It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. My military father had finally succeeded in getting transferred from the paradise of Colorado to a real military base in Bellevue, Nebraska . . . not quite the beauty of Colorado. But . . . I got a reprieve. My parents agreed to allow me to stay an extra two months in the mountains of Colorado to be a counselor at the Lions Camp for the Deaf and Blind in Woodland Park. So, they packed up the car with their suitcases and my siblings and headed off to the Cornhusker state . . . leaving me the dust of a camp with a group of strangers . . . strangers that were college students and teachers in schools . . . to spend a summer camping with kids whose only real disabilities is that they had a hard time hearing and seeing. It was a blast . . .
. . . and, it was an education. That was the summer I learned a lot about life . . . learned a lot about the counter-culture of the early 1970s . . . learned that not everyone was like the people I had lived with on a military base. And, I learned about music . . . all sorts of music. I learned to love the sultry music of Roberta Flack . . . the haunting metal of Led Zepplin . . . the acid influence of the Beatles . . . the gentle folk of James Taylor . . . the longing of John Denver . . . the mystical Moody Blues . . . and, the beautiful lullabies of Carole King. That was the summer I was introduced to Tapestry . . . Carole King’s defining musical tribute to a generation that often found itself lost and then found again in the lyrics and music of that time. I fondly remember lying in a field in the mountains of Colorado . . . viewing an infinity of stars dotting the darkness of the night . . . and hearing the songs of Carole King echoing through the darkness.
Carole King was one of the musical idols that defined my life . . . she is firmly etched in my memories and mind. I can close my eyes and picture her sitting in the window still . . . the sun shining in . . . she looked like everyone else in that summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. That is how I remember her . . . how I picture her in my mind whenever I hear her voice singing.
It is funny how we get stuck in time. I am much older now than then, yet when I hear Carole King singing I picture a Carole King from nearly forty years ago . . . young, wild, and vibrant. The problem is . . . well, the problem is . . . reality. None of us can avoid the motion of time. We all age. Forty years ago I had hair . . . lots of hair, curly hair. Forty years ago I was young . . . semi-wild . . . and, full of life. Now, well now, I have very little hair . . . have a heck of a lot more of me than forty years ago . . . not even sure what the word “wild” means . . . and, life, I am just happy to wake up every morning and see that my name is not in the obituaries.
At least that is how it is until I hear music. Music throws me back into time. Moves me back into those moments in my life when I first heard a particular song or artist. Makes me remember the way things used to be, not the way that things are. Carole King comes on and there I am again . . . in a Colorado field, watching the stars, and being sung to sleep by a musical angel. Happens every time . . . and there I am, stuck in time.
Then reality strikes . . . sometimes the reality is of our own making. This past weekend Carole King (who is a resident of Idaho) was in the state of Montana stumping for her friend who was one of the Democratic candidates to be a senator for Montana. She was playing two benefit concerts . . . intimate affairs for sixty people . . . and, all it would cost is a hundred dollars. One of the concerts happened to be in Missoula where the wife and I were scheduled for our annual church conference. Anyone who knows me knows that I am pretty tight with money . . . and, yes, I do squeak when I walk across the room . . . and, a hundred dollars times two (Carole King is the wife’s favorite singer/songwriter) is two hundred bucks and my wallet was getting cramps from the very thought of me spending that sort of money for an intimate concert with Carole King.
Yet, in retrospect, I surprised myself when I offered to pay for the wife and I to attend the benefit . . . my wallet fainted. But . . . NO . . . the wife reminded me that we were in Missoula for Jesus and God and the church . . . we were not going to the benefit and let down the holy trinity of Jesus, God, and church. I said that I think Jesus would take advantage of an intimate concert with Carole King . . . that God would understand . . . and, that the church would eventually forgive us. That is when she told me that I could go by myself if I wanted to go . . . but she said it in that voice that really meant, “If you go, you can find someplace else to sleep tonight.” So, I went to the church conference . . . looked around for Jesus and God, but couldn’t find either one of them. Later heard that they were at the concert.
Basically moped around for the next twenty-four to thirty-six hours . . . lamenting that I had missed an opportunity to sit in a room with a small group with one of my musical idols. Then I found out that she was going to do a rally in the park in Missoula . . . a political rally . . . free hot dogs . . . free pop . . . and, the possibility of Carole King actually singing. But it would be in the afternoon between noon and three . . . with a six hour drive still ahead for us to get home. But there was hope . . . I cajoled the wife in letting me have the chance to see if we could catch her before we left. Surprising, mainly because we went for ice cream at noon, she granted me the opportunity . . . off to the park we went.
Of course when we got there some band was playing, but not Carole. I wandered through the crowd thinking she might be standing off to the side . . . but, she was nowhere in the crowd. The wife and I stood there . . . with me hoping . . . that maybe she would pop up on the stage from the back, but she was not there. So we headed back towards the parking lot . . . back to the car . . . and the long, long trip back home without ever seeing or hearing Carole King. As usual, a missed opportunity.
Off we trudged . . . my head down. Then the wife tapped me on the shoulder and pointed . . . there she was! Less than ten feet from me, standing on some steps, smiling, shaking hands, and talking. Dumbfounded, I walked towards her. I reached out my hand, mumbled some silly statement about how her music touched my life and how honored I was to meet her . . . to shake her hand. And, then she talked to me . . . held my hand, looked me in the eyes, and told me to remember to vote. Needless to say, I was in heaven . . . so was the wife. The wife was so enamored that she signed up to campaign for the candidate. Then Carole King went up on the stage, made a rousing speech, and then began to sing . . . she sang six songs from her most popular and defining album, Tapestry. The six hour drive home flew by.
To be honest, for a moment, I did not recognize Carole King . . . she was older . . . she was more wrinkly . . . her hair was grayer . . . she had crow’s feet when she smiled. This was an older person standing before me . . . a person who, like the rest of us, could not escape time. This was not the Carole King that resided in my memory or mind . . . this was an older, more mature woman . . . a woman who looked as if she had lived life well, enjoyed life, and made the most of the time she had been blessed with. The person before me met the person I once imagined . . .
Then she began to sing. Oh, how that woman can sing. That sweet voice. That magnificence smile. Those twinkling eyes. The voice and music echoed through my mind . . . through my memory . . . and I closed my eyes. I was back in that field on a starry Colorado night . . . I was stuck in time. I was not longer that man in his mid-fifties . . . no, I was that fifteen year old kids enraptured by a voice and an image . . . full of life. It was a bittersweet moment and nearly brought a tear to my eyes.
I love music and its ability to transport me back in time . . . in its ability to allow me to fade away and remember a gentler time . . . in its ability to make me happy and to forget my troubles and concerns, even if it is only for a few moments. It is a gift. It is a blessing. And, as I get older I find myself appreciating it more and more. I don’t mind pausing for a moment, closing my eyes, and being stuck in time . . . sometimes that is the only thing that gets me through the day.
Yeah, the Carole King of my memory and the Carole King of today do not match up very well . . . we’ve all gotten older. But, I noticed that when she sang . . .she closed her eyes . . . closed her eyes and got stuck in time . . . to gentler times . . . times of laying out in a field on a starry night, watching the stars shoot by, and being young once again. It is a gift . . . a blessing . . . and, each generation has it memories.
This is the Carole King of today:
Close your eyes . . . be stuck in time . . . it is a gift . . . it is a blessing.