I have a song for pretty much everyone. I have one that reminds me of my dad, my best friend, and boyfriend. I have a revenge jam for the people who have crossed me, and one for those who helped me move on from the heartbreaks. Just put on “Best Thing I Never Had” by the one-and-only Queen B and I am ready to wreck an ex, whether it’s mine or yours. Play any Black Eyed Peas song and I will be 13 again, in the passenger seat of my mom’s car, jamming out with the windows rolled down. (God bless my mom for letting me rock out to “My Humps” before I had any of my own.)
Music means different things to different people, but the thing I cherish the most is a song's ability to make me instantly feel at home.
This goes all the way back to my childhood. I grew up in New Mexico and spent a lot of my life on my grandparents’ ranch. They have an old stereo system that sits in a cabinet on their patio. It’s one of those two-in-one CD and cassette players that would probably confuse anyone who doesn’t remember life before iPhones. But it’s perfect for them, and after 57 years of marriage, they still love to sit outside and listen to their music together.
When my family and I visit them, there’s this one special song I listen for the second I step out of my dad’s truck. Every time, my grandparents scoop me up in their arms, my grandma asks if I’ve been eating enough food (yes, I am promise I am eating enough, Gram!), and, sure enough, I can hear the music softly humming in the background. It’s not today’s hits from Spotify but an old, scratched-up CD that skips in the same places, and one that I’ve heard ever since I was a kid.
It’s an album by a small Spanish New Mexican band, but track number three — “Casa de Adobe” — is the song that easily transports me back home even when I’m across the country, thousands of miles away. I don’t even have to play the song, and I can still hum the tune in my head and sing the lyrics...
Ahora me encuentro pesiando y mirando las bonitas montañas.
Now I find myself thinking and looking at the beautiful mountains.
Voy al rumbo del norte — a visitar a mis abuelos.
I’m going north — to visit my grandparents.
Yes, the lyrics are literally about someone visiting their grandparents; maybe that’s why I love it so much. But there are no lyrics that can describe the smell of my grandma’s cooking or the sound of the gravel crunching under the tires as I drive down my grandparents' long driveway. No chorus that paints a picture of my brothers and me racing around on my family’s 100-acre ranch and playing down by the river. It has none of those words, yet it evokes all of those feelings. And the more time that passes, the more I realize how special track number three has become to me.
Over time, my childhood anthem transformed years of happy moments into a wonderful memory that I can access with the press of a button. I hear it, and I’m right there with my family — sitting on the patio of grandparent’s ranch, soaking up that mountain air. It’s become my instant portal to home. My cure for a case of homesickness. A reminder that the wonderful memories that built me are forever there in the chorus of a song.
I can’t take my family with me wherever I go, but I can take a song. And somehow, that’s always been enough.