Elena's Mixtape


Sometimes music takes me back to a place and time and sometimes it takes me back to a person. The Lion King always takes me back to Elena.

Although I haven't blogged about it, I've continued to listen to music this month and let it take me where it will.

Music of David Bowie took me to my youth with "Space Oddity" and took me to the '80s with "DJ". I got fired in radio and came home to find a note saying I was admitted to a PhD program with an assistantship. None-the-less I cranked up "DJ" as Bowie sang. Then I grabbed "Baby Rudin" and started a summer of preparing for grad school.

Music of the Eagles took me to our high school graduation and college years when the lyrics seemed deep and relevant.

I still see the sun coming up over Newberry when I hear Prince's "Purple Rain".

So many moments.

But a lot of the music takes me back to Elena.

She and Maggie would fight over who got to sing along to which song in the car. They would split some songs by verse.

"Elena," Maggie would complain, "it's not your turn. Dad, make her stop.

The Wiggles, Bear in the Big Blue House, Peter, Paul, and Mary and Sharon, Lois, and Bram.

These gave way to Aly and AJ and other more grown-up groups.

But four music memories stand out the most for me. These make up Elena's Mix tape.

First, as I mentioned when Maurice White died, she loved Earth, Wind, and Fire's "September". She would borrow my iPod and crank it up and play it over and over while singing along. The song embodies pure joy for me and always has. Now the video that plays in my head when I hear it is Elena grooving along to it.

Second, she used to come up to my office in the morning before school. I would get up earlier and earlier to get some work in before she came up to visit but she'd get up whenever I did. I set up an old computer for her to use next to mine and she would listen music while creating Barbie stories on an online game.

Mostly I remember her making up songs. She was always singing. Whenever we had to be somewhere, she'd need to go to the bathroom one more time. In the bathroom she'd loudly sing a ballad about how her day was going so far and what she planned to do.

Kim just shakes her head. I used to sing her songs like that when we were first dating. Elena never heard them so Kim figures it's genetic. For the last ten years I can't leave the house without going to the bathroom one more time.

Elena loved theatre and music. I took her to a little local production about Balto, the dog who saved Alaska. It was a small cast where the actors each played several parts. That meant that they had exaggerated characteristics so you could tell who they were at each moment. Elena loved the person who hammed it up as the movie director and made his gestures part of her routine.

But for her, the most magical show was when we took the girls to see "The Lion King". She loved the story, the music, and the spectacle. She would put on the soundtrack and do interpretive dance to it.

I cry every time I hear any music from the Lion King.

Maggie's band played selections from the show during her middle school and high school years. I always felt bad for her because she knew her dad was quietly weeping in the audience.

We spent this morning as we do every year.

Kim goes to mass with her parents and then we meet for breakfast.

Then Kim and I drove over to Lake View Cemetery to visit Elena's grave.

It's unbelievable to us that she's been dead ten years.

On the side of her grave is a line from the Lion King.

"More to do than can ever be done."