Sometimes, in the world of blogging, a writing prompt comes your way. One that catches your attention, one you want to do something with. Like this: Take the third line of the last song you heard, make it your title, and write about it.
“Cool!” I think. “I am so going to do this one. Maybe not with the last song I heard, but with some song.” What was the last song I heard anyway? And when was it? Probably days ago. It’s the middle of the work week. And I’ve been riding my bike to work, so no radio. It’d have to be something I sang to my second graders, but that’s not what I want to work with.
B-L-U-E spells blue
B-L-U-E spells blue
Hi ho, do you know
B-L-U-E spells blue.
So I start to think of great songs I love. I think. I think some more. I can’t come up with anything. Not a single song. Finally, well, yah, of course, there’s always “Sweet Caroline.” It’s a song I sang in choir when I was in seventh grade and I’ve liked it ever since. It’s in my comfort range. Alto. It’s a legit song. Neil Diamond or somebody. Why it comes to me, why it’s the only song that comes to me, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it was blasting as I rounded one of the many turns in the Bolder Boulder 10k.
“Da, da, da!” I yelled, along with the hundreds of other runners around me. We all pumped our arms in the air with the beat.
…good times never seemed so good.
That was, like, two years ago. And the real question is, what’s the third line of the song? How does it even start?
My first hurdle, then, is to think of some songs. And then, a bigger hurdle, figure out the lyrics beyond the chorus. And if I can get that far, figure out which words constitute the third line. Google is helpful, of course, but I’m never at my computer when I’m thinking about this writing prompt or songs and lyrics and third lines.
I elicit the help of my daughters. They’re into music. And they’ve got some good stuff. Stuff I like.
“Hey, what are some good songs? You know, ones I like? But wait, don’t tell me any unless you know the third line of the words.” They look at me, mouths slightly open, eyebrows raised, say nothing and walk on.
But today, okay today was perfect for this activity. Amy, my youngest, and I were driving home from camping and kayaking. A road trip! With music! Her good music! On an iPod, meaning that we could start it and stop it and relisten and try to determine which words were actually the third line of any song.
She was into the project now. (As long as she didn’t have to write about it.) She took good care of me, finding and playing songs I would like, backing up when need be, helping me decide which would be the third line. Of course, most of the best lines, the lines we love, are in the repeating choruses of songs, or are the seventeenth line or something, but there are some mighty fine third lines out there.
After about ten songs, I settle on the one I’m going to write about—Green Day’s “Good Riddance.” We agree that the third line must be time grabs you by the wrist and that the next part directs you where to go is the fourth line. (Later, after we’re home, I double-check through Google and learn that what we thought was line one and two was actually line one with a comma between the phrases and that what we figured was line three and then four was really line two with a comma between the phrases. The third line of the song is so make the best of this test and don’t ask why.)
Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test and don’t ask why
It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time.
But I’m sticking with time grabs you by the wrist because it resonates with me. And I know I can write about it.
Time does grab you by the wrist and direct you where to go. When you’re little. When you’re young. Still naïve. When you don’t know squat about directing your own destiny. Time is represented by the adults in our lives–parents, relatives, teachers–and their values and expectations, the government, our culture and its institutions. These are the things of experience and wisdom. These are what must guide us until we are willing and able to guide ourselves.
I think of all our years of school, of becoming literate and learned. Without that, taking control would be hard. And what about the love and morals our parents and other significant adults in our lives impart to us? They create us, shape us, teach us many a thing about time, life, the world. And in the process of all this, we discover who we are. And, if we’re lucky, what we’re meant to do.
And then we’re ready to grab time by the wrist. And direct it where to go.
But it’s never a quick changeover. No, there are years of overlap. And, during that overlap, there are other influences—friends, bosses, substances, spouses, culture and counterculture, the streets, nature, higher education—that bring us along and sometimes astray.
I don’t think we realize the moment when we shake free from time and then quickly grab it, taking control of it and our destination. Perhaps during those years of overlap, time has our wrist and we have its. And we hang on to each other. Not struggling for power, but working together, or taking turns as circumstances dictate. Biding time.
Until we’re safe. Until we’re knowledgeable. Until we’re healthy and financially secure or we’ve accepted our place in life. Until we’re sufficiently loved or sufficiently love ourselves. Until we realize our fate, our faith, our faith in faith. Until we feel empowered enough by time to now empower ourselves and the time that remains for us.
And then, as the end approaches, I wonder, does time, once again, take us by the wrist and bring us home?