Summer Soundtrack

By Melissa Face

Most of my summer breaks have had soundtracks. Sometimes the songs played softly in the background, and I didn’t notice them until well after the fact. But it was far more common for the music to be the focal point, blaring and rattling our speakers while we drove, sang and danced along.

I remember a summer trip in my teens when we drove through the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, into Tennessee. We spent several nights in Nashville, saw a show at the Grand Ole Opry, and rode the Wabash Cannonball at Opryland USA. I was in a typical teenage phase, caught between having fun with my family and trying to look much cooler than they were, in order to attract the attention of cute boys. That summer sounded like Alan Jackson’s “Chatahoochee” and Lori Morgan’s “What Part of No.” The sounds of my country summer (and my cowboy boot tank top) carried me into the fall and the start of another school year.

A few years ago, the hits of The Beach Boys provided our summer tunes. We vacationed in Ocean City, Maryland, with our two young children and my parents. Early in the week, we found out The Beach Boys were in town and we bought tickets for all six of us. It was our children’s first official concert, just as it had been my husband’s and mine decades ago. We both saw the group with our parents when we were children, states away from one another.

The concert was a blast. They sang all of their hits, including my favorite, “Don’t Worry Baby.” I danced and sang along to every song, and I swear Mike Love pointed at me and winked a few times during “Surfer Girl.” At the end of the show, I was hoarse but happy, and it seemed that everyone had (almost) as much fun as I did. Plus, our son left with the ultimate souvenir: a beach ball that Mike Love tossed into the crowd. It was a night and summer I will never forget, and all I need is that first “I” from “Good Vibrations” to take me right back.

For the past two years, our summer music took on a bluegrass sound, as we traveled to Red Wing Roots, a music festival in Mount Solon, Virginia. For three days, we listened to a variety of folk and bluegrass from artists all across the country. We ate from food trucks, laughed with family, and pitched our tents at a nearby campground.

On the last night of our trip, we were preparing s ‘mores for our final campfire when our music suddenly stopped. First my phone’s screen lit up in the night, then my husband’s. I knew something was very wrong. I texted my mom to let her know that I had no reception; I could text, but I couldn’t talk. She wrote back that my grandmother, Mammie, had died unexpectedly at home in her chair. Peacefully, but suddenly.

The following weeks were filled with slow, heavy melodies. “I Can Only Imagine” and “How Great Thou Art,” songs from her funeral service, played on repeat in my head. I stayed up late at night and into the morning, replaying a video of Mammie and me singing “Blue Christmas.” And I worked until dawn another night, backing up photos and voicemail messages, so I would always have the recording of her singing “Happy Birthday” to me.

This summer’s soundtrack ended with songs of sadness and loss. This playlist won’t last, though. I have lived long enough to know that it will take time, but eventually the tune will change; cheerful music will come back on, and we will find a way to dance again.

About this writer

  • Melissa Face

    Melissa Face

    Melissa Face is the author of I Love You More Than Coffee, an essay collection for parents who love coffee a lot and their kids…a little more. Her essays and articles have appeared in Richmond Family Magazine, Scary Mommy, and twenty-one volumes of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Read more at melissaface.com.

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