Because it’s her 67th birthday today, I’m using this blog post (which is an encore of a post I published here on this date in 2010) to celebrate my favorite singer/songwriter, Carly Simon. I have no hesitation when asked the proverbial question about which CD I’d take to an island – preferably Martha’s Vineyard, Carly’s home and one of my all time favorite places (we honeymooned there). The real decision would be, which one of Carly’s CDs would make the cut. I’d have to stash some away.
I’ve loved her music since I was a little girl. I can’t remember if I bought “You’re So Vain” on a 45 record (show of hands … who remembers 45s?) or if it was my mom’s. What I do remember is playing it constantly, blissfully unaware of the provocative questions it provoked that still linger today. I didn’t even understand the lyrics but I knew enough to know that I loved the poetry of I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee years before I had my first cup.
I don’t have a favorite Carly song. It’s impossible to choose just one. I do tend to graviate to the lesser known ones, I’ve noticed. Many have become mantras for me at different times of my life, and never more so than when my kids were born.
As newborns, Betty and Boo spent a few weeks in the NICU. During that time, we were told to talk to them, sing to them, anything to get them acquainted with our voices and so they could sense we were there. So The Husband sang George Harrison songs (because he had just died), and told them about the electoral college (because at the time, the country was in the midst of getting a civics lesson and relearning our American history) and obscure Presidents (did you know we had a U.S. President named Chester Arthur?). I sang “Julie Through the Glass” (“Julie through the glass, just born a day ago/ and who knows where you’ve been/ and where you’re gonna go”) and “Libby” (“If all our flights are grounded/ Libby, we’ll go to Paris/ dance along the boulevards and have no one to embarrass ….”)
Finally, we were on the verge of being discharged and all that stood in the way of us and a ticket home first thing early the next morning was a few ounces of formula that Betty needed to drink – but stubbornly refused. So, I sang the only song that was in my head at the time, over and over and over.
Silver cities rise,
the morning lights
the streets that meet them,
and sirens call them on
with a song.
It’s asking for the taking.
Oh, my heart is aching.
We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.
We the great and small
stand on a star
and blaze a trail of desire
through the dark’ning dawn.
(“Let the River Run” ~ Carly Simon)
One time, while Betty and I were grocery shopping, this came on over the speakers and I practically started bawling in the middle of Frozen Foods. “Mooo-ommm,” she said, still dramatic 10 years later. “You’re NOT going to cry and tell me the story about this song and me being in the hospital AGAIN, are you?”)
Back to being NICU parents. This all happened in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, making it especially hard to be so isolated and scared, so when Carly’s Christmas album came out a year later, in 2002, it seemed like “Christmas Is Almost Here” was written for us, with that whole experience in mind. It has become one of my very favorite Christmas songs because it is so intertwined with those fragile NICU days.
“There’s a hand that’s old and rough
And it’s holding on
To one that’s new and small
Whose life has just begun
Hand in hand
Young and old
We calm each other’s fears
Christmas is almost here
There’s a rocky road ahead
Two people walk alone
Wondering in the fading light
If they can find their home
When hope is almost gone
A distant light appears
Christmas is almost here …”
(“Christmas Is Almost Here” ~ Carly Simon)
In 2005, I noticed an ad in the paper announcing that Carly was going to be in concert at The Borgata in Atlantic City. We were the parents of nearly 4 year old twins, I had just started working full time again a few months earlier, and concert tickets long ago ceased to be among our discretionary expeditures. We crunched the numbers; nope, no can do. Maybe she would be comin’ around again, but most likely, this was a once in a lifetime thing that we had to be responsible about and let go.
A few days later at work, I opened an email from The Husband. “From Santa!” it said, and it was a printout of the confirmation from Ticketmaster that we had tickets in the front section for Carly’s 2005 Serenade Tour. It was, without a doubt, one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended (and I’ve been lucky to see some great ones). Her kids, Sally and Ben Taylor, were with her on that tour and they sang a rendition of “You Can Close Your Eyes” that was exquisite. (I still sing part of that song to Boo every night … or, I should say, on the nights when he allows me to tuck him in.)
The Husband says that I am responsible for introducing him to the music of Carly Simon. He knew the most popular songs, but not the older stuff. (He did the same for me with the Beatles and their solo stuff, too, so we’re even.) One of the first gifts The Husband ever bought me was Carly’s picture book, The Fisherman’s Song, which is the words to her song of the same name. He thought I was crazy for wanting a picture book in my 20s. After reading it, he understands.
There are so many moments in my life that either have Carly Simon’s music as a soundtrack as well as moments that a Carly Simon song captures for me in my heart. I’ve been listening to her all of my life and I can’t imagine my life without her music.
“So just blow out the candles … Happy Birthday.”
Happy Birthday, Carly.
And thank you.
copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.