The soundtrack to my youth

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piano

“The Vineyard will always be home for me. Even on charcoal-colored, dismal days, what do you do when where you live is home? How can I possibly pretend anyplace else would come close to looking or feeling the same?”

— Carly Simon, memoir Boys In The Trees

I saved every nickle and dime, sometimes going without lunch in junior high school and putting that money in my pocket instead.

I had learned there was something worth hunger pangs, quietly counting the money in my head as I dreamed of a future purchase.

It was the first album I ever bought.

Carly Simon’s Anticipation came out in 1971 and was worth every penny of my tiny sacrifice. I knew the lyrics to every song, playing it endlessly whenever given the chance.

Those songs stay with me, like a soundtrack to my youth.

When I learned Simon had written a memoir, I realized how little I knew of her life.

Carly Simon

Born into wealth, she spent her childhood with no idea her family was privileged. Her father, along with a college friend, had founded the publishing powerhouse of Simon & Schuster.

The Simon mansion was filled with the rich and famous, including “one of Daddy’s friends” who visited often: Dwight D. Eisenhower.

There was loneliness in the mix for the children, as this powerful revolving door often overshadowed their simple needs.

Drifting off to sleep as her father played Gershwin on the piano beneath her bedroom, music was a constant.

The beautiful sprawling estate in Stamford, Connecticut, gave the four Simon children lots of room to roam, climbing trees in the orchard, singing back to the birds nesting there, or perfecting swan dives in the large swimming pool.

Stutter

It was there, in 1951, the third-born daughter began suffering from anxiety, insomnia, and a stammering speech problem.

While putting on their own production of Little Women complete with costumes, Carly could not get a brief line accomplished.

“Stop stuttering,” her oldest sister said calmly.

“As if stopping were as easy as taking off my shoes,” Simon writes.

Her mother suggested she sing her words, a simple instruction which overcame the stammer and would shape her life, though that haltingly frustrating speech issue remains a part of her to this day, and added to nearly-crippling stage fright throughout her successful career.

Throughout life, she enjoyed various homes and realized she could live anywhere in the world. What will forever stay with me is Simon’s yearning for home.

It is a universal emotion, and while much of her life seems wildly foreign, this primary emotion is one which I can deeply understand.

Home

When my daughter Caroline was little, she expressed big plans to one day live in a city filled with sunshine.

She wished out loud to orchestrate her life under bright lights and connect with friends in exciting places.

Caroline no longer dreams of city living, though she does choose cities to visit in her travels.

She bought a lovely country home a couple years ago, across the road from my sister.

Large old trees shade the 10-year-old house, the view from the wrap-around porch beautiful Quarter horses, cattle, and, to her baby boy’s delight, tractors and trucks.

I realized long ago I could never be completely happy away from this farm community, and it thrills me beyond words that our daughter, too, has chosen this place as her home.

As for the singer born into privilege and promise, Simon still lives in the rustic, sprawling home she and James Taylor built, where they wrote songs and raised their two children.

She still sings to the birds high in the trees, just as she did as a child. It is home.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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