraid of political statements, and, well, they’re cool. It’s good music.
When I was in high school, I took clarinet lessons in Seattle. That meant that every week or two, on a Sunday, my mom and I would drive from Yakima to Seattle (about two-and-a-half or three hours), I would have a two hour lesson, we would eat lunch somewhere and head home again. And, of course, this was just at the beginning of the CD era. We used an ancient portable CD player and hooked it up to a boombox (remember those?) in the backseat of the car—which was the only place available for all that stuff! Later we finally got a car with a CD player in it and we were amazed. I remember one time listening to a CD in the car with my mom and it stopped because the CD player’s batteries died…and we both said “wow, it didn’t slow down or get warped or anything, it just stopped!!” Incredible. Anyway, the point of this story is that we used to organize our CD listening so that the Styx Greatest Hits would be the last thing we would hear on the way home. And if we’d been listening to too much other stuff, we would organize it so that Come Sail Away (track 9, I think?) would be the song playing when we pulled into our street. We both loved that song. Every week we would listen to this CD at the end of our weekly mother-daughter road trip. And when I left home and went to college, then to seminary, we took many more (and much longer) road trips, and we listened to Styx at the end of every day.
When I went to college I of course left that CD for my mom and later bought for myself the “Return to Paradise” 2-CD set, which is of their live shows at the Paradise Theater in the late 90’s. It has more songs on it than mom’s, obviously, but it has all our favorites. I brought it with me to Egypt too because, as I said earlier, it’s one of my favorite bands. It’s fun to listen to.
Well, since my mom died, I haven’t listened to any of the music we used to listen to together. I haven’t listened to Styx, to Chicago, to the Moody Blues, or to any 60’s folk rock at all. Until last night. While I was cooking dinner, I was just really craving some rock ballads, you know? So I put on the first disc of the Styx: Return to Paradise, and chopped lots of vegetables. So many, in fact, that the first disc ended. So I put in the second disc. Still chopping, then eventually cooking, then stirring up cookies, etc…and suddenly there was Come Sail Away, and everything was different. The thought of never taking another road trip with my mom was overwhelming. I think I almost cried in the cookie dough…oops. I couldn’t even sing along. I had thought I could manage this music, but apparently not. Or, on the other hand, this was something I was going to have to do anyway. An opportunity to celebrate some of my favorite moments with my mom, and to have her with me again. Maybe.
Well, after that, I recovered. But then it came to the last song, which I should have remembered about but didn’t. It’s called “Dear John” and is written to the band member that died not too long before the tour now memorialized in a 2-CD set. It always used to make me cry even before my mom was sick or gone, so I should have seen this coming. But I was out of the room baking cookies (my oven doesn’t work so I have to use a different one) during the preceding tracks, so I didn’t notice it was coming. So to walk in to lines like “Dear John, how are you? God knows it’s heaven where you are. Find some peace there, may it never end” and “there’ll be a celebration, where all will be revealed; we’ll have a reunion high on a hill…” was more than I could handle. I definitely was crying now. I miss my mom so much, and I want to be able to take road trips and listen to silly music with her. But I’ll be doing it with myself next time, I guess.
Dear mom, how are you? I know it’s heaven where you are. Please, find some peace there. and if the angels turn out to have a space ship, send me a message so I’m not surprised! love, Teri.