sweet virginia

13 Years in 6 Songs, Plus one for the future

I first started dating Mr. Giraffe in January 2000, after he chased me down in the food court that our office buildings shared after being egged on by his friends. True story. Thirteen years later we are married with twin boys and a wayward dog, and we owe it all to the eerie yellow glow of the subway sign.

A major theme in our relationship has been music. Apart from chess and spreadsheets, it’s what drives Mr. Giraffe. He plays music, better than he would admit to. In high school he resembled Neil Young in both hair and guitar. A thousand times I heard the songs he taught himself guitar to, never lessening in my admiration for his talent. It still makes me swoon a little, even though he doesn’t know that.

He saved me with the lyric: “I am lonely, but you can free me all in the way that you smile” a million times over.

At first it was Miles Davis that we had in common. I listened to the album in my grandparents’ basement a thousand times when I was in high school. We would go on to jazz festivals in Montreal and Monterey. We’d go to smoky clubs, we’d see Maceo Parker in the sweltering summer, still in our fancy clothes and faces still creased from sleeping in the car the night before after a wedding in the country.

We hit the record store downtown and found Hang Up your Hangups. Mr. Giraffe recorded it on our answering machine. It was on there for so long that I called the CBC and begged them to broadcast it for a final farewell. It stayed on until we moved though. Later, we would meet Herbie Hancock at the Monterey Jazz Festival just before we watched him rock a keytar, and I had nothing to say anything other than “Sir, you were on our answering machine for 4 years”. Security whisked him away.

We raced around music festivals; the Calgary Folk Music Festival being the highlight of our year. We spent my 30th birthday in the dust and heat of Bonnaroo. Mr. Giraffe discovered Old Crow Medicine Show and learned to play that song, and performed it with friends that year.

And somewhere in the middle of all of that, we got married. With a party band at our wedding, where all of our friends and family, some lost or forgotten now, danced all night long and we were still singing on the bus to our hotel.

We danced to Sweet Virginia the morning that Mr. Giraffe proposed to me, in the kitchen of our old house. We danced to it on our wedding day. We went to California and Austin for our honeymoon. “Thank you, for your wine, California. Thank you for your sweet and bitter fruit

After the honeymoon we went to Iron and Wine. I nearly fainted at the concert. I would find out days later that I was pregnant, months later with twins. “Mother remember the blink of an eye when I breathed through your body, So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten, Sons are like birds flying upwards over the mountain.

And then our lives as we knew them ended.  We’ve been to our Folk Festival, we’ve been moved to tears by Gillian Welch. We’ve been to Monterey. But kids have taken all of my focus and attention. I let myself get too far in one direction, away from you. My valentine to you, Mr. Giraffe, is the promise to try to recapture some of that energy. The stuff we’ve lost in the flood, the drudgery of having kids, and general weariness of age. Because really, that’s where we’ve felt the best and been our best; when the music is good.