Goin’ Home

“Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith played in heavy rotation on my Ford Escort’s cassette deck during my twenties, when I lived in Michigan.

Come down off your throne and leave your body alone.
Somebody must change.
You are the reason I’ve been waiting so long.
Somebody holds the key.
But I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time.
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home.

I was a different person back then, sad, lonely, disconnected. Instead of figuring out who I was and what would make me happy, I hid from my true self in a bad relationship, trying to fix someone who did not care enough about himself — or me — to let me. When he finally ended things, I was lost. I realized the person I needed to stop avoiding and fix was me, and I knew I couldn’t do it in Michigan, surrounded and haunted by the memories of my many mistakes. I moved to Chicago in search of the key, to find my way home.

These were my thoughts as I sat drinking a Centennial IPA at Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan, two days ago. My husband and I stopped there for lunch on our way back to Chicago from a weekend of camping, hiking and canoeing with friends in Wellston, Michigan. When he left the table to use the restroom, I noticed the Rolling Stones song playing in the background.

Spending too much time away.
I can’t stand another day.
Maybe you think I’ve seen the world.
But I’d rather see my girl.
I’m goin’ home, I’m goin’ home, back home.

I laughed to myself, thinking that “goin’ home” for me used to mean returning to Michigan, but now I couldn’t wait to get back to “my girl” (and boy — i.e., our children) in Chicago. Two years had passed since our last visit to my home state, when we attended my aunt’s memorial. This time, our trip took us nowhere near the Detroit area where I used to live, but the drive Up North was a familiar one. I took it often as a child with my aunt and uncle who raised me and later as a young adult with friends. Driving those roads now, after 20 years have passed, made me remember the figurative journey I took, trying to escape my Michigan self and start a new life.

Change is never a quick, easy trip, even against a new backdrop. Your problems follow you until you acknowledge and resolve them. When I met my future husband a few months after moving to Chicago, I knew immediately that he was a good man, the kind you marry and raise children with. I had never felt more comfortable or at home with anyone in my life, and it terrified me. It took a long time for me to see myself as worthy and let go of my fears of abandonment. But no matter how many conscious or unconscious attempts I made to sabotage our relationship, he kept coming back. It’s almost funny to think about what we considered argument-worthy in the early days, compared with what we have experienced during almost 18 years of marriage. I guess learning to sort out the little problems in the beginning of a relationship helps prepare you to deal with the real ones later.

Watching my husband walk back to the table, I thought about the Blind Faith song again. During my younger days in Michigan, I didn’t realize I was the one holding the key. I kept searching for it in relationships, jobs and other experiences, always looking for the next best thing. The key, it seems, was inside me the whole time. Marriage and motherhood led me toward happiness, but only I could unlock the door and walk through it to find peace.

The photo below is of my husband and me enjoying a Michigan sunset long ago. I don’t think we were even married yet. It’s the only copy I have, and it’s covered in fingerprints. I think one of our kids ripped it at some point. It hangs on the bulletin board in my office, reminding me how far we have come, together, finding our way home. Cheers to the man who never gave up on me.


From Barry to The Bishop: One Groupie’s Journey

If this one sounds familiar, it originally ran March 30, 2012. I’ve edited and reposted it for this week’s Yeah Write Summer Challenge.

Ohhhhhh, Mandy!

My first concert was Barry Manilow. It was 1978 and my college-age babysitter, Mary, took me to see him at Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, Michigan. I was 10 years old, apparently too young to know or care how uncool Barry is by most people’s standards. Even worse, I had a huge crush on him. I distinctly remember running down the hill on the lawn at Pine Knob singing, “I am stuck on Barry Manilow, but he ain’t stuck on me” (to the tune of the “I am stuck on Band-Aid” jingle, which I later learned Barry wrote).

While my love for Barry waned, at least slightly, my love for music never did. Through my sister, the disco queen, I became a huge Donna Summer fan. My brother, the rock-and-roller, balanced things out with some Hendrix and Zeppelin.

My brother is also responsible for my love of The Doors, which reached its height in my 20s. Apparently, it began much earlier, however. I’m told that my aunt and uncle took preschool-age me to church with them one Sunday and got a big surprise. When everyone stood up to sing a hymn, I burst into a resounding version of the chorus of “Light My Fire.”

Since I believe in full disclosure, I must also admit that I had a brief obsession with Shaun Cassidy, the Justin Bieber of the late 1970s. His poster was on my wall, and I played his eponymous first album relentlessly while singing along to his picture on the cover. I may cringe at the sound of a Bieber song today, but I can’t judge too harshly given my love for Shaun. Thankfully, my 10-year-old daughter has far more discerning taste in music. Her iPod is loaded with Adele, The Beatles and Death Cab for Cutie.

The musical accompaniment to my junior high and high school years was predominantly punk rock, new wave and alternative in nature, and my angst was only outweighed by the ridiculousness of my haircuts. I have a shoebox full of concert stubs from all those late nights in smoky clubs. Echo and the Bunnymen was one of my favorites. I showed my adoration by sporting the same hairdo as the lead singer. There was a lot of teasing and Aqua Net involved.

Fast forward to age 44: I’m married to a guy who loves music almost as much as I do, and we have two talented musicians for children. My husband plays bass, my daughter plays trumpet and piano, and my son, the musical phenom, plays guitar, alto saxophone, piano and ukulele.

My husband’s band, The Bishop, plays gigs regularly in and around our small town and in Chicago. Even though I’m a working mom who’s expected to behave maturely on a daily basis, I still get to indulge my groupie side one or twice a month.

It’s been a long journey from Barry to The Bishop. Thank you, Mr. Manilow, for lighting my fire (sorry, Mr. Morrison).

read to be read at yeahwrite.me