Home > Family, Music, Parenting > Musical breadcrumbs

Musical breadcrumbs

a relationship
with an older man
in college brought me
much heartbreak, but also
bruce springsteen

last week,
my husband
saw bruce perform
while my college self sulked
and my parent self thought,
“hey, this really ain’t
half bad”

a few days ago,
my husband pulled
a long, flat envelope
from our mailbox; inside
the envelope was a cd:

told me that
another CD was
on its way, and i
smiled at the thought
of extending that musical
past of mine into
our now

we listened
as our sons

and part of me,
still the college girl
i once was, swooned,
transported way back
to lying on her bed
and listening to the
oregon rain so very
many afternoons

i played
nebraska while
driving to work yesterday,
my heart full to bursting

my mom,
a vocal, exuberant extrovert,
was always listening to
something, and always
listening to it loud

because of this,
putting together
the music for
mom’s memorial
was easy; it was
(tracy chapman, tina
turner, elton john, the
supremes, cat stevens)
the music of her life,
and her daughters’
lives with her;

the music, a
trail of breadcrumbs
leading back to the feeling
of dancing with her

i am an introvert,
and i rarely play music
at home, which seemed
just fine until i heard
“atlantic city”
and understood
my sons
would have little idea
what to put on my
memorial soundtrack,
my not having shared
music with them
the way my mom
shared it with me

i want
to play music
for my sons, with
my sons, because it
is sweet at the moment,
and because the sweetness
of those moments will
someday be their
trail of crumbs
back to me

and the hope
that maybe,
just maybe,
they might find me
in atlantic city

everything dies, baby, that’s a fact
but maybe everything that dies someday comes back
put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
and meet me tonight in atlantic city
bruce springsteen

  1. March 22, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    “Well, I’m tired of coming out on the losing end.”
    Music is, and always will be, a constant in the kingdom, as it was in my childhood home.
    And Bruce was a huge part of that.
    But so was Green Day, and Billy Joel, and Metallica, and The Kingston Trio.
    My DJ name came much later, but the history of my musical education remained, even as I added Tiesto and Crystal Method, Orbital and Nicholas Bennison.
    Music is the only constant in all the changes of my life.

    • March 22, 2016 at 4:54 pm

      Since life got a whole lot louder for me about, oh, six years ago, music’s been sparser in my home, but it’s playing all the time in my heart. I’m glad it’ll be out for all our ears again, thanks to you and your ticket. (Seriously, thank you. Listening to Nebraska has been the single most calming thing I’ve done in … what’s probably only a matter of days, but feels like forever. There’s this palpable calm that settles over me the first few notes and stays with me the whole way through, and that’s something I wouldn’t have experienced had not all the notes fallen just the way they did.)

    • M.
      March 24, 2016 at 11:03 am

      You are right..I would like to learn about your passion as dj and how it became your fascination.I like music a lot and this ‘musical breadcrumbs’ article is accurate.

  2. March 22, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    How bad is it when your teenagers tell you to turn your music down? I love music and I love to sing (way too much for someone who can’t at all!) I love all kinds of music from heavy metal to classical. I can’t even imagine what they’d put on a memorial soundtrack for me. πŸ™‚

    • March 22, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      Tee-hee! Some of the most exciting compilations are of such a nature, even if they can sound unrelated to the listener who doesn’t know which “you” connects them all. πŸ™‚

  3. March 22, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Nebraska was one of my favorites; it came out while I was in college. No one I knew liked it, which describes most of the music I’ve loved my whole life.

    I loved the lonely sound of that record, songs like “State Trooper”, “Mansion on the Hill” in particular…

    There’s a place out on the edge of town sir
    Risin above the factories and the fields
    Now ever since I was a child I can remember that mansion on the hill…

    • March 22, 2016 at 4:58 pm

      I love this bit of your history.

      If you’d asked me a week ago where the album fell for me, I’d probably have shrugged and said it didn’t, really. But to hear it, oh, how my conclusion differs! Its lonely sound is also so sweet to me, somehow.

  4. March 22, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    I live for the moments, and they are very few…when I can have an empty house and blast my music. I don’t have a favorite genre but if I had to pick one based on memories alone it would country. As in Johnny Cash. The Highway Men. Old school. It’s what my father loved.

    I think you hit on something very essential to women. A memory imprinted onto the tune, and the lyrics that hold our hearts together when we fall apart, lift us up to higher place in times of joy.

    My mom never let us listen to music as kids, so I allow my kids to do it all the time. It’s unfortunate side effect is that I’ve memorized many a tune I’d like to forget!!!

    Your post today is so telling. I love that you can fill so much of yourself in so few words, and so flawlessly. πŸ’œ

    • March 22, 2016 at 5:04 pm

      I know that there’s an emotional memory component to scents, but they never get me quite the way does a song with a whole person history correlated. Tonight, I may well listen to the music from Mom’s memorial and celebrate all the joy I now find wrapped up in it.

      It didn’t feel joyful listening to it the first several times I listened, back home after the memorial and driving in my car, but by the one-year anniversary … I listened beyond her death to all the life and exuberance that preceded it. I could feel her in the music, something I would so love for my boys.

      Oh, man! I can’t imagine not being allowed to listen to music! My mom loved playing her favorites (over and over and over again), but she let us listen to ours, too. To her benefit, our musical tastes mirrored hers for a long while. I laughed while reading about the tunes you’ve unfortunately memorized. Ahem.

      Thank you. ♥

  5. March 22, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Music and smells take me back in an instant. Sometimes back to a long forgotten moment.

    Unlike other things that jar memories, music and smells take me there without effort or having to even think about it. It’s just BAM! There you are again.

    • March 22, 2016 at 6:52 pm

      I love that momentary transport! Sometimes I’ll have that experience and tell a story before wondering, wait, why couldn’t I remember that autonomously? It makes me excited for all the memories I’ll unearth thanks to these lovely prompts.

  6. March 22, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    I used to listen to Tracy Chapman a lot. His voice is so soothing. music has been a part of my life since I was 4, music has helped me in many ways and I wish I was not sitting here, but singing in a rock concert! πŸ™‚

    • March 24, 2016 at 4:41 am

      Tracy Chapman’s one artist I’m pretty sure Li’l D will remember, along with … oh, Imagine Dragons (his first musical fandom) and P!nk! My earliest musical memories are of Tina Turner and Billy Joel. I would’ve been five or six, meaning that this really is a prime time to start making musical memories. πŸ™‚

  7. March 24, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    My first thought was wow, her mother was my age!! It’s all the same music I listened to. I am horrified that you don’t listen to music regularly. I really enjoyed your blog.music was the absolute essential for your mother,me, and all the rest of the boomers. It’s where we found out about war and peace, love and heartbreak, and how to shake our groove thing yeah yeah.
    So sorry for your loss.but if you are looking for your mother, put on some bulky headphones. She’ll be there for you just like Michael Jackson said early on “just call my name and I’ll be there.”

    • March 26, 2016 at 7:16 am

      There’s a very good reason I don’t listen to music often. I see this post–indeed, each post on this blog–as part of a greater whole. That greater whole includes a post called “This introvert’s bubble.” In that post, I wrote:

      I need a lot of space, physically and emotionally. My hectic life leaves me little of that, so that I’m always trying to recharge my battery three times faster than I’m actually able. I run around feeling forever depleted, though not eager to emphasize this in conversation. I’m determined to recharge as much as I can with the scant moments and inches I get, and to find and relish every bit of silver lining I can.

      As parent to two young kids, there is constant touch and smell and light and sound and lack of space: a constant overload of stimulus that exhausts this particular introvert. Where in my pre-parent days I loved listening to music throughout the day, it’s now often one additional stimulus that leaves me feeling depleted and overwhelmed. And yet, despite that, there’s a place for it 30 or 60 minutes daily. Indeed, I’m listening to my mom’s memorial music for the first time in months right now and finding such amazing peace in it.

      I won’t listen to tons of music until my overall sensory input diminishes, as I anticipate will be the case when my boys are a few years older and more involved in independent pursuits. Until then, music is another assault on my senses … but I will listen to some, and enjoy consequent moments like one about five minutes ago, when Littler J was rocking out to Tina Turner. For that, I can make an hour a day.

  8. March 24, 2016 at 5:07 pm


  9. March 24, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    This is beautiful ❀

  10. March 25, 2016 at 4:35 am

    The gifts of music, it is something we don’t truly understand in our logic mind but our heart connects in ways that draw us across time and distance. Despite my introversion and sometime even isolationist nature, music is important to me. I write to music, clean to music, work to music. My history can be seen in the over 1,000 of CD’s I have accumulated, many replacing the vinyl lost in one move or another.

    As I prepare for my next move I am burning all those CD’s to my IPOD, to preserve the music. It is a tedious task. It is important though. I don’t want to lose my musical history, the sounds of my history some that is joyous and some that is terrible but still important. Some that reminds of the days I stood enpointe other of days I shivered barely covered on a sidewalk, some that reminds me of love and other that reminds me of children laughing.

    I cannot imagine a world without musical memories.

    I loved this my friend, it was wonderful, insightful and beautiful.

    • March 26, 2016 at 7:22 am

      A comment I wrote just a couple of minutes ago explains why music is no longer a part of my every moment the way it once was. You likely already understand that it’s tied to my introversion, but it’s worth touching on again, particularly as the boys are running circles and shouting at each other … which they’ve been doing for the last two hours. There are hours more of this ahead of me, until I get my 30 or so quiet minutes much, much later this evening. In this world of never nearly enough downtime to recuperate from constant bombardment of stimulus, music will have to play a small role in my listening life. Still, the space it occupies in my heart will be immense.

      I was thinking about how Anthony didn’t know I loved The Boss. I realized part of that is tied to the burglary right after I came back from Japan. I lost hundreds of CDs! Since then, I’ve amassed but a couple dozen, so that even I forget much of the music that moves me until I hear a little bit of it in a passing car or at a restaurant …

      Of course, the bright side of that is rediscovery. I’d be glad to still have all those CDs, but … the rediscovery is a joy in and of itself. πŸ™‚

      Big, big hugs. ♥

  11. March 25, 2016 at 6:38 am

    I’m listening to music in my car where I can sing out loud… by myself. I don’t have the confidence to sing to anyone anymore but at least I’m enjoying the music of old, singing songs from my childhood and those gorgeous teenage years… nice… must make a list of breadcrumb music for my son’s like we did for our Dad’s funeral service… his was Elvis.

  12. March 25, 2016 at 7:06 am

    Lovely, Deb.

  13. March 25, 2016 at 7:19 am

    Lovely post! Though I was never a huge Springsteen fan (I do like his music) I am a fan of music all around, everything from Bach to Avenged Sevenfold. Music, as well as emotion, is so diverse! Rock on!

  14. March 25, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Nice images and voice in your writing. Enjoyed reading it and hope you’ll write more. I love that thread of music that has followed you throughout life and become significant to you.

  15. March 25, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    I love that you want to leave your boys with something sentimental for them to remember you by. Music will never die and can never be misplaced or broken like a piece of jewelry or favorite coffee mug. My boyfriend’s mother passed away when he was just 23. He always listens to the song “simple man” cause it reminds him of his mother and this sense of peace just comes over him. Rock on lady!!!

  16. March 25, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    Well they blew out the chicken man in Philly last night. Write it on my grave. For me, it’s a tough decision between Atlantic City and Styx’ “Come Sail Away”. Regardless, I agree 100 percent. You can’t take it with you when you’re gone. All great memories deserve a soundtrack. Memories that can take you away from reality for the length of a song. Those memories bring the best smiles. *cues Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky”*

  17. stephbradburn
    March 27, 2016 at 9:06 am


  18. March 27, 2016 at 9:26 am

    I love bruce springsteens born in the USA

  19. March 27, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    love this!

  20. March 28, 2016 at 1:41 am

    Ugh. That was a gorgeous read. Thank you so much! Those memories that come back when listening to an album and sharing them with others is one of the sweetest moments in life. My dad often played The Doors, The Rolling Stones, and Beatles in the car. We drove from Chicago to New Jersey and listened to KISS concerts the whole way through the night. That connection between us that grew from music has only gotten stronger. Now as I’m planning a family of my own, I dream of sharing those same bands and others, like Nirvana and the Boss, to my son or daughter.

  21. March 30, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    music and espiodic memories reaching out too your musical senses almost touching the air from the first time you heard the music.

  22. April 13, 2016 at 10:10 am

    I absolutly adore music, but I’m aweful about sharing it. I use earbuds or head phones unless I’m alone and even then I don’t play my music very loud. I want to leave a trial of bread crumbs, but the best description for how I’ve been hoarding my music is eatting the bread myself then wondering why there is no trail.

  23. April 27, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    It’s funny the way affects people. I love the way songs or great albums can become soundtracks to the moments or periods in our lives that are highlighted in our memories forever. I do believe music is worth sharing and our love of music as well. Great post

  24. T
    April 29, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Wow, I couldn’t help but comment after reading this!

    Being an introvert myself I often found solace and security in music and I still do. Some of my earliest memories of my father consisted of my siblings and I begging him to turn down his “old man music” as we referred to it. Now my musical palette is infinitely full and if I were asked to choose my favorite genre it would be like asking me to choose one of my five senses, I couldn’t. I’m grateful to him for exposing me to the magic of music. History always repeats itself and I find that to be true with music as well. Just like there will always be remakes and song covers, hearing certain songs will always bring me back to those times in life that I will forever hold close to my heart.

    This was beautifully written. Good vibes to you eternally.

  25. May 1, 2016 at 4:58 am

    I love this piece of writing – sums up a lot of things I feel about music and memories.

  26. May 23, 2016 at 7:59 am

    Gave me goosebumps πŸ™‚ Crank up the volume ❀ xo

  1. March 24, 2016 at 9:15 pm
  2. April 3, 2016 at 7:51 am
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