It’s a Monday evening, and I’m sitting at a coffee shop with my feet up on the seat across from me like I’m at my own home. I’m all cozied up with a good book, ready to tear off a piece of my butter croissant and wash it down with a sip of my soy Café au lait when I am startled by a song that begins playing through the speaker directly above me.
It’s my family’s song– yes– family.
See my mom, my dad, my brother, and I have our own song.
No, we didn’t write it or perform it, but it has always, as far as I am concerned, been about us… at least the chorus is. I can’t make much sense out of the verses.
We are 1 person
We are 2 in love*
We are 3 together
We are 4 each other
*the real lyrics are “2 alone”, but I have always thought that the singer said “in love”, and that’s part of why it makes it our song, so I will keep it the way I hear it instead of the way it is.
I remember when I first recognized this as our song. It was when my mom was acting all weird one day, trying to keep it from me that she was a few days late and thought she might be pregnant. She told me though, and my dad and I waited patiently outside of the bathroom while my brother played with action figures on the basement floor.
She came out and handed a little pink stick to my dad. He smiled with something that wasn’t quite disappointment, but wasn’t quite relief either. He looked at me and at my mom, and he drew us all in for a hug.
“We’re still ‘4 each other'”, he sang, emphasizing the “four” with his fingers.
And that’s when I knew it was, indeed, our song.
I lost track of this tune and it’s meaning for my family when I was a teenager, yearning to be independent, giving anything to break free from the “4” that I had been a part of for my entire life. I wanted my own song, to march to the beat of my own drum, proverbial though it may be.
And thus began my seemingly endless obsession with music– the quest for “My Song”…I cycled through many:
(Just to name a few.)
But of course these changed as rapidly as my taste in music did, or my relationship status, mood, location, ect.
It’s not until now– now that I am part of my own new family, that I recognize this song again– the “4 each other” song that my immediate family claimed as their own for so long.
And I wonder if my parents, who originally dubbed the song as ours, still think of it as ours. Or if they stop at “we are 2 in love” now…
Because their daughter’s married off. Their son is about to move out (right Tom?). And we aren’t really “3 together or 4 each other” anymore. Because it’s not just us anymore. It’s more or less, but it’s not just us.
This brings about so many other questions having to do with growing older and changing family dynamics.
Like, when does my “immediate” family of mom, dad, and siblings, get renamed my extended family?
Like, when do my parents become the matriarch and patriarch of my family? What do Christmases start being held with them as the grandparents?
Like, what is my family song and what will happen when my daughter hears it at a coffee shot some random weeknight after she’s tried desperately in her past to break away from it? Will she be brought back by the same floating lyrics and simple melody? Or will she even remember “our song”?
I realize that many of the answers to these questions involve marriages occurring, children being born, and perhaps even some people dying. I realize that I am still very much a part of my family of origin, and always will be. But I also realize I have my own new family.
It began when I “broke free” and was…
and it continued when I met and married my husband…
“we are 2 in love”
It no doubt will continue when we decide to have a child, and then we’ll be…
and perhaps another, and then we’ll be…
“4 each other”
I’m not sure what lyrics we’ll have to add in, as Dennis keeps insisting that we will have 17 kids (better get started soon, I say!), but you get the idea.
It’s funny that I fought to break free from this song, and now I’m headed back to it… Maybe it’s the type of song that gets passed down, you know? Like a husband’s last name.
Or maybe it just needs to stay as a song of the past, reminding my brother and I of where we came from, and my parents of what they created.
I think we all need something we can both look back on to remember and take forward with us to our future, making it our own. Maybe this song is like that for me. Maybe it will always remind me of where I came from and what I want to create.
Maybe it will always be a part of my legacy. Or maybe I’ll forget it and only be reminded when I hear it playing on the radio– something I imagine will happen less and less as the song grows older.
But the idea of a family, whatever the size, being for each other, will not fade from my mind, even if these lyrics do. I’m finding that as I grow older (or grow up), this fact has become truer and truer.
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young had no idea they wrote my song, “Helplessly Hoping”, but I’ve cycled back to it nonetheless. Sorry, Bright Eyes– you didn’t make the cut this time.