Immediately after I heard that my Aunt Sahra died, I tried to think of a significant memory about her that I could share with my husband and kids. We were really close when I was young – she lived with us for a few months when I was around 5 years old – and we had our little traditions each time she visited our family in Mesa. After my high school graduation, I moved to Long Beach, California and lived with her and her husband for about a year and remained close with her after I moved out.
I know we had long meaningful conversations over the years, but I was frustrated that I couldn’t think of any words of advice that stuck out in my mind that I could pass along. Instead, I thought of all the small things – how she used to bring me a bottle of Orange Crush – my favorite soda as a young girl – from the Pepsi company where she worked when she lived with us for a few months, our tradition of eating Dairy Queen hot fudge sundaes when she was in town and observing the 10 minutes of silence in memory of John Lennon after he died when my dad wanted to watch a football game.
Once, I visited her in Long Beach when I was around 10 years old and she gave me a ride around the block on the back her moped; soon after I left for home, it was stolen.
Orange Crush in a bottle you brought home for me
Dairy Queen hot fudge sundae, our special treat
A ride on the back of your moped right before it disappeared
News about John Lennon filled your eyes with tears
But why couldn’t I remember any quotable words of advice? I know we had long meaningful conversations over the years. So frustrating to not remember any of them.
Why can’t I remember
Why do I struggle to find
Why, when I think about you
Only the small things come to mind?
Years later, she moved to Israel and we didn’t lose touch, but we rarely spoke because of the distance. She didn’t enjoy writing letters and it took her awhile to give email a try, but after she started using it, we wrote a few times.
You moved across the world
Our conversations dimmed
We left each other’s daily lives
A long-distance shift
While I was in Israel in 2013 as part of a press trip, almost exactly six years ago today, she visited my Jerusalem hotel for about an hour, the first time I had seen her since the late 1990s. We had a lovely visit and it was as though we hadn’t lived across the world all those years. At that time, she was in remission from lung cancer and I was so grateful to have had the opportunity to be there with her.
Her third yahrzeit (anniversary of her death) is this month.
Didn’t know the last time would be the last
I treasure the fragments of our past
When I brought this song to the workshop, R really liked the lyrics in the first verse and said the lyrics reminded him of Kasey Musgraves. At the time, I wasn’t familiar with her work but now that I’ve listened to many of her songs, I consider that a HUGE compliment! (And being that her newest album is up for a 2019 Grammy for both the Country Album and Album categories, I think it’s safe to say that it’s OK that I took it as a compliment!)
But he said it was a little confusing in a future verse because he thought it was about a significant other throughout the song until it got to this verse:
People thought I was your daughter
Instead of your niece
We lived in that little house
On Vista Street
Which of course, makes it a bit less universal since it’s so personal.
The other critique of the song was that the chorus wasn’t strong enough.
Regardless, I don’t think I’ll be doing anything further with this song because it is so personal and changing any of the details wouldn’t feel right.
However, one element that I do want to point out was that the specific details in that first verse – such as “Orange Crush in a bottle” and Dairy Queen hot fudge sundae” – that was intentional as in the previous songwriting workshop, R had discussed descriptive writing – things that people can picture when they hear the song so I was purposely trying to do that.