Early Refrains (A Rediscovery of Sorts)
I didn’t realize that my grandmother enjoyed music until I was eleven years old. Sitting cross-legged in front of the television, mid-Full House marathon, I remember so distinctly the moment where she said to me, "I love the Beach Boys," in reference to an episode where they made a guest appearance. I was deeply surprised by this information - my grandmother had never played me anything of theirs, or anything at all, around the house (at least, that I could remember). A number of CDs ranging in genre had been stacked precariously underneath a vintage stereo system in the living room for my entire life, and, unbeknownst to me, there were boxes of dusty vinyls stored in the basement, but the only time I could recall watching her hum along to a tune or wiggle to a beat was when we were in the car, listening to the radio.
For the first thirteen years of my life, my definition of music was limited to what the radio decided to play for me whenever I hopped into a vehicle, and what my dance instructors wanted to choreograph to. This is not to say that the radio, and my former dance teachers, didn’t play quality music (oftentimes there were bops and bangers galore) - but even the most avid listener can admit that the radio mainly plays what’s popular, and dance, while more eclectic, is about what has the best beat. If you want the deep cuts, the obscure, you have to look elsewhere, and I didn’t have the means to do that until I was old enough to navigate the Internet.
“I love that song, the monster song.”
“The monster song?”
“You know, I’m friends with the monster—”
“Oh! With Rihanna!”
“She has such a nice voice.”
“Oh, and the Taylor song! Where she talks at the end.”
“We are never, ever, ever getting back together—”
“Yes! It’s so fun.”
“It is, isn’t it?”
Before the days of Spotify playlists and Apple Music there was Pandora and YouTube. After realizing that I was incredibly ignorant when it came to music, scrolling through my friends’ cheesy Facebook statuses of lyrics I couldn’t identify without a Google search, I sat down and dedicated myself to the cause of music. I spent hours upon hours perched in front of my laptop with a pair of headphones and a notebook. Every time I found a song that spoke to me, I would write it down on the lined paper along with my favorite lyric from the song. I still have that blue spiral, filled nearly cover to cover with notes such as “'Fix You' - Coldplay - Lights will guide you home / and ignite your bones / and I will try to fix you” and “'Philadelphia' - Parachute - Like a gun shot from miles away, she’s moving in / like a rain storm without the clouds, she falls on him”. Every so often I’ll thumb through the notebook, a faint smile lighting the open fields of my cheeks, nostalgic over the person that I used to be.
By the time I was eighteen, my grandmother and I had come full circle with our relationships to music and each other. I made her mix CDs with songs from the radio that she adored, and I used Spotify as though it were a life ring. My grandmother told me, once, that I reminded her of why used to enjoy music so much, and because of this she began playing her CDs again. One of my fondest memories is opening the front door to find her blasting Ed Sheeran, dancing around the kitchen with a feather duster. I joined in, the two of us singing and laughing and tripping over ourselves to the beat of a guitar. While my childhood wasn’t set to a soundtrack in the way that many people can say theirs was, it’s undeniable that music was always present in my life. From the piano keys in my grandmother’s fingertips, to the trumpets in her smile, together we created a cacophony of celebration, rejoicing together in our smallness, happy, so happy, to be alive.