Music is the perfect accompaniment to any mood. Good ones, bad ones, and all the little ones in between can be made just a little better by a catchy drumbeat, or a song that makes you want to shake your body until the room spins and your brain feels pleasantly light.
Today, more than ever, is the kind of day that deserves dancing.
I pick up my phone and scroll through my purchased music. All three of Cameron Lee’s albums are staring back at me. The first he did with his church band when he was still on staff at Grace Community; the second was his Black Carousel album that catapulted him to the top of the charts and made him a household name; and the third is his latest album released only a year ago and his first one as a solo artist. The critics were harsh with this one, as were the fans, yet I click on the cover anyway. Maybe it’s his blue eyes that still bring that schoolgirl crush to the surface or maybe it’s the loyalty I feel for him, but I try to play this album as much if not more than the others. After all, someone needs to appreciate the obvious work he put into the arrangement.
The song choice is easy: track four. My favorite, and honestly the only song on the album that feels like him. The drum rolls, and then in comes an instrument composition that will one day be studied by musical prodigies. The complexity is what makes the song feel like Cameron’s work, even if it is missing that soulstirring depth he usually spins inside the notes. My shoulders bounce to the rhythm I have memorized. My smile comes big and bright as I pirouette inside my closet-sized bathroom, my thoughts returning to the fantasy that one day Cameron will sing to me for real and not just from my cracked iPhone screen. A fantasy that is as unlikely as the idea that he even remembers my name. To him, I was simply his buddy’s cousin and his little sister’s friend who hung out at the house sometimes.
But to me, Cameron Lee has always been a dream unfulfilled.
I was only fourteen when he went off to college and I’ve only seen him a handful of times since. Yet through his music, Cameron has shared a million little moments with me and some really big ones, too. He was in the car when I drove my daughter to school for the very first time, would calm me daily when the water heater broke and we had to take cold showers for two weeks, and has comforted me every year when December 10 hits the calendar, because it is the one day I let myself mourn for all I’ve lost. To allow for any more would be to spend my life walking backward, and that’s simply not how I operate. Plus I’d unquestionably fall down the moment I tried.
“Mom!” my daughter yells from the hallway. “Fifteenminute warning!”
I glance at the mirror and cringe. “Okay, I’m almost ready.” Not really. I still have to dry my hair, put on makeup, and find something to wear, but Morgan is a worrier and a time dictator and the complete opposite of me, which is probably why we’ve been butting heads lately.
Well-meaning parents warned me of the dreaded junior high years, of the hormonal roller coaster and the sassy monster that will take over my sweet baby girl. I didn’t want to believe them. After all, Morgan’s always had more spunk than most girls. But mostly I denied their cautions because the two of us have only had each other for the past ten years, and I still believe that’s a bond no mood swing is going to break.
My eyes drift to the quote on my bathroom mirror, the one taped above the tiny round sink, and I wish my mother were here to give me advice on how to deal with my daughter’s recent craving for space away from me. The edges of the paper quote are frayed, and the ink has faded some, but it still warms me with the same empowerment as it has since the day I read it in my mom’s goodbye letter: “Do all the things you think you cannot do.”
“I’m trying, Mom,” I whisper, feeling the loss of her with each and every passing day.
She was a sixthgrade social studies and English teacher, and she always quoted historical figures who had changed the world: C. S. Lewis, Bonhoeffer, Harriet Tubman, and this one, based on a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. I have a journal of every encouraging word I can remember her telling me, and even though fourteen years have passed since I heard her beautiful voice, they still come back to me in pieces, and I continue to capture every word stored in my memory. She once said the greatest gift I could give her is to live out my life with optimism and faith, always looking forward, never behind me, and loving with all my heart. I turn thirty soon, and I pray I’ve made her proud by doing just that.
Today, the quote on the mirror is especially fitting. I glance at my phone sitting on the old Formica counter, and anticipation rolls through my stomach. My cousin Mason is at the title office right now, finalizing the purchase of my first house. The house the two of us bought together and will attempt to sell in less than six months. The house that will take me from a propertymanagement worker bee to a full-blown entrepreneur doing exactly what I love to do—interior design.