How Time Goes By
Eighteen years ago today, my only child came into this world. Any of us who ever had the privilege of parenthood and were present for the miraculous event of birth, remember when that burst of oxygen enters their lungs, they take their first breath and issue their opening cry to the world as if to say, “I’m here!”
It is said that there is a uniquely identifying characteristic to that first cry that embeds itself into a parent’s permanent memory and enables them to forever more pick out the distinct sound of their child’s voice from among even a playground full of screaming, boisterous kids. That cry etched its way into my soul at precisely 1:45pm, ET, on January 3rd, 1992.
I recall bringing Charlie home on a very cold winter’s day, wrapped in blankets. A couple of weeks into his new life, I set him down on the couch and played him a record hoping to instill music into his little baby consciousness- I think it was James Taylor. I remember dropping him off at pre-school for the first time, the initial separation from the warm cocoon of home. I recall reading to him at bedtime and then watching him sleep so peacefully.
I remember him dropping his first F-bomb at some inexplicably young age, hearing it, calling him into the house and proclaiming that if he ever said that word aloud in school, the police would come immediately and send him directly to prison. Extreme, I know, but, hey, it worked for another ten years or so.
I recall seeing him perform with his middle school jazz band. He was playing the trombone at the time. I remember when he first discovered rock n’ roll and, God bless him; his first favorite band was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I remember his video game compulsion I thought would never end, but did.
And I will never forget taking him with me to Colombia, South America as a teenager where he met my boatloads of very cool cousins, and sitting around a swimming pool at a villa we had rented out one night, he picked up a guitar and I heard him sing and play for the first time. It was Swing Life Away by Rise Against. I’m pretty sure I had tears in my eyes as my family listened in amazement to how really good he was and cheered for him sincerely, enthusiastically and lovingly when he finished.
We live on front porches and swing life away,
We get by just fine here on minimum wage.
If love is a labor I’ll slave ’til the end,
I won’t cross these streets until you hold my hand.
Now, he’s a senior in High School and off to college, probably in Nashville in a few short months and he knows exactly what he wants to do and has developed intricate plans to get there. Maybe it was the James Taylor album I played him when he was a baby, or maybe it was the times he watched me perform for family and friends. Maybe it was Tom Petty or Rise Against or all or none of the above, but he now performs, writes his own music and has the firm ambition of becoming a recording engineer and producer.
He’s interned at recording studios in Atlanta. He’s built his own very sophisticated studio with his own hard-earned money, is mastering Logic and Pro Tools and is now producing his second CD for friends- and they’re paying him for it. With real cash. I gave him my limited edition Telecaster FMT and together with his vintage 1983 Marshall JCM 800 (2203) head and accompanying Bogner closed-back, oversized 2 X 12 cab, can now blow entire neighborhoods away without pushing the volume knob past 5.
He’s recorded and produced some of my own music and I can’t tell you how cool it is to take explicit directions from your own son about doing a guitar lick all over again, or filling out a vocal track with a little more harmony, or going back and re-recording one part or another so we could get it exactly right.
Two days after he was born, Charlie and his mom, Laurie (who deserves the lion’s share of the credit for raising him) were still at the hospital, but I had come home for a short time to take a brief break, and I wrote him this song which has, fortunately, stood the test of time:
The Gift of Life
What will you be my little one?
When you’re no longer my little one
Will you be strong and brave?
What will you be when you come of age?
You’ve got a look of wisdom in your eyes
So new to the world and yet so wise
Bundled up and warm beneath the January skies
Soon the summer will come and you’ll be smiling
At the flashing fireflies
Everyday you’ll be writing a chapter in the story of your life
You’re a child of the universe
The child of a man and wife
You’re the gift of life
And finally, we came full circle with the most recent song I wrote for Charlie last year. The first verse and chorus will suffice:
It’s snowing sideways but I’m watching from the inside
And I’ve got a warm heart thinking of you, who knew?
It was a cold day like this when I brought you home
Wrapped in a blanket and a prayer
A lifetime to share
Now I’m listening to you sing as the ghost of Dylan rings
In your soul
You make me whole
Someday you’ll know maybe sitting in a fallin’ snow
What it’s like to watch something grow
Happy 18th birthday, Charlie Garcia. My God, you’re an adult now. And a good one. Smart and kind and respectful and responsible. Carry on, son. Carry on.