Soundtrack to My Childhood

I’ve finally purchased my own copy of the album that most shaped my childhood.

Rubber Soul was released in December of 1965, meaning that I have been hearing this music since the very first Christmas of my life.

There’s an interesting thing in the iTunes music store – each song on an album has a little popularity bar. I suppose it tracks how many times each song has been downloaded. The most popular song from Rubber Soul is In My Life, a song I have always found to be inexpressibly depressing. From the time I was a child, it said to me “You’ll never be the most important thing in my life. Everything I had before I met you is more important to me than you are.” Considering that I was the third of my parents’ children, it told me that they would always be more important to me than I was. This much later on, I don’t know that I’ve changed my mind about that.

The song Run For Your Life made me do exactly that. I have very clear memories of running in circles around the perimeter of our living room, which included a couch, a chair, at least one end table and a bean bag. Nobody ever told me to stop running, which means that I was a tiny person, not in danger of hurting the furniture by running on it. I would run along the furniture, shaking my mop of cornsilk hair as though trying to outrun the words “You’d better run for your life if you can, little girl.”

I also remember all the words to I’m Looking Through You, another less-popular number. “I thought I knew you. What did I know?” That single thought has fueled every interaction I’ve ever had with anyone in my entire life. It’s why the most stinging feeling I ever have in life is the knowledge that I misjudged a relationship. It hasn’t happened often to me, but it has happened.

The song that confused me was Wait. To be fair, a child of less than five has no context in which to put a song about lovers separated for a long time. “Wait ’til I come back to your side. We’ll forget the tears we cried.” I thought about that song so much in the years that followed our move from Connecticut to Arizona, a move we made without our father, who continued for years to send us pictures of him doing fun things in New England, smiling and having fun without us. It made me keenly aware that in this case, the “we” that was crying was only me, and maybe it’s petty of me, but I’ve never forgotten those tears.

It sounds like I’m a bitter person, still feeding off the pain of a bitter childhood, but that’s not true. I’ve built a life for myself that got me beyond the things that hurt me. Instead of spending a lot of time looking back at things that made life hard, I look forward to things I’m creating for myself. Rubber Soul isn’t just about my past. It’s also about all the aspirations I’ve had for myself since I was that tiny tow-headed kid. “The future still looks good. Have you got time to rectify all the things that you should?

I do. I am. I will.

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