Something was lacking in our marriage and I hadn’t even realized it. Then it hit me. We don’t have a special song. Now I worry. Can the marriage be saved?
It happened at my nephew’s wedding reception when he and the bride took to the floor for the first dance, As they danced to their special song, I understood. Handsome Hubby (HH) and I didn’t have a tune to call our own.
We didn’t woo to a particular melody (blame disco) and we didn’t have a band or a DJ at our wedding. Now, after 31 years of a mostly happy, mostly romantic marriage, we don’t have one special song to make us misty-eyed and cast come-hither glances at each other.
Panicked, I ran to HH to alert him to this grave marital deficiency. To his great credit, he readily agreed a remedy was needed.
By happy circumstance, we had planned a long road trip that very weekend – off to Reno, Nevada for HH’s 50th (!) high school reunion. A 416-mile roundtrip car drive seemed an ideal opportunity to travel down our mutual musical memory lane seeking our own sentimental ditty.
Locked and Loaded
I loaded the car with a box full of old CDs and off we went into the fog-filled yonder. (Ah, summer in the SF Bay. Where the skies are not sunny all day. Never. Ever.)
Now for reasons not clear to me I had just that morning downloaded the music of the Sons of the Pioneers. Do you even remember the Sons of the Pioneers? They were singing cowboys way back in the 1950s. At one point, Roy Rogers, then known as Leonard Slye, was one of The Sons. I saw the group, sans Roy, with my father and have very fond memories of that evening. But that was long before HH entered the picture. Yet, the first song I played on our drive was “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”
“Really?” HH said, raising one eyebrow skyward.
I dunno. We were driving to Reno. It’s kind of a cowboy town. HH wears cowboy boots. There’s a very blue sky there unlike the foggy skies of Berkeley. His classmates are getting up there in years. It kind of made sense – to me anyway. HH stepped heavily on the gas pedal and I swiftly switched songs.
Who’s Greatest Hits?
Next up was Elton John’s “Greatest Hits;” then Billy Joel’s “Greatest Hits” and on and on to a lot of other singers’ “Greatest Hits.”
The problem: most of the CDs I had grabbed pre-dated our dating days. I had gone too far down my personal memory lane, inadvertently bypassing our mutual melodic highway.
We discovered Ben Harper’s music shortly after meeting but even though we love his music, powerful protest anthems don’t quite set the mood for romance. I did waggishly suggest Harper’s song, “Mama’s Got a Girlfriend Now,” but that just prompted HH to step even harder on the gas pedal.
Some guys just cannot take a joke.
To placate the sulky beast or at least get him to ease up on the gas pedal, I played Joan Baez, HH’s absolute favorite singer. The speed odometer dropped to an acceptable 73 mph, but alas no Our Song issued from sweet Joan’s dulcet lips. Sorry, “Joe Hill.” We dreamed of you but you just weren’t dreamy enough.
My Parents’ Special Song
My parents eloped in their teens and were as different as could be. They had a tempestuous marriage but celebrated 52 years together. And they had a wonderful song, “Kisses Sweeter than Wine,” written by The Weavers in 1950.
“We had lots of kids, lots of trouble and pain. But, oh, Lord, we’d do it again. Because ooh. ooh, kisses sweeter than wine. Ooh, ooh, kisses sweeter than wine.”
HH and I drove on. Like a well-oiled marital machine, we diligently worked our way through 12 CDs. HH was at the wheel and I popped in one CD after another, reading tune titles out loud.
We were tempted by the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends,” but felt the drug theme undercut the tenderness and support we were going for. I rejected Elton John’s “The Bitch is Back” for obvious reasons. I again suggested “Mama’s Got a Girlfriend Now,” but the joke was, admittedly, wearing thin.
Bye, Bye Miss American Pie. The Music’s Dying
By Hour Two on the road, things started getting ugly. HH was losing focus. And he started cheating. We had switched seats. I was driving. HH was now in charge of the music.
Instead of moving briskly through the tunes, he just played his favorites with no regard for the fact that they were not contenders. I mean really – Joe Cocker singing “My Baby, She Wrote Me a Letter” or Joe Cocker croaking anything?
By the time we got to Donna Summers and Donner Summit, the pile of unplayed CDs was running low and the disparity in our musical tastes was escalating. I was suggesting Broadway show tunes. He was lobbying for Dire Straits.
Could our marriage survive this car ride quest for a marital melody?
We were listening to Don McLean’s “American Pie,” when the music actually did die. “Can you hear me?” HH queried as he started a round of scheduled work calls. Instead of being serenaded by Annie Lennox or Neil Diamond or Dusty Springfield, I listened to one-sided conversations about solar this and energy markets that.
As I drove, I thought about songs that could have been ours. Yes, Joni Mitchell, I too “have looked at life from ‘Both Sides Now’ and its life’s illusions I recall.” I was feeling a little frustrated. I admit it.
We pulled into Reno three and one-half hours after leaving Berkeley, nerves frayed and nary one contender for Our Song.
Music to My Ears
I will spare the highs and lows of HH’s reunion. That’s a subject for another essay. But, meanwhile as HH and his classmates chatted on endlessly about the good old days, I realized our good old days – even without an Our Song – were pretty terrific. I looked down at my phone and saw I had a voice message from a friend and in the process, I saw the multiple saved messages I had from HH. You see, here’s a little secret: through the years, I’ve kept a lot of his messages, a collection of “greatest hits” if you will. They’re filled with sweet nothings and silly tidbits from his day. To me, those messages in his sweet deep voice are truly the best music in the world.
Three days later, we made the car drive home. Happily, there were no more work telephone calls and happily, we achieved some song search momentum. We’ve developed a list of Our Song contenders:
Like I said, it’s a working list. We haven’t quite found The song to officially dub Ours. But that’s OK. We’re still on the hunt and truth be told, while we’re middle-aged, we still think we’ve got a few more romantic tunes left to play.
So, my dear Middle-aged Muddlers, do you and your dear have a special “our” song? Care to share?