“I want to see your smiling face 45 years from now”
I read once that an informal survey revealed that most people’s favorite seasons were revealed to be spring and autumn, in almost a neck for neck tie. Not really surprising since both are associated with pleasing weather and different colors in the landscape. Whereas spring is about birth and renewal, autumn (and I still prefer to call it autumn rather than fall) is really about change. Those bright reds, oranges and fading yellows that speckle the terrain, before they begin to fall. The crisp smell in the air, the taste of fresh apples, the first signs of frost on the ground complete the picture. In our own lives, autumn is usually the time of transitions, and in the seasons of life is generally considered to be the longest period. As I discussed at the end of yesterday’s blog, towards the end of my “summer” I really needed a change. Happily, that is when she walked into my life.
“She” is of course the woman who became my wife. It started out innocently enough on a Sunday night in September of 2002. We had never met before, but a mutual friend was having a birthday gathering at a local pub. In an attempt to make up for the disaster of the previous summer’s trip to Ireland, I went back. Thankfully this time was infinitely better and there were no problems upon my return. I am not sure if it was because of that fact that our friend introduced us (meet my friend Rob, he just came back from Ireland type of thing) or for some other reason, but in no time we were having a great conversation. I showed her some photos of the trip, the rocky and rugged terrain of Donegal, with rugged cliffs and oceans, wildflowers and deep green grass everywhere. In the darkened light of the pub (and not due to consumption of a certain beverage, or so she says…), she also detected speckles of white scattered through the rocky terrain. “Oh, they still have snow there at this time of year” she asked? It being September at the time, and with no desire to come off as a jerk, I responded nicely, “oh no….those are sheep” while secretly I chuckled a little.
But my considerable charms (yes, I can’t even believe I just wrote that) must have worked because she was having such a fine conversation with me that she willingly decided to stay longer and miss her favorite show at the time, The Sopranos. High praise indeed. When she did leave I had realized that I had just conversed with someone for a few hours with such ease that it had seemed like mere minutes. Within a day or so I had obtained her number from my friend. When I worked up the courage to call her on said number a few days later we had another nice chat, despite her being unsure if my name was Richard, or Roger, or some other name starting with an R. In spite of that moment of forgetfulness on her part (which she covered up well…OHHHH….Robert, yes from the other night….of course I remember you!) we made arrangements to meet again.
Because of her job as a live in nanny at the time, and because of my job where I had to work on the weekends, our initial dates were always at night time, and usually took place at that same pub. It was a few months in before we ever had a daytime date in fact. But one night early on we shared our first kiss at the pub. For some reason I had to leave before her, so we said our goodbye’s outside, in full view of the pub’s window. Now why neither of us had the wherewithal to step 5 feet away to avoid this PDA I don’t know, but I went on my merry way, while Jennie had to go back inside. Where she was promptly met with loud applause from all who had witnessed it, led on by a scurrilous bartender. Gradually with each date and with each moment we spent together over meals and drinks, visits to various museums and walks through the park it became clear that there was something great happening. Though I was more than a little thick in taking things to the next level, in my heart I knew that Jennie was the one for me.
When I look back at that time, the words from a song by the late great Stan Rogers, one of Canada’s greatest artists comes to mind. In his song 45 years he talks about that sort of moment. Even though the circumstances he describes are different to our story, it is that idea of wanting to see her face 45 years from now that is so simple and beautiful. I love that he chose such a random number of years to describe this feeling. To say that I want to see you today, and I want to see you 20 years from now, and 32 years from now, and 45 years from now. In any relationship there are disagreements and problems, unexpected curve balls that interrupt life. Working through those times together is worth it, believe me. One further thing I have to say about the song is to ask, where can I actually find a place that has a glass of beer for 45 cents!
“Then there came a happy time when something that I said, caused her lips to murmur, “yes”
Gradually time passed and Jennie moved in eventually. There was lots of discussion about paint color. And towels. And pillows. And furniture. Things were discarded to make room for cohabitation. Book, movie and CD libraries were merged together. Bachelor habits were painstakingly corrected (though I admit I sometimes fall back into them on occasion). The art of compromise in almost every facet of life became the norm. Though I make light of these things now, in truth I am happy with all the changes to lifestyle and home that we made. We became good for each other, calming each other down, caring for one another when we were sick, comforting one another during moments of sadness. We became each others best friend as well. After awhile, we started talking about the biggest move of all-marriage.
There was a time in the “summer” of my life when I thought marriage would never happen. I have touched on this in other blogs. Feelings of loneliness and lack of many friends kept me out of the social scene for the most part and I thought the day would never come because of them. Now suddenly it was going to happen. After I proposed we set out almost immediately on making arrangements. I probably do not need to describe this process to most of you, so lets just say we survived it relatively unscathed. Of course you might think, being the good reader of this music and photography blog that you are that music no doubt would play a major role. On some levels it did, and we did hand pick music for most of the key moments of the ceremony. Though there was some veto power utilized between the two of us over certain songs, the most vital one was a unanimous choice. From the first time we heard it in fact.
In those early days of courtship, Jennie and I traded conversation back and forth about all the things we liked. Favorite books and movies, from the well known to the more obscure. We also traded a lot of music back and forth. Through the years we have come to appreciate a lot of the music the other person was in to. Not all of it. Some slightly more tolerable than others, but we tried. Though I tried steering her towards a lot of the folk and folk-rock I was listening to mostly, she only liked a small percentage of it. I was beginning to realize that as a couple we did not have to like everything the other person did. But it is nice when you can agree on some things mutually. So it was one night that I put a concert DVD on for us to watch by the Canadian folk-rock band Great Big Sea. Somehow I don’t think I had played their music for her before, and from the start of the video Jennie’s eyes perked up. Ok…some of that was due to certain good looking members of the band, but for the benefits of this story I am going to say it was ALL about the music, okay?
Anyway, after viewing that DVD, Jennie became a firm fan along with me, and we went to see them a few times (way back in Part 4 of this blog I wrote about her first live encounter with them). In 2005 they released an album called The Hard & The Easy, which was a collection of mostly traditional songs from their native Newfoundland. It is a terrific album, and one of my favorites by them. Though we were not even engaged yet, the album contained one song that was so beautiful and sweet, and I remember when we first heard it, we both sort of looked at each other and said when we get married, this is the song we should use. And so it did become our wedding song, and we practiced dancing to it in our tiny apartment. One time we even made up alternative lyrics that have sadly been lost in the mists of time.
Finally the big day came, on January 13, 2008 and we were married. There were a lot of things I will always remember about that day. There were mishaps and slight disappointments that occurred of course and there are things that both of us would like a re-do on, but there were things that were far more memorable. The first being how when the doors opened to the hall and I turned around to see my beautiful bride to be walking down the aisle how my knees almost buckled at the glorious sight. I believe my best man even had to correct my posture because I had become slack-jawed and weak at the sight of her. The second thing I remember is how when it was time for us to do our dance, and the gentle opening chords of Graceful and Charming (Sweet Forget-Me-Not) came over the stereo how much time just froze. Enduring shyness is one legacy that has lingered throughout my life (though I have gotten better), and being stared at by the assembled company was something that worried me a little. But in that moment it did not matter. I was not aware of anyone else on the planet, or the galaxy other than my wife. Anytime I play this song those memories come flooding back and I am there with her in my arms dancing to this song.
“It’s not the colour of your eyes, It’s the way you wear your hair”
Writer’s Caution, Please Read-The following section contains feckin’ Irish slang. So don’t feckin’ say I didn’t feckin’ warn you!
A quick mention should be made about our honeymoon. No, not in the salacious sense you naughty, naughty feckin’ people, but in the musical sense. You see, though a nice tropical vacation to some beautiful white sand, blue water Caribbean island would have been nice after a January wedding, we decided to be different and go to feckin’ Ireland. Jennie had never feckin’ been before, plus we had free accommodation from family, so after a year of saving for the feckin’ wedding itself it seemed like a smart move. We flew into feckin’ Dublin and drove from there to my mom’s place of birth in Kilcar, Donegal. Irish roads can be a feckin’ test of nerves at times, and add feckin’ wet weather and having to drive on the feckin’ WRONG side of the road as an American does not help matters. We had borrowed a spare family car and before we hit the road we grabbed a few cassettes for the drive from my feckin’ cousins. I was delighted to see one from yet another favorite band of mine, Ireland’s own feckin’ Saw Doctors. Their wonderfully named feckin’ 1991 album, ‘If This Is Rock and Roll, I Want My Old Job Back’ took Ireland by feckin’ storm in 1991 with clever songs like I Useta Lover, N17, and That’s What She Said Last Night. I had worn my own feckin’ cassette copy of this album down some time before after years of (loud) playing and I was looking forward to hearing it again. Despite being filled with feckin’ songs about break ups and feckin’ heartbreak we listened to that feckin’ tape over and feckin’ over again on that feckin’ trip. Feckin’ Saw Doctors!
“Yesterday is gone and will be forgotten, and today is where every new day starts.
Got to be as free as the leaves in autumn. You may be sad, but it never lasts
Thinking more about autumn, I think the reason we enjoy it so much is because we know change will happen. We know the leaves will turn. We know the air will get chillier and the smells of the season will soon be upon us. Sure it is a sign of winter coming, but there is time to settle into that, and after a long hot summer, the first time you can put your coat on in the morning chill is welcomed. It is all about getting a break in the routine. When I began thinking about doing this series that was one of the things I thought about. Instead of just being a grouping of songs related to each season, I wanted it to be about how we interact with the seasons as well. We do really feel differently when the seasons begin to change and there is really something unique about autumn that brings out a lot of reflection and desire for change. In our own lives change can come throughout the year, but I think the time when we THINK about the changes we want to make in our lives it comes in autumn.
Yet again I scrolled through my Ipod in search of a song to close this season out. I wanted it to relay that introspective feel of autumn. I wanted it to be meaningful as well. In my little notebook that I keep with me at all times now, jotting down thoughts and ideas as they come to me, I wrote down autumn-Sandy Denny a week or so ago. Initially I had other ideas, but I thought there was something there in her music I could use. I went at first to an obvious choice for a fan of hers in thinking about autumn, a song of hers called After Halloween. Great song, but it was not what I was looking for. I spent a couple of commutes back and forth between work listening to Sandy’s music, album by album. Eventually I came to a box set of her music, which I think was the first thing I ever bought by her. Among a number of gems on the set is a demo version of a song that never actually made it on to one of her studio albums. Recorded at her home in England in 1976 with just a 12 string guitar, ‘By The Time It Gets Dark’ is the perfect summary of this idea of autumn being the time when we want to make changes in our lives.
As I listened to Sandy’s lyrics for ‘By The Time It Gets Dark’ sung over that simple guitar arrangement I started putting these thoughts together for this chapter. I liked how she equated changes with positive things-“just wait and see, all the changes there’ll be, by the time it gets dark” or “want to see a change in those weary eyes.” The song is built around trying to change, trying to get others to change, be it in a particular moment, or a major life change. I struggle with this idea quite often, but lately, as the time clock of my life reaches higher numbers year after year, I try to welcome and accept that simple notion of “change is good.” It is a gradual curve for me to get there, but sometimes I can throw caution to the wind. As I write this chapter, Jennie and I have decided to move, from Manhattan to Queens, New York. To bring this full circle, we are leaving that same apartment that got flooded way back in 2001. Though our move may be in the same city, it is a big change geographically and socially for us. Am I terrified we made the right choice? Sure I am. Am I worried I might miss the comforts of living in midtown Manhattan with everything at our doorstep compared to where we are moving? You bet. Do I feel like sometimes this type of change is healthy and good for your soul? I have to say though I do not want to live my life in a constant state of flux and never allow myself to settle down, this is a good feeling right now. And I’m glad we’re doing it. These are only the early days of my autumn as far as I am concerned and there will be more changes to come I am certain. But that is a good thing. It helps having the love of your life by your side as you go through them.
This blog is dedicated to my beautiful and amazing wife, Jennie. Thank you for everything.
Finishing this series up tomorrow is winter, with stories of growing older, being together, and the resting place. Please join me again tomorrow.
45 Years-Written By Stan Rogers
Graceful & Charming (Sweet Forget-Me-Nots)-Written By Bobby Newcome
That’s What She Said Last Night-Written By Leo Moran, Davy Carton & P. Stevens
By The Time It Gets Dark-Written By Sandy Denny
All photographs by Robert P Doyle All images in this blog are available in limited supply for purchase as unframed prints. Sizes may vary. Contact via firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
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