We’re on our way home from a family vacation, zipping down long ribbons of asphalt. July afternoon spills hot through the windshield. There’s a heavy hum under the tires, and my husband yawns. I push buttons to find a melody to break the monotony.
“Jessie’s Girl” thrums through the speakers, and I turn the volume higher. Suddenly, we feel the bass coming up through the floor of the car. I look at my husband with wired expectation.
Jessie is a friend
Yeah, I know he is a good friend of mine
My husband and I know all the lyrics, because they are tangled with the people we were before we were “us.”
We are products of the 1980s.
He wore Ray-Ban sunglasses and played Atari. I wore shoulder pads and a Swatch, and ratted my bangs into a poof the size of a baby raccoon, rendered motionless by Aqua Net. We both owned Walkmans, and when we sang “I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You,” we believed it might really happen someday.
Someday came, and here we are, in a car swollen with empty McDonald’s sacks, damp swimsuits and two suntanned girls buckled in behind us. I watch my strong man beside me, this farmer in a cap. He’s just shy of his fortieth birthday.
Together, he and I sing to synthesized songs. I love the way his nose crinkles on the choruses. His fingers drum the steering wheel, and he taps the dash like it's a cymbal. I’m in the passenger seat, on air guitar.
There’s nothing between the two of us, except for the arm rest and our singular song rising up in a crescendo like a reveille reawakening us to the past. Our heads bob a metronomic beat, and it all seems just a bit silly. I blush.
I fold down the makeup mirror and watch our daughters watching us. Lydia chimes in with two words and an accompanying eye roll: “Weird, Mom.” The girls stick fingers in their ears and giggle at us. And I see my reflection, lined with years and life.
We keep rocking the beat out.
All '80s. All the time, the disc jockey promises.
These are our songs. This is the anthem of our growing-up years, our before-we-fell-in-love time. It’s the soundtrack of who we once were when we dreamed big and wondered: Who would sit next to us on the long trip home?
Mr. Mister hums through the speakers, laying down words like a saucer to cup our own life story. I sing it like a prayer:
When I was young I thought of growing old
of what my life would mean to me
Would I have followed down my chosen road
or only wished what I could be
I hold the notes long. We sing the words loud: Kyrie Eleison, Down the Road That I Must Travel. We've got 200 miles to go, and I'm savoring every inch. Part of me wants to take the long way home. Because it feels a bit like you're brushing up against Heaven when you realize that the song you always sang is sitting right next to you.