Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Possibilities

This is my entry into this month's Blogging for Books hosted by the very funny Joshilyn Jackson.

Music has always been a big part of my life and, in thinking about what to write for this month’s B4B, I realized that I have a close personal relationship with lots of songs. It was hard for me to pick just one.

At first I was going to write about Beach Baby by First Class – a Top 10 hit from 1974. We played that record at least a million times at my 10th birthday sleepover party. “Beach baby, beach baby, give me your hand. Give me something that I can remember-er-er. Surfin’ was fun. We’d be out in the sun every day-ay-ay ay-ay.” (Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago we could really relate to the surfing thing.) We played the 45 so many times that sometime around midnight my Dad threatened to break the record over his knee if we played that “goddamn song again!” (It’s that memory that prevents me – reluctantly – from telling the girls that if they play one more Hilary Duff song forty thousand times in a row . . . blah, blah, blah). I decided not to write about Beach Baby because I didn’t think one paragraph would be long enough to win B4B.

Seriously, though - there are tons of songs that I’ve thought about and listened to in the last few days trying to come up with the perfect one. Out of all the songs I had to choose from, one song kept popping into my head. Our Time from the Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along.

Merrily was a huge flop on Broadway (lasting only two weeks), probably because the story starts at the end and goes backwards in time making it a little hard to follow. I imagine that audiences didn’t want to work that hard. But the songs are wonderful – more melodic and less of an “acquired taste” than a lot of other Sondheim music.

When I was in college, I produced Merrily the summer after my sophomore year. I had only $5,000 that I somehow got the school to give me. I pulled it together, with an awesome (if small) orchestra, a hard-working cast and a director who was good but who was also a drunk (and a letch). Every night after rehearsal, I had to drive him to the corner store for a six-pack and then drive him home, all the while swatting his hands away from me. Which was hard since my car was a stick shift.

But I digress – Merrily is about the friendship of two guys who are a songwriting team. By the end (which is the beginning of the play), they have grown apart and become cynical. But at the beginning (which is the end of the play – I told you it was confusing), they were full of hope and looking forward to a great future. Our Time is a song about the possibilities of life. It’s hopeful. It was my favorite song in the show.

Something is stirring, shifting ground
It’s just begun
Edges are blurring all around and yesterday is done

Feel the flow, hear what’s happening, we’re what’s happening
Don’t you know, we’re the movers and we’re the shapers
We’re the names in tomorrow’s papers,
Up to us pal to show ‘em

It’s our time
Breathe it in, worlds to change and worlds to win
Our turn, we’re what’s new
Me and you pal, me and you

After I left college, I went to New York to start a career in theater production. As it turned out, theater jobs were hard to find and wouldn’t have paid the rent anyway. I worked at a talent agency and then at a couple of small television production companies until I left NY and went to law school. In three short years, I had become cynical. I had lost hope and gave up my dreams.

I turned 40 a year ago. As many people do at age-related turning points, I took stock in my life and realized that I needed to make some changes. I had lost a lot of myself when I became a lawyer, wife and mother. No one asked me to give anything up, it just happened. At 40, I was surprised to find that I didn’t know who I was anymore.

Something is stirring, shifting ground
It’s just begun
Edges are blurring all around and yesterday is done

Feel the flow, hear what’s happening, we’re what’s happening
Don’t you know, we’re the movers and we’re the shapers
We’re the names in tomorrow’s papers,
Up to us pal to show ‘em

It’s our time
Breathe it in, worlds to change and worlds to win
Our turn, we’re what’s new
Me and you pal, me and you

I think I got scared to put myself out there. When I was young, my expectations were too high and my failures (or what I saw as my failures) caused painful disappointment. I didn’t have the resiliency or the persistence to keep going. My fear kept me from taking chances.

Feel how it quivers, on the brink
What?
Everything

Gives you the shivers,
Makes you think there’s so much to stuff to sing

Me and you, we’ll be singing it, like the birds
Me with music and you with words
Tell ‘em things they don’t know
Up to us pal to show ‘em

When I turned 40 I had this weird thought – if I live to be 80, I have another whole life to live and I don’t want to blow it being afraid. In the past year I’ve started this blog, taken a writing class and picked up knitting again. I’m figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m starting to feel hopeful. I’m starting to take chances again. It feels good.

It’s our heads on the block, give us room and start the clock
Our time comin’ through, me and you pal, me and you
Me and you, me and you, me and you

Something is stirring, shifting ground
It’s just begun
Edges are blurring all around and yesterday is done

I think I’ve turned a corner.

12 comments:

Sandra said...

One more way in which middle age feels like going through adolescence again. Only this time the physical changes aren't as exciting.

I'm curious about your writing class.

landismom said...

Nice entry! I've always like Sondheim as a lyricist--but I think he's so smart, that you have to listen to the songs four or five times to really appreciate them, and obviously you can't do that when you're seeing a live musical for the first time. And the rest of your post reminded me of the mantra of the acting teachers at my college--"take a risk, whatever that means to you."

Cin said...

What a wonderful entry Jessica!

I’m figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m starting to feel hopeful. I’m starting to take chances again. It feels good.

Girl you give me hope! I still haven't figured out what I want to do when I grow up, and it's really nice to know I'm not the only one.

MIM said...

Girl, we forgot to talk about knitting at lunch! Dang.

Anyway, I love your paragraph about having a whole other life to live. that is SO TRUE! I tell that to people all the time.

Great entry!

Jessica said...

Thanks for your kind comments!

Sandra - I took an online class from Gotham Writers Workshop at www.writingclasses.com. It was great and I highly recommend it.

Cin and MIM - I love that you call me "girl" - at 41, that doesn't happen very much anymore!

Sarah said...

Good entry. I love that you chose something Broadway.

Bonnie said...

I love the idea of the backwards play! And your entry is wonderful. Left me breathless and almost speechless :-).

Jessica said...

Thanks Bonnie! What a nice compliment. I would go visit you but I can't get to your profile from the link on your comment. Let me know what your URL is and I'll drop by.

Skovbo said...

Insightful entry, love the broadway choice and how it ties to your younger self!

and thanks for your kind comment on my b4b entry. :)

Karin said...

Love Sondheim and your choice of songs. This was a wonderful hopeful post. Thanks for sharing. :)

I am a Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

Lovely post, lovely music, lovely words. Thanks for sharing it and coming by my blog, to see my entry. I hope you visit again. I'll be back to read you!
Hh

Kristi said...

You know, you are making me think about who I used to be, too, and who I am now. Had a moment of that "what happened to me?" angst at Seaworld a few months ago, when I was five months pregnant, watching a hip hop dance show and remembering how much I loved dancing in high school and college. At the moment I was at my highest weight and lowest level of fitness. Tieing my shoes was getting hard. I never had dreams of being a pro dancer or anyting like that (well, ok, when I was 7 I wanted to be on Solid Gold) but it did inspire me to join a gym and take dance fitness classes.

Anyway, I enjoyed your B4B entry!