Monday, July 11, 2011

Don’t Stop Believing in a Hungry Heart

“Mom, what’s a hungry heart?”

Dixon asked me this a few days after Clarence Clemons died. We were in the kitchen, doing dishes and listening to an old interview with Clemons on the radio.

I looked at her, and marveled at how much more mature my children are at 8 than I was even at 18.

What’s a hungry heart?

I was introduced to rock n roll by my high school English teacher. Her premise, I believe, was to open up the world of poetry through the contemporary lyrics kids listened to every day on the radio. Her premise for our class—which I will admit was filled with a bunch of nerds—was to show us that John Donne was as much of a star in his time as Bruce Springsteen was in ours. Problem is, she first had to teach quite a few of us who Bruce Springsteen was. This was before Springsteen became a mainstream, top 40 idol, but after he had captured the hearts of true music lovers.

A couple of years later I was at Brandeis University near Boston, an eye opening experience for a girl from Las Vegas. Before we were all so connected, culture was as different from one side of America to the other as we were from England or Spain. Springsteen was a god to all of my Long Island and New Jersey classmates. I liked... Journey. And ELO. And the Little River Band. But I—green as green can be, with a slower pace and an unfamiliarity with such familiar East Coast things as fried dough—was seen as an oddity. Probably didn’t help that I was still unsure of my sexuality. And, despite the efforts of my high school teacher, I stuck to the music I liked.

This did not go over well.

One day in the cafeteria, a pinched-face kid named Keith implied sarcastically that there was something lacking in me because of my music preferences. I dumped my Coke on his head.

“Mom, what’s a hungry heart?”

“Well, everybody hungers for something,” I answered.

“You mean like love and power?” Dixon said.

I looked at her.

“Yes. Love, power and money are the three things most people hunger for, to some degree or another. We also hunger to be accepted; to be validated.”

“What’s ‘validated’?”

“’Validated’ is...

I concentrated on the pot I was scrubbing.

“’Validated’ is acknowledging someone’s existence. It’s the feeling that the things you do matter. That YOU matter.”

“Do you hunger to be validated?”

“I suppose I do, to a degree. I hunger to change the world, to make the world a better place.”

“But you already do make the world a better place. You’re nice to people. You love people. You recycle. You volunteer...”

She petered out, looked at me and shrugged, as if to say, “Isn’t that obvious mom?”

And I looked at her and said, “And I have two amazing children who seem to be wiser than I am.”

She smiled, and walked out of the room, humming a song she had learned from “Glee.”

“Don’t stop. Believin’. Hold on to that fee-elin’...”

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