Going to Go Back There

[. . .]               There is
a music to the past, the sweet tones
of perfect octaves
even though we know it was never so.

(Robert Kinsley “A Walk Along the Old Tracks”)

Today I woke up to find an email from one of my best friends from middle and high school.  Like too many childhood friendships, we have grown in separate directions and we don’t see each other as often as we ought, but (I speak for myself but believe it true of both of us) our affection for each other is undiminished.  Her message to me contained her beautiful version of a song from The Muppet Movie, a movie that my group of friends watched almost ritually during my junior year.  As I listened to my friend’s lovely voice sing words I had almost forgotten, I felt transported.  I’ve been basking in remembered events and feelings ever since.

And these are warm memories.  Beautiful memories.  The kind of memories that anchor hope in my life.  My junior year was my absolute best year in high school.  It was the year before life and people and friendships became complicated, and it was a time of blossoming friendships and kindred spirits.  We watched the Muppets and danced our cares away with old episodes of Fraggle Rock and learned from Magee and Me that junior high is where coolness begins.  We played on playgrounds and wore cardboard Burger King crowns and laughed ourselves silly.  And on Sundays, in the cool, darkening hours of the evening, we would worship together and pray together.  I remember writing in the purple spiral notebook that I always carried with me then that I felt as though Heaven leaned in a little closer to hear us as we drew ourselves and each other closer to the heart of God in those starlit hours.

That was a year of freedom and simplicity.  We could go anywhere we wanted (within reason) in our beautifully aged, beat up, and (significantly) named vehicles, in which we would caravan about town like gypsies.  Our requirements were few; we provided our own entertainment and ate what we could purchase with the mysteriously renewing change in our car ashtrays.  Our finances provided for the leanest of fare, but it was nonetheless a season of plenty, rich in joy and the fullness of life.  The world felt boundless and life infinite, and we charged about with well-worn sayings like “Seize the day!” trumpeting in our hearts, doing our very best to live deliberately, living as if death were nowhere in the background.  Those were days of overflowing vigor and bottomless mirth, and I wished deeply that things would never change, though I knew it was inevitable.

And, of course, things did change.  Some things about my life became better, and others worse, but mostly change just made things different.  Looking back, I’m so glad that life isn’t static; I’d much rather be the person I am today than the one I was ten years ago.  And I would never, ever want to be seventeen again or live my life over–once is quite enough for me.  But there’s something soothing and life-affirming in remembering some of the best days of my life.

Was is really as good as all of that?  Of course not.  How could it have been?  Nothing is ever as good–or as bad–as we remember it to be.  Whatever it was, though, is less important to me now than what it is, sweet tones and perfect octaves, memories that warm my heart when the chill of loneliness begins to creep in and remind me of how beautiful community can be when I’m tempted to retreat inside myself.

The song, by the way, that started all of this is Gonzo’s song, “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” (linked, if you’d like to hear/watch the song).  My favorite line is, “There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.”  Perhaps there is in another language: anam cara (friend of my soul).

This looks familiar, vaguely familiar,
Almost unreal, yet, it’s too soon to feel yet.
Close to my soul, and yet so far away.
I’m going to go back there someday.

Sun rises, night falls, sometimes the sky calls.
Is that a song there, and do I belong there?
I’ve never been there, but I know the way.
I’m going to go back there someday.

Come and go with me, it’s more fun to share,
We’ll both be completely at home in midair.
We’re flyin’, not walkin’, on featherless wings.
We can hold onto love like invisible strings.

There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.
Part heaven, part space, or have I found my place?
You can just visit, but I plan to stay.
I’m going to go back there someday.
I’m going to go back there someday.

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One thought on “Going to Go Back There

  1. We got the same email and thought the same things! Her version of the song is so gorgeous. Jon and I still consider that to be “our song.” It was nice to hear and remember.

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