Thursday, January 24, 2013

Songs That Take You Places: One Headlight

I went through a terrible teen angst phase: brooding, scowling, black hair hanging over
my eyes so as to hide their disappoint in the world.  I smoked cigarettes and rolled my eyes
at everything, believing with every inch of my soul that there was so much more to life
than this bullshit small  town I was stuck in.  And my mother: Lord, did she get under my
skin.  Didn't she understand how clueless she sounded when she tried to give me advice
and point me in the right direction?  Why couldn't she recognize how soulfully enlightened
I was at the ripe old age of 15?  I was an old soul, after all, and could have cared less about
her views on boys, morals, and my future.  I had it all figured out, wrapped up in my
Kurt Cobain straight from the Goodwill cardigan.  Duh.
My mother worked directly across the street from my high school and was gracious enough
to give my ungrateful arse a ride to school every morning.  Our days started out with
her begging me to get out of bed so that she wouldn't be late for work, me grumbling
and refusing to eat a healthy breakfast, both of us rushing and raising our voices and
meeting up in the car with a big deep sigh.  I was mean to her at times: a sass mouthed
back talker with a bad attitude.  It wasn't my fault, as far as I was concerned, considering
she just DIDN'T GET IT.  I just wanted to be left alone, to sit in my little puddle of self
imposed sadness.  I wanted to listen to Alice In Chains in my bedroom and write long poems
in my journal.  I didn't want to tell her about my day, I didn't want to confide in her, and I
most certainly did not want to spend any more time than I absolutely had to in her
presence.  She was the enemy, the grown up, the one who gave me this nose I was so
self conscious about.  I hated her for this nose.
But all of that seemed to disappear on our rides to school in the morning.  That was OUR
time, our 15 minutes together without any interruptions.  She would smoke a few
cigarettes while I gazed out the window, both of us enjoying our last few moments of
peace before our day got started.  She was kind enough to put me in charge of the
radio, sighing to herself as I blasted Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam as loud as I
could.  Some days we talked, others we rode in silence.  Just the two of us.
"One Headlight" by The Wallflowers was popular and played every single morning on our
way to school for like a month.  It reminded me of my boyfriend who had just moved an
hour away for college.  It made me miss him so much I could have cried, but I didn't because
I was so cold and guarded.  My mother loved it as well, singing along and giving me a
knowing nod when it came on.  She thought of it as "our song": Mama and her little
Cinderella.  It was one of those songs that took us somewhere, brought us
together, represented a time and an energy.  One of those songs that sticks with you.  
I eventually snapped out of my teenage emotional/hormonal hell and started treating
my mother with the love and respect she deserved, listening to "One Headlight" as I
prepared to leave home and make my own way in the world.  It took me back to her car,
the smell of her cigarettes mixed with her floral perfume, the rising sun on the horizon as
we sailed towards school.  She used to write me letters when I was in the Navy and she
always signed them, "I love you forever and always, my Cinderella", referencing the song
that had become a part of our story together.  Every time I heard it, it made me miss her
like crazy, my heart now big and open and willing to cry because I would have given
anything to be back in that car again.  Just the two of us.  
As I was driving home from work yesterday, "One Headlight" came on the radio.  This time,
I was alone, on my way to pick up my own kids from school after a hard day's work.
I immediately thought of her, and us, and I couldn't help but hear the song in a totally
different light.  Yesterday, I heard the song as she once did: a mom who loves her
daughters more than herself, a woman with hopes and dreams and a free spirit of her own,
a daughter who feels blessed to have such an amazing mother in her life.  My mother
was around my age now when she used to drive me to school and listen to that song, a
thought that amazes me at the ripe old age of 33.  And as I listened to the lyrics, I heard it
the way SHE must have.  
"Hey, come on try a little
Nothing is forever
There's got to be something better than
In the middle
But me & Cinderella
We put it all together
We can drive it home
With one headlight"
It wasn't the sad breakup song I was hearing, pining away after a boy who left me for
higher education.  It was her song to me and my teen drama, a song about waking up and
trying harder and knowing that this too shall pass.  She knew that, one day, I would cheer
up and become the woman I am today.  She put up with my ugly attitude, my
dramatic breakdowns, and my disrespectful disposition because she knew that, together,
we could drive it home.  With one headlight, we made it through that time, those
years, together.  
I love you, Mama.

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Deanna Fike said...

i dread the teenage angst stage. i was the absolute worst to my mama. but she never gave up on me. and thank goodness she didn't, because i appreciate her so much now.

Nichole said...

this one made me cry. my mom and i (and marcus too) have a inner soundtrack to our lives that correspond with the tender, adolescent/teenage years. the cranberries, van morrison, and a few others always make my heart well up with love and admiration for those two infinitely special souls.

Kara Motts said...

That was one of my favorite songs too. And I remember that feeling of wanting so badly to be free with my emotions, but feeling so vulnerable that I became hard and mean to my parents. This post was wonderful and touching. Thank you for sharing it!