On the second to last day of 2017, Husband and Olive left for Auburn to spend the weekend with friends like we try to do every year for New Year’s. The last couple years we went to Russian River, but this year the only house we could find that fit six families was an updated Victorian perched on a hill, in a small town close to Sacramento. Obi and I were driving up the next day because he wakes at 5 in the morning, and we wanted to let Olive sleep in at least one of the mornings since we were all going to be sharing a room. They had just left and Obi was still napping. I was getting ready to unwind and spend some introverted time when I stopped short and gasped, covering my mouth with my hand. There was black marker scribbled all over the wall in our dining room and on Olive’s artist easel I’d been planning to post for sale.
So yes, it was like any other day- picking up Cheerios that Obi had dumped onto the couch and floor, picking up Olive’s puzzle pieces he had dumped onto the dining room floor, fishing out blocks, hair ties, and an ear pick from underneath the couch, cooking his herbs- checking the amount and resetting the timer, mixing a cup of Seven Star for him because he won’t drink regular water, microwaving leftovers for dinner . . . and then I suddenly realized how quiet it was. No whining or hands tugging at my shirt or Olive happily chattering away about “High School Musical”. It was one of those wonderful moments in which Obi was preoccupied, playing with his toys. I tried to think of what music to play- something that makes me happy, something I hadn’t listened to in a while. For some odd reason, I thought of Ani Difranco, this folk rock artist I used to listen to in college, way back when. I was a freshman, and an older girl had taken me to see her perform at my very first concert. It was in Finney Hall, where we hold all the big concerts and lectures. She was goofy and charming and angry but sappy. I loved her instantly.
The Ani Difranco station on Pandora played her newer songs, but I recognized the saucy voice and angsty guitar playing. During her second song, I unexpectedly started crying. I don’t know why- maybe it was because I remembered a different kind of me, a younger and free-spirited me that was allowed, even encouraged to be self-absorbed and go after my dreams in a reckless sort of way. A me who had time to make care packages and mix tapes for friends, sketch, write, and tape notes in my journal, play Ravel on my cello, drive to New York and eat the best butternut squash soup after wandering the streets, record the voices of friends and layering sounds using a friend’s mixing board for an installation in the kitchen of the house I was renting, skip meals writing stories in the basement of Mudd library, and go to an Ani Difranco concert with a room full of happy shiny people singing along, knowing every single word to “32 Flavors”.
Obi had been happily eating his rice when he heard me crying and looked up at me, startled. I laughed at his expression and he smiled, pointing at both my eyes from which tears were coming out. Next was Iz then Ray LaMontagne, Fiona Apple, The Sundays, Tori Amos, Portishead. It’s like Alexa knew the me I was in college. There was nobody to ask me what I was listening to as if anything that wasn’t Taylor Swift or from “The Descendants” was an insult, nobody to tell me to turn it down or ask if they could listen to their music now. It was just Obi swaying back and forth with a silly grin and absolutely zero judgment.