This morning I almost missed yoga because of Bruce. “Glory Days” was rocking the kitchen and I was dancing around in my yoga pants when my wife Monica walked in with a cup of coffee in her hand and said, “You’re going to be late.” I grabbed my keys, jumped in the car, and drove off fast with the beat in my heart and the refrain in my head: “Glory days, glory days, glory days”. Everyone else had already arrived when I got to yoga; I unrolled my mat, and sat down cross-legged just in time for the first “Om.” We took a deep breath in and let it out slow, but Bruce was still there, through a spinal twist, a downward-facing dog, right up to the final meditation.
I don’t like to sit around “talking about the old times” and I’m not a crazy Asbury Park-haunting stalker, but somehow Bruce keeps hanging around, like a cousin you don’t see much, or an old boyfriend who pops up on Facebook periodically. In August I went with Monica and my son Cody to a Saturday night baseball game followed by Springsteen fireworks. The sky lit up over the ballfield, and Bruce was singing, “roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair,” and the magic of the night welled up in my heart. Rockets exploded, sparks showered down over the diamond, and the feeling filled me up like crying.
Just recently a friend sent me an MP3 of a tape I made with Cody in 1985 when he was just a little boy. Cody was living with his dad then, and I was visiting him in Boston. I had just sent him Born in the U.S.A., and as a result, he’d written his own lyrics for Bruce’s “My Home Town” and so we recorded this new version together. Now more than thirty years later, sitting at my desk in Providence, Rhode Island, I listened again to Cody’s high, sweet, child’s voice.
“I’m going to sing a song about Bruce to you.
I love him, this is my first song.
Bruce made a tape and my mom sent it to me,
and I heard it, and I loved it, and I sang along.
And then I wrote this song.”
Cody loved Bruce’s music. And in his own way, he was singing along. I wondered why Cody had chosen “My Home Town.” The Boston suburb where he was living then didn’t seem to me like anyone’s hometown and I certainly never thought it was Cody’s. Yet something about the song had touched his little boy heart. Then I listened to Bruce sing, “I’d sit on his lap in that big old Buick and steer as we drove through town” and I realized that for Cody the song wasn’t about the town; it was about his dad.
Bruce tells a story on the Live 1975-1985 boxed set. When he was a teenager, his hair was long, and his dad hated it. He used to say, “Wait until the Army gets you. They’ll make a man out of you.” And then Bruce got called up and had to go to the draft board for his physical. The Army didn’t take him and when his dad found out, he said just one word: “Good.”
Bruce and I are the same age, born just a few months apart, and although my long hair was never a problem for my dad, other things about me were. In 1968 I wanted to marry my high school sweetheart, but when we went to tell my folks, my dad threw him out of the house. A few months later we got married anyway. My dad signed the papers, but he wasn’t happy about it, and he never once said, “Good.”
“We went down to the river, and into the river we’d dive, oh down to the river we’d ride” is another Bruce line. I wasn’t pregnant then, like Mary, but I was nineteen, the fields were green. We were driving. And the river beckoned. It was deep, it was moving fast, there were tree branches caught in the current, and hidden rocks below, but we jumped in anyway, and swam for our lives. We wanted to live, and we did. We fought for the Revolution and almost got shot. We drove West and lived in a mountain shack. We worked in factories and panned for gold. Cody was born. We moved back East. The river was deep. The river kept moving.
Then the river changed course, as rivers do. I wasn’t nineteen anymore, and neither was he. I kissed my high school sweetheart goodbye and later I met Monica. “At night on them banks I’d lie awake, and pull her close just to feel every breath she’d take.” We lived out West. We moved back East. We took care of our old people and the old people died. Now we camp by the ocean and swim in Laura’s lake. We go to France and speak French. We take the kids to the zoo and hold babies in our arms. “There’s a beautiful river in the valley ahead,” and we’re walking there together. “I’ll wait for you. And if I fall behind, wait for me.”
All the while, there’s Bruce, still hanging around. Monica and I took Cody to see him at Fenway Park in 2003, and just last year the three of us were at Gillette Stadium to see him again. Bruce is older now, and so are we, but not too much has changed. “Glory Days” still rocks the kitchen. “Thunder Road” still makes me cry. Cody lives in his old hometown and next month his dad is coming to visit. Bruce still drives us down to the river, and we are all still singing along.
Photo Credit: 1984: Bruce Springsteen on stage performing. (Photo by LGI Stock/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)