Before you read know:
I’m too young for eight track players. It’s a happy coincidence.
Menno is slang for “Mennonite,” a traditional branch of Anabaptism which arose out of the Protestant Reformation named after a leader and writer named Menno Simons.
I fully acknowledge that I’m lacking footnotes. Let me know if you need more information.
He gave me rides to youth group. The street light illuminated the freckles on his forearm as I climbed into the F-150. He chose the music, flipping between stations mid-song. “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere.” Other nights in another truck, the driver wore aftershave that smelled like cinnamon meatloaf. He’d crank the likes of Toby Mac and Josh Turner in a “Long Black Train.” They were supposed to be Menno guys: it could have been worse.
My best friend at school had thick brown hair that curled around her face. “You’ve gotta listen to this song. It’s so good.” I’d listen and by the third line could predict the next one. She’d play another Kutless, Tenth Avenue North, maybe Mercy Me, or “I just wasted thirty seconds of your life.”
I did like her Casting Crowns. “Does Anybody Hear Her?” My friend dreamed big, and told me why marriage had to wait.
We fought like sisters, this dairy farmer’s daughter and I. She’d talk on and on about what was good music—classical twists on Southern Gospel greats like Dottie Rambo, The Cathedrals, and Legacy Five. I’d listen, trying to hear what she’d heard. She’d listen to my lyrics, my music. “It’s all right for that kind.”
I didn’t want to believe her, but I did anyway.
They were church friends. They didn’t care whether I listened or not as they sang. “She left the suds in the bucket and the clothes hangin’ out on the line” “On the combine.” “He’s walkin’ her home. He’s holdin’ her hand.” Something about the earthy simplicity tugged on me. I wanted to settle for that ordinary family life, but I couldn’t–not quite.
In choir class, we’d crack open the black binders and break into eight parts at times. We’d sing Gregorian chant, Negro spiritual, and chorale masterpieces like “Little Drummer Boy,” “Lord Jesus You Shall Be My Song,” and “Dem Bones.” We learned proper vowel formation, dynamic marking interpretation, and discovered the addictive power of making high art in community.
Sunday mornings I’d sing a cappella hymns: “Trusting the Shepherd,” “Just as I Am,” “Be Still My Soul.” I’d sing soprano, pretend to be alto, visit high tenor, and soar back to soprano again, all in the same four stanzas, while my friend sang beside me (See Track 3).The rich poetry brought almost too much goodness.
(or what happens when you accidentally side-swipe a hydro pole with your parent’s teal ’94 Ford Ranger while flipping tracks on your CD player. We both survived–the truck and I.)
I found the folk song. I sang in more choirs. I tried classical voice. I glanced sideways at jazz. I wrote a few hymns. I began to find the connecting motif in all the songs that sang my soul, the haunting melody that formed identity.
Even now, a decade later, the title eludes me.
For me, music symbolizes the cultures that shaped me.
What songs shaped your identity? What cultures influenced you? I’d love to hear about it!