It was the summer of 2007. Max and I were on a writing retreat in the south of France--a trip that fulfilled a life-long goal for both of us. We woke up with a long swim in the Mediterranean, wrote our books all day and then celebrated with a bottle of wine, cheese and fresh bread every evening. We were so relaxed and happy that it's not surprising that we conceived Ayla that summer. What baby wouldn't want to be born into those circumstances?!
The moment when we knew we were pregnant, we laughed and cried and hugged…and then we created an Ayla playlist on iTunes. I kid you not! It took us about five minutes after seeing the positive sign on the pregnancy test to drop the stick and grab our laptops.
It was an emotional morning. We had wanted Ayla—we had shouted out to the gods that we were ready for her—and yet when we found out that I was pregnant, we were both in a state of shock. We had spent the summer in France and were supposed to leave for Italy later that day. It was going to be a crazy day even without the news that I was pregnant—we had to pack and clean the house and bid farewell to all the places we had grown to love in Cannes. Max’s instincts were right on. We needed music to make it through the day.
The first song on the playlist was Sweet Thing. Van Morrison is the only musician whose every note and lyric evokes love—pure, sweet and simple. Over the years, I’ve grown fond of the version of Sweet Thing by the Waterboys, their use of the fiddle pulls my heart strings. But nothing compares to the original.
Next was the song To Zion by Lauryn Hill. It’s a song that she wrote and sung for her son and it’s an ode to the massive love inspired by his birth. When she sings, “Now the joy in my world is in Zion,” you feel the power of a parent’s love for their child. Even without the biblical name she chose for her firstborn, the song evokes the tremendous, Old Testament-style, power of love parting the seas and setting bushes on fire and generally turning the whole world upside down.
Our next choice was I Found a Reason by Cat Power. When she sang, “And you’d better come come, come come to me…Better run, run run, run run to me,” we both sobbed. We had both wanted Ayla to come to us, and she, unwilling to wait another second, had sprinted. We were delighted and scared. Were we ready? Would be good parents to her? There was no turning back now.
Then we chose, Arms Wide Open by Creed. If there is one thing I’ve heard about parenting, it’s that you can’t really prepare for it. You’ve just got to keep your eyes and your heart open to whatever will come—and Creed captures this sentiment perfectly when they sing: “Well just heard the news today; Seems my life is going to change; I close my eyes, begin to pray; Tears of joy stream down my face.” We both also like the “bigness” of this song—it felt as huge and powerful as what we were feeling inside. We listened and cried some more.
The last song that morning—although the playlist has grown over time—was Landslide by Fleetwood Mac. Although I’d always loved the song, I could never really figure out what it was about. The lyrics are vague and mysterious. But it always felt like a video montage of each of us growing older—but with our parents and children and all the people we really love in this world. In that way, the song evokes the circle of life turning and turning—and with each turn, creating love, heartbreak, birth and death—a lyrical portrait of life. Landslide has always felt like a song I’d want to listen to at the end of my life to assure myself that I had lived and loved well.
But enough about us. Did you create a playlist to celebrate the imminent arrival of your little one? If so, send it to me. I'll spread the music!