It all started with the bananas.
I was buying a snack for the after-school activity I was running at the kids’ school. I loaded six large bunches of bananas on the belt. They were fair trade and organic and all that crap, I promise.
“It reminds me of ’30,000 Pounds of Bananas,’” I quipped to the checkout girl. Who smiled slightly and nodded while avoiding any answer. Because she was like nineteen years old and had a nose ring and clear skin and probably goes gleaning for kale in the summer. She had absolutely no idea what the lady with the gray hair and the lines on her face and the yoga pants with cat hair was talking about, but you’re supposed to be nice to the customers, so she was going to pretend I had just made a super-cool reference. Old ladies like that use terms like “super-cool.”
All those “kids today” thoughts started percolating, till I realized one very important fact: my kids also had no idea who Harry Chapin was. Thus was born the Winter of Harry Chapin, otherwise known here in Massachusetts as The Winter We Lost Worcester and Most of Chinatown.
I began playing long sessions of what Zachary refers to as “That Harry Chapin crap,” although I think he’s just trying to annoy me because he’s ten and that’s what ten-year-olds do because who the hell doesn’t like Harry Chapin, right? I mean, other than my husband. The other two children inherited my excellent taste and are fully on board with the Harry Chapin obsession. Lilah watched an entire concert with me last weekend. Benjamin tried to get me to deconstruct “W*O*L*D.” Both sing along with “Bananas,” as all good children should.
We’re suckers for a good story around here.
But he’s so sad, Harry Chapin. He told the stories of life’s disappointments, of the way we get only one damned life and when we think we’re going to be pilots we end up getting high driving a taxicab and we get estranged from our children because we can’t get our priorities right and one cruel review can steal art from our lives forever. Harry Chapin wrote about the fact that being human is difficult. All the time. Yet he brought humor and joy to his performances, making being human just a little bit richer.
Until he died in a car accident at the age of 39, leaving behind a wife and five kids. Leaving behind a collection of music that can reach across the decades. Leaving me to think about the fact that I’ll never hear him in concert. He’s not like Simon and Garfunkel; he can’t plan yet another reunion tour.
Life is defined by the things we do, truly, but it’s also defined by the bits we don’t get a chance to do. I’ve had intense artistic experiences, but I’ll never hear Harry Chapin sing live. I have three fantastic (sometimes) children (just kidding guys), but I’ll never get to go back and have a childhood. I can finally try pot without breaking any rules, but if I do it someplace legal, I’ll never get to try it while I’m also breaking the rules, which is an entirely different experience.
When did we get so old, my friends?