The other day, Keara and I were working around the house, doing some baking, cleaning and sweeping and I asked her if I could put on some music. If it doesn’t need to be quiet, I like to have a soundtrack to my life. When I am doing my serious house cleaning, I crank up Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall and sing along to “PYT,” while I wash the windows, and scrub the floor. If we’re out by the pool, then our neighbors are sure to hear Jack Johnson, or Donavon Frankenreiter blaring. Doing dishes after dinner calls for something more pensive, like Norah Jones, while road trips bring out the country music fan in me, old school stuff like Willie Nelson and Eddie Rabbit.
So Keara acquiesced to my musical request as long as I didn’t put on “that guy,” she said with an eye roll.
“What guy?” I asked innocently. And really, I was innocent. I didn’t know which one of my male singer-songwriters she was objecting to.
With the patience you use with a toddler, she looked me in the eye and said, “You know Mom, the ‘orange sky’ guy.”
Oh, “that guy.” I shrugged casually and said, “Sure honey, no problem,” while I rapidly deleted “that guy’s” name from my Itunes search field and carefully chose another band instead.
“That guy” she was referring to was Alexi Murdoch and my daughter has a serious aversion to him. It’s not that she doesn’t appreciate his music, or his low, melodic voice. For a teenager, she has a surprisingly diverse and advanced taste in music. It might be her 5+ years of piano lessons, but I’d also like to think it has something to do with our refusal to ever purchase Kidz Bop albums, or allow boy bands in our home. But despite her appreciation for his talent, she can’t stand listening to Alexei Murdoch. We burned her out on him last year. If she has to hear “Orange Sky,” or “Wait for Me” one more time, she thinks her head might explode.
I turned on The Black Eyes Peas for Keara that morning, instead of “that guy,” but I slowly drifted out of the room, and let Alexi’s music play freely in my own head. It filled my heart and mind and brought back a flood of emotions, both good and bad from last year, when I played him almost without ceasing. Every morning when the kids woke up, I would have his album Time Without Consequence going in the background. Most days when Tim got home from work, I would put on one of my favorite tracks and we would slow dance in the entryway. It was my way, our way really, of centering ourselves on what was truly important, as we transitioned in and out of the painful realities of our days.
Last year, our business was struggling to make ends meet. We were trying hard to find solutions to problems that felt very far beyond our reach, and we had to rely heavily on business contacts, friends, and family for guidance. But mostly, we had to rely on each other and together we relied on Alexi. His music seemed to speak to us, to articulate what we were going through, and to remind us of what we needed and what we needed to be doing. So each time we listened to “Orange Sky,” as we held hands, heart to heart on our entryway dance floor, or looked at one another across the dinner table with tears in our eyes, we heard, “Here is what I know now, goes like this… In your love, my salvation lies…oh you know I am so weary and you know my heart’s been broken…When I am alone, when I’ve thrown off the weight of this crazy stone, when I’ve lost all care for the things I own, that’s when I miss you, you who are my home and here is what I know now: in your love, my salvation lies, in your love, in your love, in your love.” We remembered that love, the stuff that exists between us and within our family, would be our salvation, no matter what else happened out there, beyond the walls of our home.
I heard a story once about Roberta Flack and the song she made famous in the 1970s called, “Killing Me Softly.” Maybe you remember it. The story goes that she went to hear Christopher Cross sing in a nightclub and that as she listened to him, she had this surreal feeling that he had been inside her heart and mind. “He sang as if he knew me in all my dark despair” and that his song was “telling my whole life with his words, killing me softly with his song.”
Alexi Murdoch is my Christopher Cross. Without him, and that album, Tim and I may not have been able to articulate what we needed from each other. And we all know that if you can’t name something, then you have little chance of ever finding it. How can you look for something that you don’t even know exists? So sometimes we were clinging to love for our salvation, and other times, we would listen to “Wait for Me,” and ask the question, “So if I stumble and if I fall and if I slip now and lose it all and if I can’t be all that I could be, will you wait for me? Please wait for me….” Alexi expressed our deepest longings and fears, as we faced some of our lowest points in our twenty years together, but he also gave us the words and the melody to find peace and hope in those moments as well.
So as I came out of my reverie last week, to the sound of “Boom, Boom Pow” in background, I thought of Keara and her distaste for Time Without Consequence. I can’t really blame her for it. I am sure it is more than just being tired of the songs. The music must carry a subconscious weight for her as well. But instead of finding solace in the profound truths in the songs like we did, she simply witnessed the emotional response, which probably looked a lot like grief. No matter how much we tried to protect the kids from what was going on, as the oldest, she probably understood more than we thought. Alexi Murdoch will probably always mean heartbreak to her, while he will always be “killing me softly.” Whenever I hear those songs, until the day I die, they will always speak of the greatest truths I know.
That love waits for us to become who we are meant to be, no matter how long it takes.
That in love our best hope for salvation is found.
That with love, I am home.
Thank you Alexi.
And as a mother, I hope that someday Keara finds a soundtrack for her own truths as well.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Alexi Murdoch’s work, I’ve included two links to youtube, where you can listen to “Orange Sky” and “Wait.” My snippets of lyrics don’t do justice to the poetry of the songwriter.
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There are a few moments, now and again, when I’m touched and humbled. This is one of them. Someone I love and believe in goes beyond my already silly and excessive expectation. PROUD of you in new and deeper ways.
I’m glad youre able to articulate some things i would have never been able to say. perhaps you are my Christopher Cross/Alexi Murdoch? We love those songs as well : ) xoxo
So well put, Ali. Thank you.
[…] Like any young couple, Tim and I spent years trying to shore up our power by attempting to fix each other, the faults and annoying habits obviously, but also the friendships and foes that caused our loved ones pain. When you’re young, you think everything can be improved with just a little more effort and care, but when you’re older, you know life is more about keeping vigil than keeping it all in line. Tim showed me how that night and in the years that followed by walking and talking with me, listening to my prayers and holding me in my pain as I discovered who I wanted to be. A few years later, he let me return the favor when the economy tanked and his business was on the line. I couldn’t fix a damn thing when it came to the Great Recession, but I could do what he had done for me. […]