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I’m sitting at my desk on the main floor of our mountain house at Vanaprastha when I hear the crackle of speakers connected to Keith’s desktop in the loft. That usually signals Keith is done with his serious writing for the day and is opening iTunes. Confirmation: Judy Collins begins to sing Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now.

College1972Suddenly it’s 1972, and I’m a senior in college on a date with Joe, a third year law student at Harvard.

We met at a law school mixer in September. Soon after, he called, asking for a date, on a weekday no less. Joe was a nice guy, talkative yet a good listener, easy company, a short, skinny Jewish boy from New York with the accent to go with it. He picked me up in his old tank of a car—I was impressed he had a car—and treated me to dinner: steak and a glass of wine. At the end of the evening, he kissed me goodnight, no pressure for anything else.

Except for those Love Illusions.

“I hope he isn’t getting too serious,” I remember writing to my parents. “I like him, but nothing like cherry blossoms.”

One Saturday in mid-October, we went apple picking at a local orchard outside of Cambridge, filling bushel baskets, pretending to be sharecroppers for a few hours. Fresh air and fairy tales. We took our pay in apples. On the drive back to his apartment, I fell asleep. Because he knew how much I admired Judy Collins—I owned her albums Wildflowers, Who Knows Where the Times Goes, Whales and Nightingales—Joe had purchased tickets for us to see her in concert that night. Was it Boston Symphony Hall? I don’t remember. I fell asleep on the way home from the concert, too.

That fall, I was student teaching and taking a full course load. I’d made my choice, and it wasn’t Joe. I didn’t tell him that.

Don’t give yourself away.

But, of course, I did—give myself away. By December, he stopped calling. “I really don’t have time or energy for him anyway,” I wrote to my parents. “Guess I’m up for a new lease on life.”

I really don’t know love at all.

Here at Vanaprastha, clouds feather the skies over the Rockfish Valley. I hear Keith push his chair back from his desk as Both Sides Now ends.

I really don’t know life at all.

I think about the ups and downs, gives and takes, wins and loses—all that brought Keith and me here.

Together.

Then I wonder what happened to Joe. I hope he found cherry blossom.

Like I did.

 

What songs, when you hear them, trigger flashbacks to the past?

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