The Isolation Age: Cryin’ Songs Playlist

We never socialized much, Mike and I, and when social opportunities arose they were almost always relevant to just one or the other of us, but not to both. Mike had his interests I and had mine, so when something came up, we went solo and the one not going stayed happily home with Angelic Daughter.

I enjoyed my own company just fine for all those years before I met Mike, but I had lots to do – I lived in the city and I could fall out the door and go take an improv workshop, or perform in an improv show or children’s theater, or sing in a chorus.  I met Mike when I wasn’t really looking, not desperately, anyway.

This present aloneness, even though I’m not all by myself, feels very different. Watching Angelic Daughter lean in toward the webcam with her arms outspread to give her Uncle a virtual hug during their first Zoom talk, and the sense that every trip to the grocery store is life-threatening, or when my responses to prompts in Teams chats, intended to boost WFH spirits, get no reaction – these things, silly or profound, make this isolation feel a lot more… isolated.

When, toward the end of the work day, the music on my classical music station turns too loud or atonal for my tastes, I turn to Spotify to find music that will get me through to clock-off time.

I wasn’t intentionally looking for a good cry when this change-the-music habit began – I was actually looking for something more upbeat. I found plenty of great oldies to bounce to in my bungie-cord office chair while I finished my last written piece for the day. But for some reason, a lot of the songs that turned up on the artist-based “radio” stations I chose were ballads that turned on the waterworks. Maybe they reminded me of long-lost youth, or the intense emotions of long-lost youth. Or they made me think of my Dad, or of Mike, or past, unrequited loves.

But mostly, something about these songs drills right through to the core of the isolation and I find myself staring at a future where going solo is a permanent condition. Because by the time the masks come off, if I’m still around, I’m pretty sure any chance I might have had to find love again will have passed, for good.

These songs remind me that a few years from now, when I sing along, I’ll still be singing alone.

The lantern in the photo above was one of the very few material things Mike brought with him into our marriage. Angelic Daughter and I light a candle within it during our evening “music time,” when we sit together in the dark, sometimes with music, but often without, until she has repeated “Dad can’t come back, it doesn’t work that way” enough times to bring herself to internalize that truth. She says it over and over again, until she feels sad, and until she has heard me reassure her many times that Dad’s love is always with her, and that while I’m not Dad, and I’m not as fun as Dad, and I don’t cook like Dad did, tonight, I’m still here.

Recently, when Angelic Daughter has sensed that I’m sad, or cabin fever has dented my patience and I have gotten upset with her, she somehow, from the mysterious place within her where her extraordinary emotional intelligence resides, knows how I hate myself for my lapse of emotional control, and she says, “don’t worry Mom. If you need anything, I’m right here for ya.”

Who needs a playlist to have a good cry when you have that? But I’ll share my playlist of cryin’ songs anyway. I think you click on my face there to play it, or open your Spotify app and search for the playlist by name, “Ridiculouswoman’s Cryin’ Songs.” I don’t know what will happen in this link if I revise the list, and I can’t do anything about ads that might play, but you get the idea, anyway. Hope you’ve got enough Kleenex in the house.

In the meantime, singing solo at home (because Angelic Daughter likes to sing solo, too) and looking for the tissues, I remain,

Your grateful-for-some-sun-this-morning-and-thinking-about-throwing-in-some-cookies-and-cannoli-with-our-Friday-pizza-and-wings-delivery order,

Ridiculouswoman

Turndown Service

I sleep with Hilda.

Hilda is a lavender stuffed hippopotamus.  Go ahead,  laugh. I’m your neighborblog sixty year-old widow.  Hilda makes me feel better, so get over it, OK?

Every night when the leftovers are put away and the dishwasher is loaded and running, I haul myself and my creaking knees up the stairs, and find Hilda, looking adorable, tucked in under the covers, waiting for me, the bedside table lamp aglow.

Angelic Daughter’s turndown service.

I take it as a sign of Angelic Daughter’s deep emotional intelligence, and her ability to pick up on cues I didn’t know I was sending about needs I wasn’t conscious of having.

Ok, that’s a flat out lie. I know I have NEEDS, primarily for the calming, anxiety-curing, panic-attack abating hugs Mike gave, and for the comfort that his very presence provided.  While people on the autism spectrum might have difficulty making eye contact, demonstrating “focus,” decoding facial expressions, or understanding tones of voice, it would be a mistake to assume they lack emotional intelligence. It may not be obvious, but it’s there.

“I miss Dad.”

“I miss him too, sweetheart.”

Angelic Daughter knows Hilda is a comfort to me, both because stuffed animals are comforting in general, and because Hilda has been a comfort to her, too.  I created a voice for Hilda (a sort of “bless your heart” kind of Southern accent – not sure why) and Hilda comforts Angelic Daughter by conversing with her that way, from time to time.

I found Hilda at a local toy store, a really good independent toy store that Angelic Daughter and I liked to poke around in. Its narrow aisles had shelves of stuffed animals, baskets filled with quirky fidget toys, bouncing balls and toy soldiers, racks of costumes,  arts and craft stuff, board and card games, books and a large section of model trains.

So naturally it went out of business. But not before I found Hilda.

I seized on her immediately.

Hilda righted a childhood wrong.

When I was about three years old, I had a stuffed hippo. I loved that thing, but I don’t remember naming it, or who gave it to me. It was grey. One day I decided to add some color.

I took a set of markers and drew a rainbow of parallel, curving lines all around that Hippo. Encircled its eyes and traced its tummy, big face, back and legs with a multi-colored, multi-lane highway of marker love. I was proud of my artistry.

When I showed Cruella DeVille my mother my gorgeous design, expecting praise and delight,  she snatched that hippo away and screamed at me for “ruining” it.

I had no idea why she was so angry, and I never saw that hippo again.

So Hilda was a second chance at hippo happiness.

Never mind that actual, living hippos are one of the most dangerous animals on the planet – they can bite a crocodile in two, run at speeds 35 mph or more and have huge teeth and powerful jaws. They’re very aggressive on both land and water. They kill around 3,000 people a year.

But my stuffed Hilda hippo is a skwooshy, lavender beanbag of love.

She doesn’t complain when I squeeze her tight, or squish her giant jaw-face, or take up too much room in the bed. She’s just there for me, if I need her.

And something deep in Angelic Daughter gets that I do. Need Hilda.

Everyone has a comfort item.  I hope.

I still have my baby blanket. My uncle borrowed it for my infant cousin, and never returned it. On the brink of heading off to college, I suddenly decided I needed it back.

Unc was living in my late grandfather’s grand house, an English manor-style home with a huge living room and a huge dining room opposite, across the front hall, where Grampa’s cook (yes, his cook) would call for us that it was time to “go through,” meaning, cross the front hall and find your place at a dining table that could seat 12.

Around the time of the disappeared decorated hippo, our family dog was a  black and white malamute (like a husky, but bigger) named “Buddy.” Because he was my brother’s buddy.

My cousin, Unc’s son,  named their red and white husky “Scary.”

When I asked for my blanket back,  it was discovered at the bottom of Scary’s huge chain-link cage.

Unc gamely retreived it, filthy and full of holes. I gladly washed it and took it to college with me.  I’ve had it ever since.

So you won’t hear me laughing if your self-care includes your bwanky, or dolly, or your teddy bear. Or your stuffed hippo.

Grateful for my amazing Angelic Daughter, I remain,

Your about-to-find comfort in a cuppa and a nap (with Hilda),

Ridiculouswoman