By Ariel Rebecca Levine
Today I’m technically 23, but I’m not quite sure.
I send my sister a link to Taylor Swift’s Grammy performance. I know she won’t say anything about it, she never does, but I know she’ll be able to read between the lines.
My mom is often so confused by the fact that we don’t actually ever have vocal or textual communication with each other, yet we can feel connected. As I peruse the history of our Facebook convo, it is littered with links to cute puppy GIFs, Harry Potter quizzes, and warm puffy jackets. Each seems mundane, however we know that each current interest references a past we share together. Cute puppies can suggest the dog she and I loved and lost recently. Harry Potter quizzes remind us of all the nights we cuddled in her bed while listening to my dad read the series aloud to us.
She doesn’t make a comment about the “T Swizzle” video, but I know she’s remembering long car rides and the very smelly hockey bags.
We are four years apart, and while I was in high school I kept trying to introduce her to good music. Except that I didn’t know what good music was. She and I always settled on listening to a Top 40 radio station on the way to school. We didn’t like most of the music, but we didn’t hate it either. It also led to some interesting morning conversations, such as when my dad from the back seat asked what Fergie meant by her “London bridges were coming down.” I still don’t have a good answer.
It was on one of these mornings that we discovered T. Swift. Her melodies were catchy and lyrics reminiscent of our teenage friends. I ended up buying her CD and my sister would constantly beg to share headphones with me while we drove through snowy New England towns to play hockey games against Canadians who were clearly born with skates on their feet.
But somewhere along the way this love of her music wasn’t about the music anymore. It was about experience of sharing something. Every time a new single or album came out one of us would send it along and both mock its girliness and praise its honesty. We love T. sSwift. We hate T. Swift. And despite the fact that many of my young music loves have passed their rotation on my iPod, Taylor Swift remains, all so that I can remember the insignificant memories of our childhood. How else am I supposed to get my neurons to fire so that I hear her horrendous singing voice carrying through our Jack and Jill bathroom while I brush my teeth with my eyes closed because it is WAY too damn early?
So as I’m listening to T. Swift’s Grammy performance I hear ALL her other songs and see my sister and I leaning toward the middle seat, us jamming out each with an ear bud in. I’m always on the right side, she’s on the left. The car changes. The landscape evolves. Our ages fluctuate. But that connection is constant.
Michaela tells me that it’s T. Swift Tuesday in the locker-room. And today the physical distance feels smaller and I can almost feel her sitting next to me in the car as I drive down streets she’s never seen.
Ariel Rebecca Levine received her MFA in Fiber from Cranbrook Academy of Art, and holds undergraduate degrees from Skidmore College not just in studio art, but also in art history. This emphasis in research and writing has continued to be integral in her practice as her work deals with the breakdown of language and the fluidity of storytelling.