A goodly portion of my ancestors came from Ireland, so I suppose I should take note of St. Patrick’s day.
By sharing one of my favorite Irish songs. By Blaggards. From Houston, in Texas. Yep.
As far as I can tell based on my limited experience (if I am, in fact, the reincarnation of some Middle Ages noble like that psychic on Kirby told me just before she cleansed me of his evil deeds for a nice chunk of drunken change, well I don’t remember it), if in a lifetime you can fill up a hand or two with people who care for you and have your back for the right reasons, you’ve done well. Most folks could work a sawmill for a century or so and not run out of fingers.
On the other hand, most folks start out with one person squarely in their corner.
My mother didn’t always understand me. She surely had high expectations for me. But she loved me, and, at least when the chips were down, she had my back. I didn’t always recognize this at the time, but years without her have taught me the value of an ally. Joni Mitchell was right. Almost everyone loves their mother. Almost every orphan loves their mother a lot.
My mother also, more than anyone else, made me who I am– the good and the bad. For sure, my fear of debt and need for self-sufficiency come directly from her. As I got older and realized how many viewpoints I share with her, it was alarming. Surely, I wasn’t turning into what my teenage self vowed to avoid. The older I get, however, the more I realize it’s OK. She knew a lot more than I thought she did. And I know a lot less than I act like I do.
Young folks dread growing up and becoming their parents. Old folks hope they do.
As Mother’s Day approached, I found myself listening to this song a lot.
Call your mamma sometimes
She misses you
She can’t help she’s all alone
Stay away from all that whiskey
But don’t stay away from home
Hug ’em if you got ’em. I miss my mother.
From Farm Aid, 1986. Manor, Texas.
Like most holidays, Father’s Day is a time to reflect on the present, to look back and remember what’s gone, and to share hopes for what’s to come. That sort of thing is easier for some than for others. For me, it’s like whiskey. The trick is in the amount. A little is good, but too much can make you crazy.
I can barely remember my own father, and my children don’t always think I’m as wise and benevolent as I feel. All of this, plus my deep-rooted desire to avoid participation holidays having to do with me (my birthdays, etc.), finds me hunkered down on these days, partially grateful for any overtures and mostly waiting for the next morning, when things will return to whatever approximates normal.
So when Swedish songwriter Tom Levin emailed me about his new song, “Father to a Son,” a good and timely song about the difficulties of both being and having a father, and the often overlooked, but vastly important, legacy one creates through those relationships, it got me thinking about parental music. A trip too far down that rabbit hole, like most introspection about one’s struggle to be good at what matters while simultaneously being excellent at much of what doesn’t, is to be avoided. For sure.
But if I were to give a musical sermon to my children, it would sound something like this.
I haven’t done a particularly good job of doing all that stuff, but such was my intent, to the extent intent matters. The anti-new age parent in me says it matters a little, but only a little. To try is to fail with honor and all that. But if intent is the precursor to action, maybe it matters more than we think. In other words, to be you have to become. To go someplace, you have to think about the direction you should travel.
Another musical message that I adhere to in theory, if not in action, is this one.
Well all the friends that you knew in school
They used to be so cool and they just bore you
Well look at them now, already pulling the plow
So quick to take to grain like some old mule
Young man full of big plans and thinking about tomorrow
Young man going to make a stand…
So here’s the point. It has to do with intent, and direction and becoming.
Kids, you need to decide what you want out of life before life decides for you. Not what you want right now, and not what someone tells you you should want, but what you want to do for the next few decades. Something you’re passionate about, that will allow you to make a living and a difference.
Or maybe, on Father’s Day, you’re allowed to just listen to this one (the Honky-Tonk Stardust Cowboy and the Seldom Scene are a wonderful combination) and sit on the back porch, waiting for the birds to return to the feeders.
Like most things, it’s complicated.
For Valentine’s Day, the most wistful song I’ve ever heard (and I’ve heard a lot of songs).
If you can get through this dry-eyed, you’re a harder-hearted cat than me. The second verse might be the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard.
Enjoy. Valentine’s is no time for hard-hearted cats.
Here, for musical and nostalgia purposes, is that RanchoCast from 12/24/05.
It consists of nine mostly off the beaten path Christmas songs.