Friday, July 15, 2011

the house that built me.

my dad has good taste in music.  i like to think i do, too, so it's only fitting.  when my siblings and i were kids, we were subjected to dad's musical stylings during long car rides in the wee hours of our vacations.  somewhere on the stretch of highway between ohio and "get me out of this damn car," my dad would pop in a cassette tape of old uncle neil and sing along as we carried on toward our final destination.  and being the young whippersnappers we were, we liked to joke about his horrible taste in tunes.  he loved neil young.  at the time, we thought neil was this weird old crooner who couldn't hold a candle to our favorites (like TLC, boyz II men, etc.)  how fitting that we all rank old uncle neil among our favorites now.

my dad has married off two daughters now.  and he's taken his duties as father of the bride quite seriously, picking a special tune to dance with me and cathy during the father-daughter dance.  the title of the song was kept under lock and key and was only announced by the dj at the appropriate time during our respective big days.  for me, he chose an old favorite: neil young's old man. it seemed particularly fitting.  i am  my father's daughter, and it becomes all the more apparent as i grow older.  old man, take a look at my life, i'm a lot like you.  it wasn't a total surprise when the dj announced the song and my dad and i took our places in the middle of the dancefloor.  we twirled around, laughing and talking about old memories and the times gone by.

three summers later, it was my sister's turn to don the white dress and emerge as princess for the day.  and a perfect princess she was....

and after everyone toasted my sister and my new brother-in-law, enjoyed the amenities of the blue dress barn, and watched erich twirl his bride around the room, it was time for the father-daughter dance.  no one knew the song my dad had picked because it was tradition that the song would be kept under wraps until the appointed time.  only my mom had the insider's scoop on the song dad had chosen, but we were all pretty sure we knew the lyrics of the tune he'd picked.  we assumed it would be heart of gold or maybe silver and gold.  in fact, we knew that at any moment, we'd hear the familiar sounds of the harmonica, as neil started crooning, i wanna live, i wanna give...

but then the dj picked up the microphone and revealed the song.  and as we all digested the news, the tears started flowing.  i watched my dad escort my sister to the dance floor.  the tears were flowing down her cheeks and, truth be told, i don't necessarily know what happened next since i couldn't see through my own waterworks.  i know they say you can't go home again, i just had to come back one last time.

it wasn't uncle neil.  it wasn't a hit from the harvest album.  it didn't even come off after the gold rush.  it was the house that built me by miranda lambert.  and much like the day, my sister's dress, the whole affair... it was perfect.  my dad had done it again.  wow'ed everyone with his ability to pick the right tune, at the right time.

and through my tears, i watched my dad and my sister dance around the blue dress barn.  and i thought, are we really this old?  is that really my daddy and my little sister?  is she really married?  am i really married?  is that really my baby over there in my husband's arms?  time seemed to stand still for a moment, as the lights twinkled softly in the hot summer heat.  i felt older than my twenty-six years, but yet so young.  much too young to feel so old.

a lifetime later, the song ended.  my sister hugged my dad, and went about her rounds, greeting her guests and standing next to her husband.  my dad returned to my mom, and it was time to get down to the business of celebratin' the wedding.  (and celebrate we did.  with no less than 4 bonanzas!)

i hadn't thought about that moment until tonight, when i noticed a link posted on a facebook friend's page.  it was that miranda lambert song.  i clicked on the link, and the tears started flowing.  my heart immediately started aching, but it was the good sort of ache that comes from the knowledge that all is right with the world. my sister is sleeping in her happy new home in michigan, next to her husband.  my parents are sitting around the fire at my aunt's cabin in wisconsin, and we've just returned home from a night spent laughing with friends and family at a local watering hole.  we're all chasing our own dreams, growing, learning, changing... but sometimes, we come back home.  sometimes, we spend a whole weekend crammed together in my parents' little farmhouse, creating time capsules, singing songs around campfires, sharing a few beers and reminiscing about days gone by.  and all is as it should be.

and so, i dried my tears and sent my dad a text.  you leave home, you move on and you do the best you can... i love you, dad.  after a few moments, he responded. you can bury gracie under the tree in the yard... love you, too.

as the soft summer breeze rustles the blinds in my living room, i think of my family.  i think of my mom and of my dad.  i think of my little brothers and sisters, and how they're all spreading their wings and starting their own journeys.  we are each strong and unique individuals.  we are finding our ways and forging our own paths.  and yet, we are all so connected.  we share an unbreakable bond that neither time nor distance can change.

it takes only the first few lines of a sweet song to remind me of the house that built me.  and tonight, i am grateful beyond words for that.

to my brothers and sisters: cathy, chris, marty, jessica and clayton,
i love you more than words can say.  thank you for all the memories, for all the ridiculousness, for all the games.  thank you for the cool beers shared around hot campfires.  thank you for the arguments, the inventions and the laughter.  thank you for your unconditional support.  you have taught me the true meaning of friendship and love.  i love each of you to the ends of the earth and back.  may we forever cherish, love and respect one another as we do today.  and may we never forget the memories we've shared in the house that built us.

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