Autumn sweet, we
Call it fall
I’ll make it to the moon
If I have to crawl
Today, I have a story to share. Admittedly, it doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of this blog, but it’s not suited for Facebook, either; and it’s a story that I think should be told. It’s about music, and art, and babies.
I have always been deeply moved by music. I don’t think that makes me a rare and special snowflake – who doesn’t feel that way? – but it does have a strong effect on me. If I find myself staring at an empty page, music can help the words come unstuck. Certain songs have never failed to cheer me up; certain songs have never failed to make me cry. Then, somewhere in between, there’s Scar Tissue. (Put it on. Have a listen.)
Red Hot Chili Peppers always have been, and always will be, my favourite band. Scar Tissue always has been, and always will be, my favourite song. As someone whose body is rippled with scars, its meaning to me always came from taking its lyrics at face value.
Until I heard the words “your blood tests came back abnormal; we’re going to send you to a specialist to check the baby’s okay.”
Let me first state, very plainly, that I am wiser now than I was just four years ago. I know now that the diagnosis I feared would not have been the end of the world for my child, or for me. But at the time, I didn’t know that. It can be scary, being pregnant with your first child. It’s terrifying to be pregnant with your first child in a new country, with no health insurance, no prenatal care, no money, no job, and no idea when your situation will improve. To scrimp and save for your only prenatal appointment, only to be told that the baby “might not be okay”… I couldn’t handle it now, if I had to; and I certainly couldn’t handle it then. In the days that we waited for an appointment with the specialist, I cuddled my pets close to my belly and I counted kicks and I cried, consumed by fear.
And then, as quickly as that fear took hold, it was vanquished. Results of further tests normal. No indication of any abnormality or delay. No sign that this pregnancy is nonviable. Relax, Momma. Everything will be okay.
On the way home, we stopped to get gas and a couple of sodas. I could tell you the specific Chevron station where I sat and waited in the car when it all finally sank in. After going so long without even basic prenatal care, I hadn’t dared to make dreams for this child. I couldn’t bring myself to buy baby clothes, let alone daydream about what my child would be like. Now, I had permission to dream. That was the first time motherhood felt like something wonderful and beautiful and life-changing. It was the first time I wasn’t scared.
And while I was sitting there in a Chevron gas station, trying to piece my thoughts together and trying to comprehend everything I was feeling, Scar Tissue came on the radio. My favourite song; one I hadn’t heard in a while and one I’d never heard on the radio before. For the first time, I really heard the words I’ll make it to the moon if I have to crawl, and I thought, “we’ll be okay”. It didn’t matter that I had no job, no money, no health insurance, no light at the end of the tunnel. We’d make it, somehow, this baby and me. Then – and I swear, this is true; though I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t believe me – I looked through the window up at the sky, and a flock of birds flew overheard right as I heard with the birds I’ll share this lonely view.
That was it. Scar Tissue was forever going to be this baby’s song.
I tried to incorporate music into the baby’s life as much as possible, even before she was born; even before she had a name; even before I knew she was a she; even while I was still scared. The baby listened to Nirvana’s In Utero whilst she herself was in utero, but she also listened to Elvis; to Johnny Cash; to whatever country music was playing on the radio. Before long, she’d picked out her favourites. Before she was born, she’d kick like crazy for Elvis. By the time she was six months old, she would giggle with delight if I sang Sugarland’s “Baby Girl”. At two, she was adorably headbanging to Nirvana. By age three, she was singing Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. And now, at age four, she’s picking up on my love of Red Hot Chili Peppers.
I haven’t forced it. I’ll always ask her if we can listen to music, and if she likes the song that’s playing or if she wants something else. So far, she’s never asked me to skip a Chili Peppers song, and my heart just swells with delight: it’s such a special and beautiful thing to have shared interests with your child, particularly when it’s something you love as much as I love those funky California dorks.
Lillian is still so little, and her interests are changing fast. But I think – and I hope – her love for the Chili Peppers is genuine, and lasting. Recently, I was listening to I Could Die For You and Lillian, recognising Anthony Kiedis’s voice, started singing Under The Bridge. She loves what she calls ‘the bubble noise’ on Feasting on the Flowers and asks for it on repeat.Her reaction to hearing Mother’s Milk for the first time was to thrash around the room and jump up and down on the couch. My little rock star.
Scar Tissue is the perfect song for Lillian; for us. I have dreams for her as big as the sky. I do everything I can to teach her not to accept a life with limitations; to not listen to those who say “you can’t do that” and to never dare say it to herself. She may never understand how it felt to hear that song the day I sat in a Chevron forecourt and let go of my fear. She’ll never know how it feels like life has gone full circle when she sings Scar Tissue. How it hits me like a freight train. But one thing is for certain: I want her to know that if she wants the moon, she can make it there.
Even if she has to crawl.