Don’t Let It Be True

I tend to have a fairly clinical reaction to death. Death is, in fact, an indisputable part of life. So, I certainly don’t usually find myself mourning the death of a famous person, but Tom Petty is a different story. I can tell you that I loved Tom Petty, like so many others, but it really goes far beyond commonplace rock star adulation. The truth is, Tom Petty saved my life.

Watching his Wonderland themed video for Don’t Come Around Here No More was the first time I was transfixed by the scrawny Florida native. What is this? Who is he? Please, may I have some more? From then on, Tom Petty was a musical staple in my life.

His songs seemed to play in the background all the days of my life. American Girl. Don’t Back Down. Refugee. Don’t Do Me Like That. The Waiting. Radio repeats never got old, just gave me another chance to sing along softly to myself.

1996 was a big year for me, the space in time when it seems my life truly began. 1996 was the year I became a mother. Like we all dream, I had visions of snuggling my infant, smelling that sweet baby smell from the wisps of hair atop her head, marveling over tiny fingers and toes. Colic did its best to rewrite that story and soon after giving birth my days and my nights were filled with incurable wails and fits.

It is told to us mothers that we possess the ability to know what our babies need, that anything can be solved with a bottle or a blanket or nap. That isn’t so for colic. There is little you can do other than cry alongside your ruby faced babe and wait for it to pass. You can swaddle them, you can burp them, sing to them, pray for them, love them, and it never helps. Nothing ever helps, nothing except for Tom Petty.

After being transfixed yet again by his single It’s Good To Be King, I went out and purchased the Wildflowers CD. It was a life changing decision. Wildflowers is an absolute masterpiece, but I never imagined it could work magic. I discovered that it could one sleepless and fitful night.

I’d spent many nights, many hours walking my sweet babe around, desperate to soothe her cries for her comfort and my sanity. So many nights, just pacing back and forth, hoping that she would wear out before I would. One night, having run out of energy and ideas, I hit play and the rest is history.

From the first note of the single, Wildflowers, my baby was mesmerized. The child that could not, would not be quieted lay in my arms in awe, peaceful and still. I sat in the rocking chair and hummed along, a rare moment of rest for us both.

For countless nights I rocked my tiny baby listening to Tom Petty sing of kings and wildflowers and love and loss. In those notes and melodies, I fell in love. I had the space to become intoxicated by that sweet baby smell, beguiled by tiny fingers and toes. It was in those nights that I truly became a mother.

Eventually colic ends, as it did with my baby. Before long she was sleeping through the night and there was no need for Tom to sing us lullabies. The CD was put away, others began playing in rotation. My baby grew up and developed her own sense of musical taste, but was always told the story of how Tom Petty saved our lives. She’s an adult now, living far from home, but was the first person I contacted when I learned he was close to death.

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The text I sent her after his death was announced. 

I still have that Wildflowers CD. It has been packed up in countless boxes to every new address we ended up at. The case is cracked and scratched, it’s battle scarred for sure. The only CD player I have left is in the car, which is the perfect venue for Wildflowers. A long ride and a gauzy, burnt orange sunset its perfect accompaniments.

I still listen to that CD. I make excuses to travel further than I need to just to listen to Tom Petty sing, to relive the peace I found in those sleepless nights. I remember how his voice, his words cast a spell on my baby and I, how he gave me the space to love being a mother, how he saved our lives from colic.

I’m listening now. I’m remembering. I’m rocking back and forth with that tiny baby, when life was heavenly. Her sweet smell, her tiny hands, she was perfection, and it was because of Tom Petty that I was able to feel that.

I’m listening now. I’m remembering, but right now life is far from heavenly. I’m listening now and my heart is broken. My tears can’t stop. I’m in mourning. I’m listening and I am remembering. I’m listening and remembering how Tom Petty saved my life.

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20 thoughts on “Don’t Let It Be True

  1. Beautiful tribute. I’m with you on my usual reaction to celebrity deaths, but this is an exception; as was Johnny Cash and Joey Ramone. So for my tribute to Mr. Petty, I posted the video of Johnny Cash’s cover of I Won’t Back Down, with Tom humbly doing the backing vocals.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Having the same reaction as you. My life wouldn’t be my life without him. Hubby and sister (in-law) and I spent our teenage years (and all those after) with Tom Petty as constant accompaniment.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can think of nothing more life-giving than the music we listened to at our most vulnerable and special moments. This tribute to his music, and more importantly your connection to it, brought tears to my eyes. That’s what true art is–the thing that connects us to something larger and bigger than just ourselves. It is, in a word, transcendent.

    I have to say, on a totally different note–the only thing that soothed my son was the sound of the vacuum cleaner. Other than causing a slight vacuum obsession in his toddler days, I’m still grateful for this truly useful of home appliances. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My husband and I were describing to our son yesterday how we would tape the DustBuster into the “on” position until the battery ran out when she was crying. Tom was a lot more soothing on all our ears and I’m forever grateful for him.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful post Christine. I saw him in concert this past May. It’s making me feel my age and mortality as those who were part of the soundtrack of my formative years are starting to pass. This one in particular is hitting hard.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a sweet and beautiful post. I am saddened by his unexpected death as well. I try not to have regrets in life, but one is that I never saw him in concert. Free Falling is probably my favorite song of his.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tragic loss. I’ve been listening to Damn the Torpedoes,, especially Here Comes My Girl…”Watch her walk”.

    What a year? Chris Cornell was a huge loss for me. His music was like poetry. I have always had depressive tendencies and the lyrics in every formation Soundgarden, Audioslave and solo just spoke to me.

    Back to Tom Petty… undeniably a legend… every song, every album. I feel your loss. Thankful we have his catalog to continue to hear his voice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know everyone has their own great musical loss. It’s amazing how what they contribute makes us feel so connected to them and to ourselves. I am thankful he created so many great songs to listen to for lifetimes to come.

      Liked by 1 person

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