A few sleepless mornings ago, my gloom was closing in on me so tightly that if I had started lighting candles to keep from cursing my darkness, I could have burned down our house – no small achievement when you consider it’s mostly concrete.
We’d come home late from a sad trip the night before. I knew the upcoming work day would likely go long, to be capped off with an evening session of ‘Are You Smarter than a Seventh Grader’ with Thing1 (complete with commentary by Thing2). I was exhausted before I even got the kids up for school.
But the insomnia that was the door prize that came with my depression turned out to be a blessing (or a curse if you ask Thing1). As I tossed and turned counting the minutes of sleep I wasn’t getting I suddenly remembered that there was a pile of new, unplayed songs on my iPod. As I had mapped out our trip a few nights before, I’d clicked back-and-forth between iTunes and the map site, absentmindedly clicking the ‘Download’ button here and there.
The thing I love and hate about iTunes is that it’s so dang easy to engage in a little retail therapy without wondering where to hide the bags or if I want a song badly enough to be willing to dust it later. That’s how I ended up with 30 new songs in the time it took to print my maps and reserve a hotel (I think that’ll hold up in court).
So with an hour to myself before I needed to get the kids up, I hopped out of bed and pulled my purchases into a new playlist, hoping the songs would be safer than using fire to fight off my funk.
I find that when I’m in a bad mood, I tend to get a little nostalgic about my music choices, and my indulgence in retail therapy a few nights before was not a sign of a good mood. And, when I saw that bunch of Earth, Wind & Fire tunes for $2.99, I clicked on it. I love those songs because they evoke memories of my dad’s mix tapes painstakingly recorded on reel-to-reel, as well as images of the god-awful clothes of that era that are still preserved in photographs for eternity and future blackmail. But, as anyone who’s heard the songs knows, they’re also killer dance tunes as Thing1, my twelve-year-old (much to his horror) was about to discover shortly.
I got my playlist loaded and synced just in time to push the kids out the door. Most mornings Thing1 is the arbiter of musical taste in the car. He’s currently in a two-year Beatles and Stones phase, and when Boogie Wonderland came on, his hand automatically moved to the forward button. But I was ready for this and intercepted him.
“Leave it,”I ordered with the mock seriousness it takes to command his obedience.
“Okay, Mom,” he laughed, pretending to be in awe of my display of authority. My mood brightened as we jokingly argued about my musical choices. I turned up the volume, and, in the rearview mirror, I could see six-year-old Thing2 in his carseat bopping his head happily to the beat. It was infectious, and I started dancing a little too. I knew I might have lit one too many candles at that point.
Real fear crept into Thing1’s eyes, and I knew what was going through his mind. Would the song end before we hit the school parking lot? Would Mom hit the rewind button? Would Mom still be drive-seat-dancing when we arrived?
We got closer to town and the song switched, but to Thing1’s chagrin, there were no Beatles tunes in the on-deck circle. Thing2 and I continued to dance, though I restrained myself a bit as we got closer to town and the traffic got thicker.
“Mom.” Thing1 murmured as we turned onto the school street. “Mom.” He grew insistent as we got closer. A stalled line of cars came into view ahead of us as we approached the school, and my own dancing ceased. Thing1’s confirmed belief is that his authority over my behavior is in direct proportion to his proximity to middle school, but in reality, I just remember how much middle school sucked, and the threat of my dancing or singing in public is an empty one. Today, though, it would have been fun to keep that fire burning a little longer.
I drove him up to the door and wished him a good day. I told him I loved him, and as he climbed out of the car, shaking his head, he muttered what so many young people climbing out of Pintos and Pontiacs shaking under the weights of dancing middle-aged moms with too many choices on the eight track or cassette must have muttered before him: “I hate Disco.”