Sharon Randall: Songs 4 Mom

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 21, 2022

Memories tend to surface like starfish from the deep to remind us of things we need to know.

Last week my husband and I visited his son, Joe, wife Juli and their three children. We stayed at the home of Juli’s dad and his partner, who live near them, and were treated like royalty. It was a far cry from the days my big Southern family would pile into my grandfolks’ place and I’d have to sleep in the bathtub with several cousins.

Family visits don’t need to be luxury vacations. They just need to happen often enough so we’ll know each other well and never forget that we’re a family.

We stayed two nights and might’ve stayed longer. But my son and his wife and their two babes were due to visit us soon and I had things to do. It had been three months since our last visit. I could hardly wait.

When we got home, I checked my phone and saw a missed call and message from my son. He’s an actor on a TV show that’s been on a break before starting a new season. He said he’d just learned he needs to be back at work sooner than expected. So they had to postpone the visit.

I took a minute to get past the disappointment. I knew he was disappointed, too, and I didn’t want him to hear it in my voice. Then I called him to say, not to worry, I understand, we’ll get together soon. I meant what I said. But I missed my boy. I also missed his wife and their sweet babes. But for some reason, I especially missed Josh.

It was strangely how I felt the day he left home for college. His dad and I helped haul his stuff into his new room, met his roommates, hugged him hard, said goodbye and drove away. I did it without shedding a tear. Until he was out of sight. Then I bawled like a newborn calf.

I’d spent 18 years raising that boy. He wasn’t a soldier going off to war. He was a high school graduate, smart, dependable and mature, going off to college to do things I didn’t want to think about. I wasn’t worried about him. Maybe I should’ve been. But I just missed him.

I wanted us always to know each other and stay as close as we had always been. I didn’t want him ever to … forget me.

That’s how I felt that day as I watched him through the rear window waving goodbye from his new life. It seems silly now. In many ways, we’ve grown even closer over the years. And yet, I felt that way again when I heard they weren’t coming to see us.

The next day, my husband and I were doing errands when I heard a song on the radio that brought back this memory:

The first time Josh came home from college, I was waiting. He drove up with a big grin and a back seat full of dirty laundry.

“Hey, Mama,” he said, hugging me hard. When he hugs you, you know you’ve been hugged.

“I brought you something.”

“I see it,” I said, laughing and nodding at the back seat.

“Not that,” he said, “this.”

He handed me a cassette tape he had titled, “Songs 4 Mom.”

“I think you’ll like it,” he said.

I didn’t like it. I loved it. He had taped some of my favorite songs (by Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, the Temptations and others) plus a few he said he knew I’d like if I heard them.

“Where did you find all these?”

“I had some of them,” he said, “and borrowed the rest.”

“How did you know all those songs were my favorites?”

He gave me a look, laughed and said, “I know you, Mama.”

The tape included “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer. It was the song I’d heard on the radio that prompted that memory.

I played that tape countless times, especially whenever the boy left to go back to college. I have no idea how I lost it. I’m not good at keeping up with things. But I am fierce about hanging on to the people I love.

We need to know we’ll always be known and remembered by those who matter most to us. I lost that tape, but kept its memory. And memories can help us remember what is true.

Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or