Time travel is possible. Music is the space-time boulevard. Not mind-bending, not miraculous, but it transports me to another place and time every time I hear it. The song? “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” by Elton John. No, my life was not saved. It was never in danger. It had actually only barely begun.
Twelve years old, first junior high school dance, hopelessly romantic and wide-eyed. Fifty-year-old school gym, layers of pungent varnish on the wood floor and creaky narrow bleachers. I was ready, I thought. My favorite jeans and what I thought was a cute, not-too-sexy-for-twelve powder blue blouse. So carefully chosen. Just enough light from the portable fresnels and random strings of dusty Christmas lights to see couples on the dance floor, nearly teenagers desperate for the sophistication of seeing and being SEEN.
Now, the song begins. So aching to be part of the pairs on the floor, but terrified to step out alone, I hum along from the edge of the raised stage, so my voice doesn’t crack if he asks the Question.
I watch Him. Joe and I were destined to be Boyfriend and Girlfriend, to Go Steady, or whatever you called it when you Had Someone. I was sure. Fluttering heart and wobbly knees don’t lie. I don’t know if he even saw me that night, but even before the 2nd chorus began, I melted in the bitter pool of hopefuls not asked to dance, or brave enough to do the asking. The night lost its luster after that, and even the spinning squares of light from the disco ball could not raise my spirits. ‘Crush’ was just that.
Forty years have passed, swirling in sandy summer beaches, the rich fall colors, icy winter mornings and soft spring evenings. No matter whether I am speeding down the highway, up to my elbows in greasy dishes, or waiting in a checkout line, I disappear. In that melody, in that chord progression, I am transported to that old gym, to those hard, shiny, lonely bleachers. How I would love to take that young lady aside and whisper in her ear today. Instead, I close my eyes, feel the bass, and let the melody take me to that place, where Possibility waited in the wings… with me.
Music can hold enormous power in memories and experiences, transporting us instantly to an age, location, or person. What sonic joys, mysteries, disbelief, and clarity have you experienced? Identify songs of influence in your life and explore them like variations on a theme, melding syntax and song structure, recalling the seriousness or levity that accompanies. Whether it’s an account of when a specific song first entered your life, the process of learning to play a song, teaching someone a song, experiencing the same song in different places as it weaves through your life, unbelievable radio timing, sharing songs with those in need, tracking the passing down of songs, creative song analysis etc, I am interested in those ineffable moments and welcoming submissions of your own variations on a theme, as drawn from your life’s soundtrack. Please email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye out for others’ Variations.
**(“song” is a broad phrase: could be a pop song, a traditional tune, a symphony, commercial jingles, a hummed lullaby, 2nd grade recorder class horror stories, etc)**
Sue Eckel is by day a full-time documentation specialist for a small Wisconsin manufacturing company, and by night, a closet poet/writer. She has a BS in Secondary English and Speech Education from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. Busy being many years happily married, working a wide variety of people-jobs, raising two sons and living all over Wisconsin, she was last published in a state-wide student magazine at age 14. Time to get back in the saddle.