The book of love has music in it,
In fact that’s where music comes from.
Katie and I finally have our song, after only 42 years of marriage. Ironically, it has a swear word in it, even though neither of us swear.
There has been no song that speaks to our early experience, since we can’t even remember our first date. And we have little common interest in music; I like both jazz and Gregorian chants, for example, and she finds the repetition in both forms tiresome. She knows a lot of show tunes and songs from the 50s. I don’t.
The eclectic music of Prairie Home Companion often appeals to both of us; we have listened to it on and off throughout our marriage. But it would be difficult to categorize its music, which ranges from blue grass to classical. And I’m not sure we like the same songs—we just each like some of the songs. (I tend toward the blue grass side.)
Our tastes are so different we rarely listen to music together, although some instrumental background music at the holidays is nice. We love some of the same hymns and worship songs, but more for the words than for the performance aspect. I doubt if we could name a single artist we both like. We have different songs picked out for our funerals.
Yet music has been part of the fabric of our home, from the lullabies and folk songs I sang to the kids, to Animaniacs and catchy tunes for remembering state capitals we used in home schooling. I remember once when I was very sick, for a long time, Katie spent a lot of time playing Nat King Cole’s “That’s All” on the piano. It was her song, not our song—a way of processing all the things she was feeling at the time.
But last year we were watching Shall We Dance with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez, and we were both struck by Peter’s Gabriel’s song “The Book of Love.” There is a moment when Gere returns to his wife, played by Susan Sarandon. He is riding up an escalator, carrying a rose. There is no dialogue; just the sound track:
The book of love is long and boring;
no one can lift the damn thing.
It’s filled with charts and facts, some figures,
and instructions for dancing.
Now taking dancing lessons has been on our list for a long time (that’s what I gave her for Christmas), but I don’t think that’s why the song struck us. I think it’s because the song takes the long view, and we have been doing this for a long time. And the weight we feel, at least, is the weight of glory.
It turns out to be a very long escalator ride, since they manage to get almost the whole thing in. The song says, “some of it (love) is transcendental, and some of it is really dumb.” Yes. We have fallen in and out of love a hundred times, and we have seen the peaks and the valleys, from the sublime to the ridiculous. And we always come back to that safe place, that place where we are secure in the covenant we have made. And kept.
There is more to the song that speaks of us. “I love it when you read to me.” “I love it when you sing to me.” “I love it when you give me things.” All true. All so very true. We read bits of our books to each other in the morning when we have tea. I try to sing old show tunes and make up the words; she knows the right ones. We give each other our time and our attention and our love. We have done this for a long time, and have written our own book of love.
“It’s full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes,
And things we’re all too young to know.”
Too young to know, but old enough to appreciate.