This morning I woke up with a song from South Pacific in my head. “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”. I have only seen South Pacific once, my senior year of high school at the Country Dinner Playhouse. And I was barely paying attention because it was a Sunday afternoon in early January, and the Denver Broncos were playing the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Championship game right at the same time, and I unashamedly was listening to the game on 850 KOA on a walkman (Yes, a walkman. It was 1998.).
While I enjoy musicals, it is unusual for a show tune to find its way into my brain. But I knew within seconds why the song had entwined itself. About a month ago, my dad, two of my sisters, and I traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, to bury my dad’s last remaining brother. During that short 48 hours, I was simultaneously grieving the loss of my uncle, feeling regret for missing the funeral of another uncle last year, and reliving every moment of the days leading up to and following the funeral for my mom. It was a whirlwind trip, packed full of family, grief, but most of all, love.
The morning of our flight back home, my dad took me and my sisters on a tour around town. Our last stop was the University of Utah. This is where my parents went to college. My dad took us to the Newman Center, where he lived while in school, and regaled us with stories from 60 years ago. While standing in what used to be the gym, he pointed and said, “There. Right there. That is where I first met your mom.” And this is how they met:
My dad was up in his room by himself studying. A classmate knocked on his door and said there were a couple of girls in the gym who needed a record player to work on their dance for the upcoming talent show. My dad’s roommate had a record player. Could they use it? My dad didn’t feel comfortable just lending it out, but offered to bring it down and do it for them. And so he did. And one of those girls was my mom. He set up the player, took the record from her hand, placed it on the turntable, and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” floated into the air.
And then I was there. I imagined what the gym looked like. I imagined the youthful faces of my parents during the 50s. I could see my mom showing off some of her trademark dance moves, laughing with her friend as they worked out the choreography. I imagined she was standing next to me, sharing the moment.
It hit me all at once.
This city. This college. This building. This room. This spot.
This is where all the roads brought them. If anything about that day had gone differently, would they have crossed paths? What if they hadn’t?
I would not exist. My sisters and brother would not exist. My children would not exist.
I am unsure if the gravity of the moment would have been as heavy if my mom had been there with us. She and my dad would probably have acted out the scenario, and we would have made a memory to take with us. One I would look back on. But the strength of her absence was powerful, and imagining their beginning? It made me miss her all the more.
So I awoke with South Pacific on my mind. And I fall to slumber with it still twirling around in there, the silhouette of my mom doing a pirouette bound with it.