I’m spending this weekend in Washington, D.C., to celebrate my little brother’s 60th birthday. You think turning 60 is kind of a big deal, but “my little brother’s 60th” is a phrase that requires a little practice before you can say it with nonchalance. As the eldest of four, I hope to get used to it and bear it with grace. As the saying goes, it’s a privilege to grow old and look this foxy.
Getting older involves a lot of thinking about when you were very young, which surprises me, but there you are. Maybe we’re just finally getting the space in our heads to process the things that happened, the people we knew, the things they got up to and did for us or to us. Maybe it’s that these people who were giants to us then are now fading away.
Earlier this week, on a reader’s recommendation (thank you!), I listened to Break Shot: My First 21 Years, an audio memoir by James Taylor. This is becoming a favorite format for me: the 90-minute story. In James Taylor’s quiet telling of his early years, interspersed with music, I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about his family and early life, and the stories behind his breakthrough songs. I had no idea the Beatles came into it! To avoid spoilers, I won’t tell you why I’m now kind of creeped out about the subway stop I use every day. (Taylor also tells the story in this interview.)
As I listened, I kept wishing there was more color, more descriptive detail—more life—in the renderings of people he knew and the things that happened to him. But despite the just-the-facts tone, I got a lot out of it. Break Shot is a perfect accompaniment to knitting on a late winter’s day. For me, it was worth it for the acoustic guitar interpretation of the hymn “Jerusalem” alone.