My life my love and my lady is the sea. So what about me?

Riding along with windows down and sunroof open, I looked out at miles of salt water estuary. Heading to Walmart to pick up a prescription, I drove along the one road off the island.

A carefree solitary moment and then dagnabbit — Brandy came over the radio. The 1972 song by Looking Glass.

“And there’s a girl in this harbor town
And she works laying whiskey down
They say Brandy, fetch another round
And she serves them whiskey and wine

They say,”Brandy, you’re a fine girl
What a good wife you would be
You could steal a sailor
From the sea.”

I cried.

Every time, every last time this old song surprises me on the radio, emotion swells at my throat. I’m 8 or 9 riding in the passenger seat of a Chevy station wagon on the way to school. My dad wearing a suit drives. Who knows how I’m dressed or if my hair is up in a pony tail? A metal lunch box might sit at my side but there isn’t a backpack on the floorboard. In 1972, we didn’t need such things to carry a slim book home.

Dad and I, Easter 1968.

My dad reaches over to the radio knob and turns up the volume. “I like this song,” he says.

I’ll remember that moment till my last breath.


Why do tears well up and a lump form in my throat? I tried without much luck to force tears pooling in my innards into submission.

Why does a tune about a port city barmaid pining her life away for a sailor who can’t settle down make me soppy with emotion?

I need to figure this out because it’s most irritating when you have to leave the car and appear composed and not like you’ve been crying about riding to school with your father 45 years ago.

A conservative guy, my father didn’t listen to popular music.

In 1972 didn’t all fathers vote for Nixon, wear a crew cut as naturally as a white undershirt and leave work at 5 p.m. no matter what was on their desk? As far as I knew, he didn’t listen to music at all. It was like sex. Parents didn’t do such a thing. Ever. Okay maybe once. Three times tops depending on how many siblings you ended up with.

Here was this solid, straight-as-an-arrow guy turning up the radio for a Top-40 song. And one having to do with an attractive woman serving drinks in a bar.

Who was this man?

Maybe the tears are for the sea of everything I’ll never know about my father? For all the conversations we didn’t have. For all the ones did.

Maybe they are for the sea of things that went on between that moment and now? How that expanse of time, all its joys and mistakes, is lost forever.

Maybe because when things get overwhelming there is nothing I’d rather do than erase all the chatter in my brain and be with my dad riding to school listening to Brandy?

I can’t pin it down to one or even a hundred things.

Surely when I left the car that long ago morning, I had worries.

A test? Lord knows if it was on grammar I was worried. Or should have been.

Maybe it was my week to be on the outside of the in circle? My week to be talked about behind my back and have notes passed to-and-fro about my wader pant legs (an occupational hazard when you’re a tall girl growing an inch every other day).

And surely the boy with whom I was in love didn’t know I existed. For that was my usual elementary school love life modus operandi.

Life is wonderful but it’s complicated and not at all like I thought it would be in 1972. Things will be easier when I’m grown up. Children. Career. Novels. Time for everything. No indecision. Adults know what they want and make things happen. Just like they plan.

Just like I planned. And dreamed.

You know what really puzzles me? How moments fixing dinner and folding laundry seem to drag by then you look up and over half your life has roared by with the furious velocity of a locomotive plowing through Minnesota farmland.

Beats the heck out of me.

I do think I’ve figured out why my dad turned up the radio.

Even after 45 years — Brandy is a great song.


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10 responses to “My life my love and my lady is the sea. So what about me?”

  1. Dan vaughn says:

    “The gulf that exists between us as people is that when we look at each other we might see faces, skin color, gender, race, or attitudes, but we don’t see, we can’t see, the stories.”
    -Neil Gaiman

    So your stories are worth reading.

    • Jamie Miles says:

      Such a wonderful quote and following sentiment Dan. I read the last page of one of Oprah’s recent magazines. Her words spoke of how we can easily see differences — but we all want and need the same things. Love, acceptance. Gaiman’s point about the stories is unifying thought. Consciously or unconsciously, we all are sifting through stuff, our stories, every day, every interaction. Maybe if we all would be a little more patient with each other and assume the best in another’s actions rather than the worst, things might take a turn.

  2. Miz Yank says:

    I love this, Jamie. Music is the ultimate time machine, reliable and instant transportation back to moments whose importance you might not have known at the time. And it binds you to those moments with the adhesive power of Superglue. For what it’s worth, my dad didn’t listen to music much, either! I explained that recently to a friend who suggested that Dad should, as a way to mitigate some of his Parkinson’s symptoms and engage his brain, listen to music. I had to ask, “Could you achieve the same effect by listening to a baseball game?” 🙂
    Miz Yank recently posted..Spring broke

    • Jamie Miles says:

      Definitely re baseball game, Karen. That certainly should stimulate his brain. Good memories and keeping up with the Nationals. Or I assume that might be his team. Around here it goes without asking that everyone listens to the Braves. And hopping into the way back machine, I did a presentation in a high school psychology class on the effects of music and the mind. Exactly what you said. Like certain smells, music can instantly put us in a place, time and mood.

  3. Carolyn says:

    Jamie your blog touched me. I miss my dad and mom too at unusual times too – when I least expect it. I really love that song too! Hope you are doing well! Miss you!

    • Jamie Miles says:

      Hey Carolyn~ Miss seeing you too. Though there’s always the chance of the random grocery store chat. It is funny what triggers those memories. I try to stay in the moment when I’m with my children or mother now. It’s hard not to be preoccupied. But the older I get, I don’t take time for granted.

  4. Sweet post! Music was a big part of my childhood. I regret that we turned into a generation listening to music through headphones. Christopher does not have the same appreciation for music. By the time he was born I opted for silence when I could get it and then only listened to music when I was alone. I too can listen to a song and it’ll tell its own story. I love 70s music more than any other decade. I have a playlist in my phone called “Daddy’s Music”.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted..Moments in #Motherhood Time

    • Jamie Miles says:

      Daddy’s music. I love that. Such a great observation about the headphones. I was walking on the beach the other weekend and many groups of high school and college students. They did have music blaring from each group. I was proud that I could recognize lots of the songs drifting through the breeze thanks to my son and his Hip Hop. Congratulations 🙂 … etc. That really fascinates me. I wonder if we are missing out on that community — even in the family — of listening to music aloud.



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