Author: Robert Force
Date/Studio: 2013 Synergy, Port Townsend, WA
Engineer: Neville Pearsall
Producer: Robert Force
Original Release: Did You (BSR151)
Current Release: Did You (BSR151)
There is a moment when we come to know and truly understand the meaning of unconditional love. This song is about that moment. It is written so that the realization of that moment is built into the verse and tempo flow. It profoundly changed how I look at songwriting. Beyond describing is being.
Like with a lot of my songs I start this one off by writing about a few things that have happened in my relationship with Molly. I pick out the moments that I know I am truly there with her and she with me-- something we are doing together because the other person is there. We pick strawberries, water the pumpkins, go out to breakfast, walk in the harbor.
That was easy, those are descriptive moments. She was a new person in my life. I was the only grandpa in her life. My son had gotten married very early and Molly was born when I was not yet fifty. I was in mid-career of being an educator, an administrator for Washington State University. I was a working dad with another son still in high school. As Molly's young parents were finding their way, here was this open, trusting, cheerful soul now spending a lot of time in my care.
I knew my heart was being given over but I did not have a way to own or identify this experience. This was all brand new. With your own children you sort of grow into the complexity of love over time. With Molly, this was right here, right now. Being a grandfather is an awesome responsibility. I had to define for myself what the relationship was to be. Was this a role I played as my son's father?
No. My relationship to this girl was my relationship. It was not, nor could it be, defined by my relationship to or through anyone else. She was my granddaughter. Whatever life brought it would bring it to us together and affect us both together. In the song there is that moment of epiphany when I go from saying I am with my son's daughter to saying I am with my granddaughter.
My inner understanding was complete but as a writer I still needed to capture that self-knowledge in song. I had to externalize it. I felt it. I knew it. But could I describe it-- not necessarily for others, but to myself? The right words were not quite there. I had never before experienced unconditional love-- the love that does not ever go away and needs no reciprocity. Even though you know it will break your heart over and over you also know it breaks your heart wide open. That was exciting, scary, humbling.
When Molly was two I had planted the entire backyard full of pumpkins. She and I watered them all through the previous summer. Come Halloween they were to be a gift to the neighborhood-- a hundred jack-o-lanterns lighting up the hillside across the street. For the past few years residents of the Blaine Street Neighborhood had the city close off two blocks of the street. We had parades, bonfires, stilt-walkers and outdoor movies. Six hundred kids would come with their parents to trick or treat.
That magical night was still fresh as I drove off to Portland, OR for a concert at Artichoke Music. Drive time is always a good time for me to think and reflect. The pumpkins had been spectacular. Molly and hundreds of kids were enchanted. Parents had a fun-filled place to go where their kids were not going to be run over as they dashed from house to house. The song started to flow. The sweet nostalgia of that whole summer and fall overwhelmed me as I sought to scribble lines down on a piece of paper. I finally had to pull over. It made me cry. It makes a lot of grandpas cry. We get it.
Molly has sung this on stage with me since she was little, adding “better pick one for Uncle Sam, Daddy, Momma” to the Oma and Baba lines. One year in Colorado, twelve, she connected the dots. “This song is sad. It's about you dying.” No, Molly, it's not. It's about me discovering how to live.