When 10,000 Maniacs visited Loyola College in Maryland in 1990, I did not go. As a college freshman who was only a few months removed from the “Hair Metal” culture that then dominated Northern New Jersey, I was not able to comprehend a band whose female lead singer used dramatically less “Aqua Net” than the male lead singers I had been listening to. But lately, I have found myself nostalgic for music that I did not listen to “back in the day,” music that never found it’s way into my own stereo but was playing in the background in the rooms of those with more progressive musical tastes. Perhaps it’s because the music of Natalie Merchant, R.E.M., and the Sundays never had the opportunity to be overplayed in my Walkman that their connections to another part of my life remain strong.
On some level, it’s a little strange that my song of the summer is about a child’s vacation spent somewhere in Europe. I have spent the last two months in Boston, a city that began as a rejection of all things east of the Atlantic and “Verdi Cries” is not exactly a song that would ever be covered by Brian Wilson. But maybe because in a little over a month, I will be making my final promises to the Missionary Society of St. Paul (God willing) and a part of me feels like Wendy who has to leave the nursery and grow up tomorrow.
Of course, this is not the first time I have had to grow up, and it likely won’t be the last. But it’s hard not to be grateful for the gift of a summer to stop and rest. Going through the formation process to become a Catholic priest can at times feel as though five different people are grabbing each finger from one hand and pulling in five different directions with each person screaming the admonition, “Grow!” When personal reflection becomes part of your ongoing job description, opportunities to grow can quickly begin to feel like chores. Because we all need time to return to where we’ve been in order to reconnect with where we are going. And while there was no opera or stolen tea in this, my last summer before the priesthood, there were a lot of quiet walks, clam chowder samplings, and space to check in with the One who seems to have brought me to this place.
Natalie Merchant’s admonition that “holidays must end as you know” takes on more resonance as I prepare to head back to Washington in a few days. It is true that “with just three days more” I would not have learned the entire score to Aida, but I too have places I could have visited, people I could have seen, additional moments with my journal that I could have taken but didn’t.
But learning to live with unfinished business is part of life…all we can do is take our memories home with us because the next song on the playlist is R.E.M.’s Nightswimming, with its reminder that “September’s coming soon.”
Check out the Busted Halo crew’s Song of the Summer Picks.