Bruce walks onstage and the crowd goes insane.
Me, I’m one person back from the front of the stage and screaming so hard I think I might pass out just a little.
The walls are vibrating and the sound bounces from front to back, rattling the arena. Every person is on their feet and they stay that way. For three hours we sing, dance, cheer along with the E Street Band and the Boss. It’s home, for a few moments in time; he sings the songs that first won my heart and the ones that lead me to safety at the end of a long day.
Late that night, after Mike and I ride the light rail back to our stop, long after he gets in his car to drive home, I sit in my chair and watch the stars outside. This prompt had been weighing on my mind for days and it wasn’t until Bruce started ‘The River’ that it finally clicked: where I find my joy. Where I find my play.
Rough morning with the littles? We turn on Shakira and Michael Franti and Pentatonix, just right for shaking your booty and greeting the day with laughter and breathless sillies.
Horrible hard day at work? That’s when I blast the Boss and AC/DC and stompin’ country in the car, windows down and singing along as loud as I can.
When I need to write, I have the go-to tunes.
When I need to work out, I have the go-to tunes.
When I need to cry, or get chores done, or find my way back to myself, I have the go-to tunes.
My favorite songs are the ones that call up my history: “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by the Band, which my dad sang to me as a kid. Every song from A Chorus Line, thanks to my mom. Old union songs from the labor movement that my Zada crooned to us as we would fall asleep in the little back room at the family cottage outside of NYC.
Music roots me. The dance parties I had with my friends in our living rooms in high school are the same ones we have today, even though now it’s with hundreds of miles between us. When we watch the Lion King, I am transported back to the hours I spent singing it in my room as a kid. Play Aaron Neville and suddenly I’m eight, running errands with my dad on a sunny Saturday in the old beat-up pickup he drove.
My Zada is gone now, but I sing his songs to my nieces and I know that one day they’ll sing along with me.
When life is hardest, the songs will play me back to joy. They always do.