I’m driving home from the grocery store with a case of cheap Pinot Grigio in the trunk because I’m hosting what my husband calls “a little family gathering.” What that really means is I’ll be feeding more people than I want to be feeding and the only thing that’s going to make that OK is a lot of wine. The “family” in this case is HIS family and since this is our second marriage, his family doesn’t always like to share him with me, the interloper.
I’m not happy about this whole thing, which is redundant to even mention because we’re smart women here. We’ve been there. We’ve all soldiered on, taking a back seat so someone else can ride in the front. We’re starting to feel invisible and it doesn’t help when the check-out girl at the grocery store doesn’t stop chatting with the bagger long enough to even acknowledge us. If it wasn’t 10 a.m., I’d start on that wine.
And then, like a gift from the universe, the song comes on the radio. It’s one of those songs that burst out of you in moments of joy, a song from your youth which reminds you life can be … amazing. So, since I’m sure no one can see me in my car, I start singing along. “Hey baby, pretty baby …”
Then it hits.
The Pretty Baby in that song is in her mid-50s now, probably pushing 60 or maybe even 70…a true Baby Boomer. Those moves that sat one man down with a pen to write a song that lives on are now less noteworthy, crippled by bad knees and aching joints, and if Baby was, oooh-oooh, in the front row today the only person eyeing her with interest would be security. But, hey baby, that was us. That was me and it was probably you. We wore concert shirts unironically. We danced in the aisles and no one told us to sit down. We may not have specifically been the girl the songs were written about, but we knew that girl. We knew we could have been that girl if we wanted it enough.
But then we wanted other things more and that was OK. We grew up. Those concert t-shirts became cleaning rags and those songs dropped off the charts and on to oldies stations. The 8-tracks we’d played were replaced by cassettes and then again by downloads which we’d secretly listen to on the treadmill, a little embarrassed by our stunted taste in music. Embedded on my iPod, Pretty Baby never grows up, she’ll always be a catchy anonymous refrain. Once, we were the face of a generation. Now, no one would guess we were that girl. On bad days, even we forget that was us.
But today, I remember. It plays in my mind like an opening bass riff. Sitting there at the stop light, I remember that there is no song without an inspiration and that inspiration is always there, somewhere inside, waiting, hidden, a little afraid its time has passed. So sitting there with my a trunkful of warm white wine, I vow to reclaim that inner Pretty Baby. It is time to write our own verses and if we must, our own song. It may only be in the quiet of a car. Or it may be in a bustling kitchen, surrounded by family and friends, where we rock on and on and on.