I've listened to the Beatles throughout my years as a mom. The lyrics guide me through new challenges.
- The Beatles have always been part of the soundtrack of my life.
- My daughter has begun listening to the Beatles and talking about the songs she likes.
"I'm John," my 6-year-old daughter announced. "And you're Paul. Dad will be Ringo."
"I don't think he wants to be Ringo," I said doubtfully. He'd consider himself a John for sure.
She shrugged. "Someone has to be Ringo."
We'd just listened to the Beatles' best-of playlist and had been belting out the lyrics to "All You Need Is Love" while speedwalking down the street. She wanted to know everything about the iconic foursome. How'd they get together? What's with the goofy haircuts? Most important: What's the best Beatles song?
I'm no music aficionado, but the Beatles are like auditory air — they exist in the world around us, immovable from their cultural pedestal, a constellation of satisfying pop-rock bops. And in the six years since my daughter was born, I've leaned on the Beatles for all the most achingly tender, fraught, and frustrating milestones of motherhood.
Their music was just what I needed
While pregnant, I listened to the Beatles more than I ever had in my life. They satisfied my craving for familiarity. I turned on their songs while I walked to the coffee shop where I ordered my illicit two-shot latte; while I worked at my office job, tapping my footrest so maniacally that my coworkers banned "Eleanor Rigby"; during my bouts of midnight insomnia. I never went deep in the Beatles archives, but I was still able to excavate the exact song I needed for every meaningful moment.
Now, when I hear a Beatles song, the lyrics act like love letters to my daughter, each a note from our shared past whispered into her ears.
They've guided me through every challenge and joy
When I hear "Someone calls you, you answer quite slowly, a girl with kaleidoscope eyes," I think of how we dreamed of our daughter before she was born. My husband knew her name immediately, like an echo floating past a curtain. Or a song half-remembered. It took years for the dream to come into being, but we longed for our child every single day. Each time we visited the doctor's office, hopefully, then with a sense of dejection, we held onto the vision of our baby's kaleidoscope eyes.
Later, after she came barreling loudly and insistently into the world, we learned that colic was no joke. None of us slept or ate well during those first three months of parenthood. Sometimes I wondered whether our daughter could remember what it felt like to huddle together in the night, pressed like vellum pages, rocking endlessly. The Beatles soothed her then, especially the song "Hey Jude," about taking a sad song and making it better. It felt like an apt metaphor for those hard, long nights.
We'd lived in three places before our daughter was 3 years old, nomads in search of a forever home. From Texas to Ohio we traveled, our moving truck piled high with countless rockers and muslin blankets that smelled of Dreft. Each time we left a place, we held hands and promised each other, "Home is us." In the background, we played "I Want to Hold Your Hand" as a reminder of how connected we were, despite the miles we left behind.
Our girl's first word was "Dada," which makes perfect sense, because he stayed at home with her every day. Chasing her around the house on all fours. Cutting her fruit into meticulous bite-size pieces. That first word was like a stopper released. After that, our toddler had so much to share with the world; exclamations of joy, one-word questions, cries of frustration. We cherished each communication, each new word. When I heard the lyrics, "Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup," I thought of how many conversations lay ahead.
Her first day of school was an exercise in quiet grief for me, even as I cheered her on, walking into her classroom with an oversize backpack and a new mermaid lunchbox. I counted down the minutes until I could pick her up, feeling as if I had misplaced something essential. And then, when she ran into my arms at the end of the day, ponytail flying behind her, the lunchbox dropped, and we stood still as crowds streamed around us. Just grinning at each other. I felt that I could truly understand the lyric from "Here Comes the Sun." Her return will always be reason enough for my smile.
There will be more songs as she grows older. Perhaps when she packs up for college, her dad and I will play "Yesterday," asking ourselves why she had to go away. Or maybe, much further down the line, when we're losing hairlines and memories, a chord from "When I'm Sixty-Four" will make us think of our girl. I'll dream about renting that cottage in the Isle of Wight, the three of us on vacation again, promising myself: "Mine for evermore."
They say all you need is love. That's true enough. But sometimes, a perfect Beatles song can help too.
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