Love is a Playlist



Dear Mackenzie,

Music is one of those things. Like a time machine, it takes you instantly back to the smells and the lighting and the textures of the time tied to a certain sound of a certain song. Eventually, instead of certain times, songs and artists start to tie themselves to certain people. Like you. And when you’ve been with someone for enough years, the songs start to pile up. Like with us.

There’s probably a song for every major moment in my life. More importantly, there’s probably a song for every hour we’ve spent together. But that’s most likely because, at any given moment, we’re either listening to music or youtube-ing music videos or googling random lyrics we can’t remember or simply singing louder than we should in the middle of a thrift store. And maybe that’s because when there aren’t words, there’re lyrics, and when there aren’t lyrics, there’re melodies. And that’s sometimes just what’s needed.

For times like when I skipped class to go with you to see Jurassic Park in 3-D, times like when we played Edith Piaf and made omelettes at 6:00AM while you’re roommates slept, and times like when it just hurts too much – inside and out – to make your own music… those are some of the times when melody and lyric and chorus and bridge does what nothing else can: capture a single or series of moments, forever to be called upon in times when the outside noise drowns everything else out.

It’s not exhaustive, but here’s a working playlist of some pretty great moments we’ve had so far…



1. For the Summer, by Ray Lamontagne

This is one of the first songs you used to introduce me to Mr. Lamontagne. And my life has never been the same ever since. For good and for bad. About 32 seconds into any song by Ray Lamontagne and I begin seriously contemplating a vegan lifestyle, teaching post-war French literature at an Appalachian liberal arts college. Also, this is your ringtone on my iPhone.

“Can I come home for the summer? I could slow down for a little while
Get back to loving each other
Leave all those long and lonesome miles behind”



2. Turning Page, by Sleeping at Last

That one time we’d “broken up” and you came over to my mom’s house so we could “talk” – which usually only ended in tears and more confusion – but instead, we just listened to music in the kitchen and when this song came on, we danced with the lights off and didn’t bother to ruin anything with pointless talk and just swayed in each other’s arms and wiped each other’s tears. And maybe you couldn’t see it, but I was floating.

Also, this is from the Twilight soundtrack. So, 500 points to us.

“I’ve waited a hundred years, but I’d wait a million more for you”



3. ***Flawless, by Beyoncé

LOVED this song when it first came out (because I’m a closet female Black Panther). But now it’s our morning alarm tone so now I HATE this song (because even human rights activists need a balanced sleep schedule).

“I woke up like this, I woke up like this. We flawless.”



Was Ashton Kutcher your computer wallpaper when I first met you? Was it?!

4. Brighter Than Sunshine, by Aqualung

Had we had the big wedding we initially wanted but thankfully avoided, this song from the A Lot Like Love soundtrack would have been the song used for our first dance. Even though I was firm in my desire to use Sade’s By Your Side. Small wedding = many avoided fights.

“It’s brighter than sunshine, let the rain fall, I don’t care”



Did he? There were no other options?

5. Wide Open Spaces, by The Dixie Chicks

Our commute home is about an hour long. And you can fill every one of those hours for an entire year just singing Dixie Chicks songs. Especially this one. It’s fun for the first 37 minutes and then I slowly start to go to a dark place. But then I see the absolute bliss plastered on your face and I’m allowed a glimpse into the life of 15 year-old Mackenzie and I melt and cherish seeing you so free and happy. And then I speed up because we’re almost at our exit which means were closer to ending this torture.

“Many precede and many will follow
A young girl’s dreams no longer hollow
It takes the shape of a place out west
But what it holds for her, she hasn’t yet guessed”



True artists don’t have gifs.

6. Glory Bound, by Martin Sexton

For my 26th birthday, you took me to his concert, our first one together. He came out looking like the fourth member of the lollypop guild, but then opened his mouth and plucked his guitar and threw his head back in pure musical surrender and I wanted to throw myself at his feet. This song. Holy cow on a hot tin roof. You know what I’m talking about.

“I’m taking my chance on the wind
I’m packing up all my bags”



I’m guessing none of these guys have an IRA or Costco membership

7. Rivers and Roads, by The Head & the Heart

If there were theme music for all the people we know, this would be the song I’d pick for your brother Chandler. You LOVE your brother Chandler. I do too. He’s 200 lbs of muscle and tears. And he’s taught me to see the beauty of buying a VW van and living the life of a beat poet on the road. Someday.

“A year from now we’ll all be gone
All our friends will move away
And they’re going to better places
But our friends will be gone away”



8. Is This Love?, by Bob Marley

Yes, Bob. It is.

“We’ll share the shelter, of my single bed,
We’ll share the same room, for Jah provide the bread.”




9. Don’t Rain On My Parade, by Barbra Streisand via Funny Girl

Because I know all the words and can comfortably hit all the notes.

“Life’s candy and the sun’s a ball of buttah!”



Who conceptualized this photoshoot?

10. Blackbird, by Bobby McFerrin 

I missed that whole period in history when a man singing in and out of every orifice in his head was a thing. Apparently, it was. But you did NOT miss out on it. And every time Bobby comes up in Spotify or Pandora, you grab my forearm and – with every muster of your buster – tell me, “this is my childhood”. With tears in your eyes. And I just don’t get it. And that’s okay.

“Mmmdeep, mmmboop, mmmpop, mmmskee



11. Kathy’s Song, by Eva Cassidy

This is your favorite song. And it fits you. And who’s Kathy?

“And as I watch the drops of rain
Weave their weary paths and die
I know that I am like the rain
There before the grace of you, go I”



12. Hold On, by Wilson Philips

That one time I was vacuuming the hall and you were brushing your teeth and this song came on and I dropped the vacuum and danced my little, not-so-little butt off for you while you watched in awe that I knew all the words as I followed the natural flow of my body to the beats and rhythms. And then we hugged and forgot about the chicken burning in the oven. And that’s life and vacuuming sucks (#pun) and every once in a while we just need to be reminded to hold on for one more day and break free, break free from the chains.

Love, H


You’re the cha to my cha

2 Responses
  • Mackenzie Madsen
    February 28, 2016

    I always laugh, and cry, and laugh some more, and then I am bewildered at how lucky we are to have you as a family member. Love you, Henry…

  • Cassie
    March 1, 2016

    I will hereby be making a Spotify playlist of these lovely songs. ❤️

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