The House That Built Me

Once again, there were no songs in my head when I woke up this morning. Apparently starting a blog so that you can talk about songs that are stuck in your head is the perfect way to get songs OUT of your head. Keep that in mind the next time you hear “It’s a Small World.”

Perhaps this phenomenon is an opportunity for me to start paying more attention to the world around me, instead of what’s going on inside my head. Ignoring the fact that the previous sentence makes me sound unnervingly like someone who may be a candidate for the psych ward, I’ve discovered that this blog has made me actually listen to the music on the radio in the mornings. So often music becomes background noise, but I’ve discovered that, even in a song that I’ve heard too many times, I can find a lyric or two that really hit home.

Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me” is a song that has been played a lot. It is the fastest-rising single of Lambert’s career, reaching the Top 20 in its eighth week. This success is reflected by the fact that it is on the radio all the time. Unfortunately, even when I like a song, I get really sick of it if it’s on the radio every single time I get in the car.

Thus was the case when I was driving to work this morning. When I heard the opening strain, I sight inwardly, prepared to tune out until the next song. But then I started listening to the lyrics, and changed my mind.

This song is about a girl who goes back to the home she grew up in and asks the current owners if she can look around. She’s a grown woman now, but she is returning to her roots, looking for something – healing, closure, peace, memories – from her past. A portion of the lyrics go like this:

You leave home, you move on and you do the best you can.
I got lost in this whole world and forgot who I am.
I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
this brokenness inside me might start healing.
Out here its like I’m someone else,
I thought that maybe I could find myself.
If I could walk around I swear I’ll leave.
Won’t take nothing but a memory
from the house that built me.

Those lyrics show some of the tenderness she feels towards the place where she grew up. She found comfort and security within those walls, and by returning she’s hoping to find it again. It’s not an uncommon feeling, I don’t think, which is probably why the song has been so popular – it resonates with a lot of people. Even the title is significant – “The House That Built Me.” For the woman in the song, it was the house, not her parents or siblings or neighbors or teachers who had the most influence on her growing up. It’s a powerful image.

While I think the song is very nice, I’m not at a place in my life where I can look back and truly see how my childhood shaped me. I’m not far enough away from it yet. I’ve only lived in two houses for any length of time, and I’m still working on the “getting away from home” part of life – not the returning there.

However, there is one line in the song that stuck out to me as something that will be very relevant to me about 10-20 years from now. When the woman in the song is talking to the owner of the house, she starts telling her things about the house that only someone who lived there would know:

And up those stairs, in that little back bedroom
is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar.
And I bet you didn’t know under that live oak
my favorite dog is buried in the yard.

The one that gets me, though is this: “These handprints on the front steps are mine.” In both houses that I’ve lived in, there are hand and thumbprints of mine, and my sister’s in a couple of different places. I never thought much about it, before, but I wonder what will happen to them when new people move in. In the case of the house that has already had a couple of new residents – what did they think of those marks on the corner of the porch? Did they even notice them? A seven-year-old’s thumb isn’t very big, after all. Did they remodel the house and tear up the piece of concrete altogether? Do they wish that they could soften a different corner and add the handprints of their own kids – make a sort of “wall of residents”?  I don’t know.  But the more I think about it, the more I understand how strong the pull to find out could be. Because the fact is, the houses that I grew up in may not have done the actual “building” of who I am, but they definitely play an invaluable role in safe-keeping the memories that were created while I was being built.

I guess even the most over-played songs can still hold meaning if you just stop and listen to them. It’s a good lesson to remember.

~J

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