precious little

*

It is 1997.

We sit on the mattress that serves as a bed on the floor of his room. The sheets are stained with – what the hell is that, Kool-Aid? – God knows what, having last been cleaned God knows when. I won’t be here but a few times more before I cry Uncle and plead with him to let me take him shopping for a new set of sheets. He will laugh, roll his eyes, and oblige.

We are surrounded by the detritus of our post-college city life. His suit jacket on the door handle. My pumps on the floor. Half-empty containers of Indian take-out and the last of yet another bottle of cheap Cabernet. A box of Camel Lights sits next to an ash tray in need of emptying. The careless freedom of living in the present tense mingles with the thick-sweet smells of marijuana and incense wafting in through the open window.

We talk of dreams. We tell stories that will be told a thousand times — for the first time. We argue about music and literature and philosophy. We deconstruct politics, history, religion, sexuality. Nothing is off-limits. We laugh easily – and often.

He works unthinkably long hours at the law firm. I leave for Wall Street before dawn. We are building — building careers, building relationships, building, building, building. And, in the midst of the building, without the slightest notion of what we are doing, we lay the foundation upon which our future – our family – will stand. We are blissfully ignorant of the weight of the task, but we think that building is tiring. We don’t know that we will later laugh at the idea that this was tired.

A scratched black boombox sits at the foot of the mattress on the floor. iPods and iTouches and iEverything will come later. For now, this is where music comes from. We have hundreds of CDs between us, but in my memory there is just one song that plays on that boom box – just one. Again and again and again.

*

Shake your beads out,

One by one

And call me Magdalene

It won’t grieve me

I understand

Where it is you’re coming from

Draw a curtain

Close your eyes

When history’s pages fail you.

I will not open up those history books

That’s not for me to do.

*

Precious little in your life

Is yours by right

And won without a fight

Precious little in your life

Is yours by right

And won without a fight.

*

Long after the sheets are replaced and the mattress is gone, one apartment gives way to another, and then another and then there is only one apartment and only one name and then a cottage that gives way to a house and a baby and then another and then a new state and a new house and a new life and photo album upon photo album chronicling more years than we can count, reminding us of the moments that flew by in the dizzy spin of five years, then ten, then fifteen — the graduations and the recitals and the school plays. The fears and the suspicions and the diagnoses. The help and the tools and the progress. The desperately low lows and the unimaginable highs. The trust and the love and the fear and the beauty and the song – just one song – that plays on the bruised old boombox at the foot of the bed.

*

Shadows call me,

In the wind

Some don’t go away

Angels guide me

From the clouds

In everything I do and say

Shake your beads out

Kneeling down

It will not pass me by

Two people coming from a different place

Maybe neither one is right.

*

Precious little in your life

Is yours by right

And won without a fight

Precious little in your life

Is yours by right

And won without a fight.

*

Luau and I hear music on completely different planes. He hears complex layers of sound, the blending of the individual instruments, the mathematical equations in the rhythms, the repetition of the scales.

I hear the lyrics. I breath in the emotions. I live the stories.

*

Shake your beads out

Join your hands

That still won’t make you right

Those so-called sinners that you’re praying for

Are standing by your side

*

Precious little in your life

Is yours by right

And won without a fight

Precious little in your life

Is yours by right

And won without a fight.

*

Sixteen years later we will still laugh about this. Such a small thing, yet so indicative of our different approaches to the world.

It will be a good thing. Over the years, we will, together, experience music — and life — in its entirety.

*

But for now, in 1997, in a railroad apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, only one song plays. A song that will, years later, sound like an anthem. First in the fight for our girl. For the precious little that comes easily to her. For all that she is due as a human being.

And then for those standing on the edge of history — waiting for the dignity of recognition, of equality. Waiting for no more than the freedom to do as we did – to fall in love, to marry, to build the foundations of a future – a family – together, over a song.

*

Precious little in your life

Is yours by right

And won without a fight

Precious little in your life

Is yours by right

And won without a fight.

*

*

Precious Little, Eleanor McEvoy

14 thoughts on “precious little

  1. “Precious little in your life
    Is yours by right
    And won without a fight
    Precious little in your life
    Is yours by right
    And won without a fight”.

    Ain’t that the truth. And we can’t and won’t stop fighting.

    Love you,
    Mom

  2. Thanks for bringing me back to my post college years, post children years. And what a perfect song for today. Thank you.

  3. I still listen to this song daily when I’m on my treadmill. It serves as motivation for the day, whatever that may bring!

  4. This is beautifully written, Jess. Beautiful history.

    Yes, if we could live in a world where we could all – all no matter our ability, our family wealth, our country of origin, gender, sexual orientation, or our anything – be allowed access to the same dreams, that would be a world the Creator intended.

  5. Five minutes ago, I was getting a lot of work done and convincing myself that I was still a competent professional. Now I’m crying at my computer, thinking about graduate school and life before children and autism and all of that stuff. Thank you for the perspective! Outstanding, as usual.

  6. I simply adore you. Beautiful. Gracious. Brilliant. I am puddle on the floor. You amaze and inspire me. Every. Single. Day.

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