This summer marked the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. It also marked the summer my sweet niece Laura turned sixteen. The summer I turned fifteen, my parents sent me to an International Teen Camp in Switzerland to learn French and it was one i will never forget.
This would be my first trip overseas without my parents. About one month before my departure date, I started taking the trip seriously and I began the arduous task of packing. I wondered how I’d fit my entire bedroom into one suitcase, or more realistically, how I’d go without all of my stuff for eight weeks. It’s not that I used everything everyday, but the security of all those things provided endless comfort and support in my early adolescent years.
From the attic I pulled down the largest suitcase I could find. Years later, my father reminded me that I had jammed everything into that suitcase, “except,” he added, “our kitchen sink!”
Like nearly every teen, music was an essential ingredient of my everyday happiness, but those were the days before iPods and CDs. To listen to music we had to use record players or use tape cassettes. I wouldn’t dream of venturing overseas for an entire summer without my record player. So a few days before leaving, I packed the rather large device in the middle of my suitcase, saddled between stacks of clothes. On the other side of the suitcase I tucked in my favorite forty-five records.
The Beatles song, Let it Be, had just been released and it was already my favorite. I stored that record separately in my backpack. Only four years before, the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. I vividly remember my parents and I watching the extravaganza of those four cool British guys chatting with the talk show host and providing a sampling of their mesmerizing music.
By the time my trip to Switzerland came along, I had already blasted the song over and over stereo in my bedroom, decorated with neon posters and accentuated by strobe light hanging from the ceiling. One day, my music was so loud that my parents decided to install a wall-to-wall brown cork bulletin board to insulate them from the vibrations. It also gave me a chance to hang some favorite memorabilia and posters, but I think what they were really trying to do was create a sound barrier between our rooms!
The wise lyrics and pleasant melody of the Beatles song had a very calming effect on me, particularly during my homesick moments in Switzerland. Before long, I learned that it was also a favorite song amongst teens from all around the world. The song became our common denominator, as we struggled to communicate. What amazed me was how perfectly the foreigners sang the song, even though they had no idea what the words meant! I am not so sure things have changed today as people around the world still sing Beatles’ tunes.
I’m amazed about the timelessness of that song and how it still brings tears to my eyes. I am also in awe about the power of music and how it often does this so easily and with so much magic.
Now, nearly forty years later, Let it Be still conjures up images of those wonderful camp days, and the dances with boys from countries around the world, such as, France, Kuwait, Italy and the United States. I wonder what song and memories my niece Laura will have of her sixteenth year. Will her memories be as vivid and fun as mine? I surely hope so.