I just learned it is Bruce Springsteen’s birthday today. I love Bruce Springsteen and wish I had seen a concert of his this year, but sadly I worried too much about leaving all the moving and packing of our temporary rental home to my family. Turns out they didn’t worry about it at all and we were still moving and packing at 11 p.m. on the day we were to be out of our house. If I had known that it wouldn’t have mattered whether or not I was here, I would have gone to see Bruce in Portland, Oregon with my sister.
Bruce has always been a part of my life, or at least starting in fifth grade. My mom moved us to a place in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania that was a converted chicken coop. It was somewhat cute if I remember correctly but I do remember it was out in the middle of the woods and it was dark and spooky at night. The next house was at least a half mile away. I think the main house of the property wasn’t that far but I didn’t know anyone from the main house. I did know the girl who lived down the street (lane/leaf path), though.
Anyway, imagine the scene of a fifth grade girl out in the middle of the woods in the fall waiting for her mom to come home from work. My mom was a nurse so sometimes she worked from 7-3 and then 3-11. I was such a fraidy cat kid. I got goosebumps thinking about all the people who were going to come get me and do whatever. If I had simply thought things through, I would have known that the spot where I was was probably the safest place I’ve ever been. Nobody was going to go down the long, gravel road in the middle of nowhere to find somebody to kill. If anything, we were a great spot to dump a body, not find someone to kill. Besides, the killers probably would have gone to the main house and assumed only chickens lived where I was.
During the module at school where I was learning how to use a recorder, I used to go out on to the deck and try to crank out “Mary Had a Little Lamb” perfectly. If I didn’t get it out perfectly, I had to start over right away. Those were the rules. Not perfect? Stop what you’re doing and start over. When I grew tired of playing my recorder, I would put my mom’s album by Bruce Springsteen on the record player. I played ‘Born to Run’ about 7 million times until I knew every single word by heart. I would go out onto the deck and belt out the words to the weeds and the trees who only remained quiet. No clapping, and because it was fall, there were no crickets either. But yet, I sang on giving my concert to the bugs, the clouds, the rocks, and the pond. Maybe my words were felt by the fishes.
When we moved to the next house in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I kept playing the album. It got me through the transition of going from country mouse to city mouse, and all the different people I met and had to tolerate. In the country, the people mostly ignored me because we were ‘just renters’ and I hadn’t grown up with the kids. I was an outsider and I essentially spent the day alone. And, to be honest, I was embarrassed as hell knowing that I lived in a chicken coop. I never wanted anyone to come over to see where I laid my head.
In the suburbs, the kids gave me some attention but sometimes it wasn’t very nice. One girl, Heidi, came up to me after I’d been at Cynwyd Elementary a few days and asked, “Didn’t you just wear those pants yesterday?” She was very rich (as far as I could tell) and I was very poor. I’ll never forget that and to this day, I wish I could tell her how much that hurt, especially as someone as introverted as me. I never wanted to be noticed and she made it perfectly clear that everyone was watching.
Bruce got me through all that mess and helped me to bond with others just like me–people who had discovered Bruce Springsteen and loved him just as much as I did. We knew all the words and sang the songs to each other. One of my friend’s sister’s best friends was dating Bruce Springsteen. Can you imagine that? I was this close to the greatest influence on my life ever.
Fast forward to the birth of my daughter, Devon. I was 28-years-old and I hadn’t had much baby-sitting experience in my childhood. I didn’t know the words to any nursery rhymes other than ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ and Devon had colic really bad. I was up with her a lot during the night. I wanted to sing to her but didn’t know what to sing so I sang Thunder Road nonstop until the day I finally learned other songs. I changed from one Mary song to another.
Bruce Springsteen got me through the worst of times (elementary and middle school), gave me something to share in common with my new friends in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and helped me soothe my crying baby as an adult. He’s been there for me my whole life and for this reason I want to wish him a very happy birthday. I love you, Bruce!