Last week, I saw one of those old-fashioned fire alarms where you have to break the glass with a little hammer to set off the alarm. My college dorm had those kinds of alarms. People used to set them off all the time, even in the middle of night, even in the dead of winter in Minnesota.
One time, someone didn’t bother with the alarm. Instead, he set the building on fire, but it didn’t burn because our dorm had previously been a convent, so it was a really old stone building built without a stick of wood. Even the doors were made of metal.
Back then, I thought everything was ahead of me, and my future could be anything. I thought I’d escaped my wretched past, and in a lot of ways I had, but it was still working on me in other ways that I hadn’t yet learned to appreciate. I’ve learned to appreciate it since then. I’ve carefully sifted through all my pain for it. I’m still learning how to appreciate the things that make me grateful.
The other day, my dad mentioned Sheryl Crow, and every time I hear her name, I think about my first week as a college freshman. For the first time in my life, I had my own clique. I wasn’t just some hanger on (that came later, when they realized what a weirdo I was), but for that first week, I was indistinguishable from the rest of them.
We all piled into a car and went for a drive. Sheryl Crow came on the radio, and we all spontaneously started singing along to her song. We were in a breathtaking part of Minnesota where the Mississippi river is surrounded by tall bluffs. The sun was setting over the river, and the sweet fresh air rushed into our open windows. The interior of the car was a faded blue-gray cloth. The girl sitting in front of me had her caramel blond hair up in a pink velvet scrunchy. I’d taken my own scrunchy out of my long dark hair to let the wind whip it around.
The whole car buzzed with the feeling of possibility. I thought that maybe it was just me. I could’ve driven around for hours singing along to Sheryl Crow, if only that little stretch of road would go on forever, and the sun would never stop setting, but the song ended and conversation resumed like normal.
Years later, I was with that group of women. We’d all moved on, got other friends, and went in different directions. It seemed we barely had anything in common, anymore.
Then someone asked, “Remember that time we were riding along the river in Kayla’s car and the sun was setting and Sheryl Crow came on the radio?”
“Yes!” several of us said.
We reminisced about the details and the singing, and then someone else said, “That was one of the happiest moments of my life. I’ll never forget it. It was magical.”
We all looked a little dumb struck because we’d all individually felt that way, but thought it was just ourselves.
The five of us were bound by an event. So often, people are bound by tragedy. We remember all the details of the day someone died or the day someone wrecked the car and could’ve died. We don’t often get happy moments that are so rich in feeling that it still carries that same weight, but because it was so fulfilling.
Love to you all,
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