Monday, March 29, 2010

Story of a Life

One of my favorite songs is Harry Chapin's Story of a Life:
I can see myself it's a golden sunrise
Young boy open up your eyes
It's supposed to be your day.
Now off you go horizon bound
And you won't stop until you've found
Your own kind of way.

And the wind will whip your tousled hair,
The sun, the rain, the sweet despair,
Great tales of love and strife.
And somewhere on your path to glory
You will write your story of a life.
The first verses are a beautifully succinct summation of childhood and adolescence. We can relate because we've been "there." There's a youthful idealism and optimism to these opening verses.
And all the towns that you walk through
And all the people that you talk to
Sing you their songs.
And there are times you change your stride,
There are times you can't decide
Still you go on.
People pass in and out of our lives. Many friendships that in our youth and adolescence that we believe will last forever fade-- or as was said in the film St. Elmo's Fire: "Forever got a lot shorter somehow."
And then the young girls dance their gypsy tunes
And share the secrets of the moon
So soon you find a wife.
And though she sees your dreams go poorly
Still she joins your story of a life.
There's a bittersweetness to this verse. The loyalty of the one we choose to spend our life with even after our dreams have come and gone and the reality of adulthood sets in. Companionship ends up trumping our dreams, after all what good are our dreams if we don't have anyone to share them with? What good are life's success if we don't have anyone to celebrate them with? And while life's challenges can be tackled alone, it's always nice to have someone in our corner to cheer us on even when things aren't going the best.
So you settle down and the children come
And you find a place that you come from.
Your wandering is done.
And all your dreams of open spaces
You find in your children's faces
One by one.
Being a father now, this verse hits me harder than it ever had before. The dreams I once had for myself I now have for my daughter. Not that I want to live vicariously through her-- more that my focus has shifted from achieving my own dreams from helping her someday achieve hers.
And all the trips you know you missed
And all the lips you never kissed
Cut through you like a knife.
And now you see stretched out before thee
Just another story of a life.
Admittedly, I'm not quite "here" in my life yet. There are the trips I missed and wonder about and I do sometimes wonder how my life would be different had I ended up with someone else. But inevitably it's a mere curiosity and nothing more. I'm happy with the lips I still get to kiss that I don't need to kiss any more to make sure I've found the right set, I already know.
So what do you do now?
When she looks at you now?
You know those same old jokes all the jesters tell
You tell them to her now.
And all the same old songs all the minstrels sang
You sing 'em to her now.
But it don't matter anyhow
'Cause she knows by now.
As time passes and you spend your life with that special someone she comes to know your quirks, your jokes, your dreams and in some cases she comes to know you better than yourself.  And one of the miracles is when you realize that you love one another because of, not in spite of those quirks and flaws.
So every chance you take don't mean a thing.
What variations can you bring
To this shopworn melody.
And every year goes by like a tollin' bell.
It's battered merchandise you sell.
Not well, she can see.
And though she's heard it all a thousand times
Couched in your attempted rhymes
She'll march to your drum and fife.
But the question echoes up before me
Where's the magic story of a life?
These are the verses of my life not yet written for me. There's a bit of cynicism that I hope I'm able to escape when the verses for that stage of my life get written.
Now sometimes words can serve me well
Sometimes words can go to hell
For all that they do.
And for every dream that took me high
There's been a dream that's passed me by.
I know it's so true
Very few of us accomplish all of our dreams and I hope that when the time comes and I start taking stock of my life that there will be more "dreams that took me high" than "dreams that passed me by."
And I can see it clear out to the end
And I'll whisper to her now again
Because she shared my life.
For more than all the ghosts of glory
She makes up the story,
She's the only story
Of my life.
The song closes and puts a smile on my face. There was an episode of Family Ties where the parents, Steven and Elise are talking about how they planned to grow old and when it came to the end they'd just count off "1-2-3-Die" and go simultaneously. Rarely does it pan out this way but it's a sentiment my wife & I have shared since our relationship was still young, fresh, and new.


drewzepmeister said...

That was beautiful!

classicrockforthesoul said...

This is so sweet! Thank you for sharing that with us :)

BeckEye said...

That's both depressing and beautiful. Thanks for sharing...never heard that song before.

Susan as herself said...

Ahh, Harry Chapin. Like none other.

Barbara said...

Sigh. I was feeling melancholy before I read this so it was the perfect time for it. Very moving lyrics and thoughts from you.