Every Road Roamed

I remember “Forever Young.” Not the version by Bob Dylan, the objectively more insightful, more artful, more original, better song, released in 1973. The version by Rod Stewart that came out in 1988.

I remember hearing this song in a period of my life, just starting school, when I started to become conscious of music, not as background sound but as something to be enjoyed with individual artists to be identified. A stage before I owned any album or any music-playing device outside our bulky metallic portable cassette player/recorder, and when my sister and I just started experimenting with recording songs as they played on the radio so that we could get our first taste of owning music—the ability to play a song we liked on demand.

I remember that this song appeared in Chances Are, a schmaltzy flic starring Robert Downey Jr. and Cybill Shepherd that offered me my first glimpses into the concept of reincarnation.

I remember listening to this song on the radio, sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table, and thinking that the lyrics were profound. This idea of what youth might represent, especially for someone much older. How we might cling to it. How we might wish that people in our lives would never change or go away.

I remember hearing this song on the car ride home from swimming lessons--those miserable, freezing summer mornings when my father drove me to the municipal pool to learn the crawl, back, and breast strokes. I remember a particular sense of gratitude, one of those mornings, not for lessons, and not for the time in the car with Dad, but for those parts of the day being over. That the rest of the day would be mine, and that that could mean anything. That notion was inspiring, even when the day’s greatest potential meant things like playing Castlevania, or sketching dragons on the unlined backs of the grid paper my mother snagged from work for my sister and I to write and draw on.

I remember sitting with my best friend at his kitchen table--maybe ten years old-—when he asked me to name a song I liked, and I told him “Forever Young.” I imagine he had just learned about the concept of calling a radio station to request a song, and went on place the call to Lite 98.7, with no concept of different radio stations focusing on different genres, and lucking out that this was a match. I remember lingering at the table, by the radio, as we crept up on the time I was due home for dinner, and finally staying later until we could hear our request made good. Until my mother called his house, midway through the first chorus, to ask his mother to remind me to get my butt home.

I remembered all of this, earbuds in iPhone on shuffle as I stepped off the city bus for a day of teaching and writing in Oregon, and this song came on. I’d forgotten I had it on my phone, and don’t remember what the occasion might have been to download it.

But on that particular spring day, when I didn’t need an umbrella or jacket and the sun beat down and the breeze was warm, this song sounded right. And I listened again.