Home > Death, Music, Personal > My Runaway Train over the Rainbow

My Runaway Train over the Rainbow

Certain scents hold sway over me. The smell of cinnamon, for example, propels me back in time to where I hover just outside my childhood home’s kitchen in wait of my mom’s proclamation that her heavenly cinnamon rolls are ready to eat.

It’s not only scents that have this power over me. Certain songs, too, yank me straight out of now, depositing me firmly—as long as their strains whisper their magic in my ears—in times and places that would, without music, be strictly memory.

1. “Over the Rainbowby Brother Israel

I walk up to my mom’s house and see that she’s out working in her yard. I greet her, give her a hug and tell her I have to “powder my nose,” but that I’ll be right back.

When I step back outside, my mom is smiling while explaining to a passing stranger, “My daughters introduced it to me. Isn’t it so hopeful? When I listen to it, I feel like anything is possible.” I stop and savor the moment from the porch, unwitting to the fact that a song already much beloved by me will someday be one of two roads that lead me to a place where I again stand in my mom’s presence.

2. “Mad Worldby Gary Jules

I hop off the bus on which I have pretended to study law all the way between UCLA and Hollywood. I do the same as I wait for the music to begin. Once it does, I sit through song after song, hopeful that one of the songs Gary sings will be “Mad World.” When I hear the song’s first notes, I suppress the urge to exclaim my delight.  In the candlelit darkness of The Hotel Café, I close my eyes and am lost to the haunting melancholy of that song. If I am very lucky, I do so with the knowledge Mack will be driving me home soon after I reopen my eyes.

3. “Bitter Honeyby Eric Kufs

I tell Eric I’m sad I missed his last show, but that my youngest sister wouldn’t have been too understanding if I went to a concert instead of her wedding. Eric hands me a CD of the show and tells me it’s not the same as having been there, but that this way I won’t have missed it completely. He then asks with endearing awkwardness, “Is that weird?” I reassure him it is a lovely gesture, not weird.

My Grampa G tree

A handful of days later, I think of this exchange after I pack my dog into my car and begin a sixteen-hour drive that will, if I am lucky, lead me to say a final goodbye to my “Grampa G” while he is still alive. I put Eric’s CD in my car’s player and skip straight to “Bitter Honey,” which is my bittersweet company through that day’s drive.

I stop for a few hours of sleep in Williams, California. I walk my dog for a few minutes before we return to the car. As the sun rises on that walk, I take this picture. Minutes later, I continue my flight northward. I pray I will be in time to hug a man who took many years to accept hugs, and more years still to welcome them.

I drive southward a few days later, weeping as I try to understand how Grampa G can no longer have a physical home on earth. I listen to “Bitter Honey” and understand that in a song and a picture, I will always be able to find my way back to the blessed moments where I clasped one of Grampa G’s hands between my own as I thanked him for waiting for me.

4. “Runaway Trainby Soul Asylum

My family and I are attending a church conference in Montana. I am so captivated by this song that I stake out the TV room on my dorm floor in a state of constant anticipation for its next play.  I scowl a wordless threat at anyone who so much as looks in the direction of either the remote or the TV’s control panel. I issue politely couched threats to anyone who tries doing more than justlook at them. In doing these things, I retain dominance of the room save when I am forced out by pesky community-building gatherings.

5. “To Go Beyond IIby Enya

I am sixteen years old. I have moved out of my mom’s house, again. I have just enough money to pay rent for a bedroom out in the boonies, but not enough money to buy myself a bed. As I lie on the floor trying to sleep, I am as terrified as I am exhilarated until To Go Beyond II starts playing. I hear it and know the thrill of being, for its duration, carried straight to heaven.

Sixteen years later, I continue to believe for so long as the song plays not only that there is heaven, but that my mom dances there eternally. For a few minutes at a time, I am able to bask in the light of her peace, a kind I understand she could never have found on earth.

What songs move you, and to where?


This was among posts accidentally deleted from this blog.
Inspired by a newly WordPress-Discovered post,
reposted 3/24/16

  1. March 24, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers was my dads favorite song. I remember hearing it play in his old suburban when we went on road trips. It also played at his funeral service.
    Loving Her Was Easier by Kris Kristofferson- It’s my husband’s song to me. He plays it while he sits and watches the sun go down. I hear it and I know he loves me. I can see it in his eyes, and I just melt.
    Any song by P!nk-because that’s the only concert I’ve ever been to and I had the time of my life. Her acoustic set was amazing!
    Strawberry Wine by Deanna Carter-my fist kiss!

    • March 24, 2016 at 10:00 pm

      Aaaaah! Thank you for sharing these. The bit about you husband? ♥

      Unchained Melody was song #12 on my mom’s memorial music discs. She liked the song even apart from its inclusion in Ghost, but dug it all the more for all it evoked there.

      P!nk is one of the very few artists I know Li’l D will recognize and remember as one of “ours.” She was one of the first artists that he was able to identify independently when one of her newer songs would come on the radio. (Yay!) I’ve written not one but two posts about her songs. I think one of them was among those deleted, while the newer one came after all those deletions.

      She played at least one Halloween down in Hollywood while I was in law school. I couldn’t see her too well, but there was a little girl standing next to me with her very short mom, who expressed sadness her daughter couldn’t see, either. I ended up putting her daughter on my shoulders, making her and her mom super happy. So that was a delight, even if it wasn’t quite the enjoyment I’d expected. Music, yay. 🙂

  2. March 24, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    …And Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was walking down the street of my small hick town, skateboard in hand, singing it to myself unaware that this boy I really liked was walking behind me. I can still feel how red my face turned. He said ‘You like that band too?’ All I did was stutter and I think I even whistled? Why!?! And that ended that lol

    • March 25, 2016 at 4:38 am

      Haha! Oh, to be a teenager again… I could probably think of 100 songs specifically about my teenage years that will bring back all sorts of memories I’d rather forget.

      Deborah, thank you for sharing this list. I just discovered your blog and will follow. This has inspired me to write a similar post myself 🙂 Keep it up.

      • March 25, 2016 at 5:14 am

        Thank you, for reading and for helping me start this morning with a chuckle! I likely have a similar number of songs in that teenaged-memories-to-forget category. 🙂

        (“Under the Bridge,” by the way, was something I played frequently on my high school’s jukebox. “Winds of Change” is another one. They eventually had to remove the jukebox after various factions started getting serious over who controlled what was playing at any given point!)

  3. March 25, 2016 at 4:39 am

    “I Can See It In Your Eyes” by Men At Work. I had just ended a winter relationship with a girl in college (well, she had ended it) and that song always takes me back there.

    “Here’s Where The Story Ends” by the Sundays – one of the last trips I ever took with my ex-wife, stepson and son, this song was playing at a restaurant in Old Town, Washington DC while we ate one day. It will always remind me of that whole life, now left behind.

    On a happier note, “Someday” by Sugar Ray – playing everywhere the first trip my new family took with five kids in a car – my oldest daughter used it for she and I to dance to at her wedding a couple of years ago. This song now puts me two different places at one time.

    “Christmastime is Here” by Vince Guaraldi from the “Charlie Brown Christmas” soundtrack – always reminds me of my family, growing up, my father who loved jazz, and my mother who loved (and loves) to hear me play that song on the piano. Like falling snow at Christmastime in Florida —

    • March 25, 2016 at 5:12 am

      It’s such a treat to envision these moments and tunes you’ve shared. Thank you for sharing them. (“Treat” seems like both the right and wrong word here, but I hope you’ll catch my drift. The chance of getting to see through this lens does feel like something to relish the way I would any other kinds of rare delights.)

      • March 25, 2016 at 5:21 am

        I have to feel really safe to talk to people about music; but once that barrier is crossed, it adds tremendous depth to getting to know someone’s story, at least it has for me with you.

  4. March 25, 2016 at 5:10 am

    “Mad World” is one of the few songs that brings me to tears every time.

    • March 26, 2016 at 6:28 am

      It has a similar effect on me. We actually discovered last week that it has a soothing effect on Littler J, above and beyond what we’ve witnessed with any other song … and even if we’re the ones singing it.

  5. March 25, 2016 at 6:00 am

    That version of Somewhere over a Rainbow is one that brings me to tears, it is so soul filling! And just the other day I was thinking about songs and specific people, and what songs bring them back to me, music is a big part of my life, so I really loved reading your list and listening to some of those songs!

    • March 26, 2016 at 6:30 am

      That version just melts me. I actually just got about to start playing it on my other computer before realizing … I’ve borrowed the mouse for this one. I suppose I can wait another five minutes. 😉

  6. March 25, 2016 at 6:39 am

    I love Mad World & Over The Rainbow (haven’t heard the version you list, but I love all the ones I have heard, especially Me First & The Gimme Gimmes). Also What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley. Need to stop there, too many to list. But wait, there’s more. When I want to feel like a kid again, I have to go back to my parents music, old country. May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose by Little Jimmy Dickens, Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford, Rose Garden by Lynn Anderson, The Happiest Girl In The Whole USA by Donna Fargo. And on and on and on and on.

    • March 26, 2016 at 6:33 am

      Thank you for sharing these bits of your musical history!

      I really hope you’ll give this one a listen. It’s a Hawaiian “Somewhere over the Rainbow” combined with “What A Wonderful World” and sang more soulfully than … it seems should be possible in any one song. Even thinking about it gives me goosebumps.

      JB’s “Hallelujah” is one of my favorites. I love the entire album, but that particular song. *shiver* There’s a new artist whose current radio song reminds me a lot of JB. I dig it, and hope his other songs have a similar ethereal feel.

  7. March 25, 2016 at 7:07 am

    Congratulations on being “discovered”, Deb. That was a lovely piece.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – music is a time machine that can take us back in a heartbeat.

  8. March 25, 2016 at 8:43 am

    I’m loving this post. I first heard “Mad World” in the movie Donnie Darko and have been obsessed ever since. Have you listened to “The World Spins Madly On” by the Weepies? It puts me in the same kind of mind state. The song that gets me crying without fail is “Fix You” by Coldplay. When I was in college I got a call that my dog had just passed away. I decided to skip school to drive home to be with my family and when I turned on my music that was the song that played. I had to pull over at the line “tears stream down your face when you lose something you cannot replace.” It still gets me every time.

  9. March 25, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Love this post. I love “Mad World” too — it makes me cry, so lately it’s a little too much for me to seek out. I’m curious about the science behind some music’s effect on folks. Even without lyrics, I can be reduced to tears by certain pieces of music. Is it universal about minor chords and seventh notes and such? I’ve been made fun of about it so much that maybe it isn’t.

    Anyway, I thought I’d share one of the ones that almost always puts me in a great mood, makes me want to dance. Shahin and Sephyr “One Thousand and One Nights.” There’s a 27 second intro to it that’s slow and pretty, but it’s a separate track and the combined vid I found on You Tube didn’t have as good sound quality as this one. Can’t tell if this a working link, but I know you’ll delete it if you see fit.

  1. April 3, 2016 at 7:51 am

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