Radio 59, side A, track 15: “Keep It Together” by Madonna

Madonna - Keep It TogetherOh, Madonna, I had no idea that this song was about how important family is.  So that took me, what, about 25 years to figure out?  Coincidentally, that’s about how long it’s taken me to realize that same sentiment for my own self.

About a month ago, my wife and I flew up to the MN for a big ol’ birthday bash for my dad, who turned 70; myself, who turned (blurgh) 40; and two of my nieces, who turned 5 and 9.  We all have birthdays within a few weeks of each other, so my dad thought we should have a party.  My dad is not the kind of guy who suggests having parties.  So while I wanted to very quietly stumble into middle age, I couldn’t deny this rare moment in my dad’s life.

If you know anything about small town life, Madonna, you know that when you graduate or get married or turn 40, you don’t just send invites to the guests.  No, you take an ad out in the local paper and invite everyone in the tri-county area to show up.  It never occurred to me that this doesn’t happen everywhere.  I mean, the local paper would advertise when we had a bite to eat at my grandparents after church.  That is not an exaggeration.  So yeah, not only did I not quietly celebrate my birthday, but there was an ad in the newspaper announcing it to everyone in a 40-mile radius.

But that’s beside the point, Madonna.  The real point is that the night of the big celebration, at the local Legion hall (also where my wife and I had our reception — also advertised in the paper; also where I attended prom and Cub Scouts and several other wedding receptions), friends and relatives from all over came to say their hellos.

I have a large family, Madonna.  My mom’s got 11 brothers and sisters.  On her side alone, I’ve got 30+ cousins.  My grandma has 11 brothers and sisters, too.  Most of my cousins have multiple kids of their own.  My brother’s got his own four kids.  Point is, I’ve got a LOT of relatives.  So there were quite a few people in that Legion hall.  It was a great night, Madonna, and the greatest part of that night was playing with all my nieces, nephews, and second cousins, all of who were under the age of 11.  We spent most of the night playing tag, and since I WAS turning 40 and could not keep up with children who kept wanting me to be “it”, I changed it to freeze tag so I wouldn’t have to run as much.  It wasn’t just getting to act like a kid with real-life actual kids, though, Madonna.  It was what those little kids represented.

I come from a white background.  Everyone in my neck of the woods was from Germany, Holland, or Scandinavia.  I grew up with fifty shades of vanilla.  And that’s not good or bad.  It is what it is.  But, and I’m including myself in this, that kind of monochromatic palette led to more than a little naive ignorance when it came to race.   I’ve been very lucky to work where I do because I work with people of all different hues, religions, you name it, we’ve probably got it.  It’s pretty awesome.

So back to that night of freeze tag.  Those kids I was playing with, who were screaming and giggling and unfreezing each other, some of them were white and some of them weren’t.  For the first time in my memory, I had family members whose heritage didn’t involve windmills or bratwurst.  And it was just a normal night of kids playing and having a good time.  It’s become one of my favorite memories, because it was a moment that cut through all my cynicism and made me believe that there’s still some hope for the future.

It also made me realize that I ain’t getting any younger.  And on the way to the airport to head back to the ATX, I decided to start working on a family tree.  Part of it is because I’m kinda addicted to “Who Do You Think You Are?” on TLC, but most of it’s because I don’t know my family very well. Which is kinda sad, since there are about a million of them.  Part of it I can chalk up to anxiety and distance, but it occurred to me just this past week that for much of my life I’ve been viewing people largely through a prism of other people’s perspectives.  I’ve been making judgments based on second-hand, third-hand, and tenth-hand observations.  Since I’m trying to be less of an asshole this year, I need to make more of an effort to be less judgy, especially when it’s judginess based on other people’s judginess.  It was a little scary, Madonna.  It takes a lot for me to reach out to people I don’t normally talk to, but luckily, THANKFULLY, we have Facebook.  I can message people and I can email people.  Phone conversations. . .look, baby steps, all right?

It’s already been a blast.  I discovered that one of my wonderful cousins has already been working on an extensive family tree, and she’s letting me co-opt it to add more information.  I’ve already gotten to know several cousins way better in the last month than I have in my whole damn life.  Also, I may have inadvertently dated a distant cousin in college.  So there’s that.  But my goal, besides obsessively cataloging all my relatives’ information (do you see a pattern in my life, Madonna?), is to just be able to grow closer to those I should have already been close to to begin with.

You’re absolutely right, Madonna.  Family is gold.

“Keep It Together”

<awesome Madonna jam>

Keep, keep it together
Forever keep people together

Keep, keep it together
Forever keep people together

Keep, keep it together
Forever keep people together

Keep, keep it together
Forever keep people together

I got brothers

I got some sisters, too

Stuck in the middle

Tell you what I’m gonna do

Gonna get out of here
I’m gonna leave this place
So I can forget
Every single hungry face

I’m tired of sharin’ all the hand me downs
To get attention
I must always be the clown
I wanna be different
I wanna be on my own
But Daddy said, “Listen
You will always have a home”

Keep it together in the familyyyy

They’re a reminder of our historyyy

Brothers and sisters, they hold the key
To your heart
And your soul
Don’t forget
That your family is gooooold

I hit the big time
But I still get the blues
Everyone’s a stranger

City life can get to you

People can be so cold
Never want to turn your back
Just givin’ to get something
Always wantin’ somethin’ back

When I get lonely and I need to be
Loved for who I am, not what they want to see

Brothers and sisters
They’ve always been there for me
We have a connection
Home is where the heart should be

Keep it together in the familyyyy
They’re a reminder of your historyyy

Brothers and sisters, they hold the key
To your heart
And your soul
Don’t forget
That your family is goooold

When I look back
On all the misery

And all the heartache that they brought to me

I wouldn’t
Change it for another chance
‘Cause blood is thicker
Than any other
Circumstance

Mmm mmmm

Togetheeeer

Togetheeeer

When I get lonely and I need to be
Loved for who I am, not what they want to see

Brothers and sisters
They’ve always been there for me
We have a connection
Home is where the heart should be

When I look back
And all the miseryyy
And all the
Heartache that they brought to me

I wouldn’t
Change it for another chance
‘Cause blood is thicker
Than any circumstance

Keep it together in the familyyy

They’re a reminder of your historyyy

Brothers and sisters, they hold the key
To your heart
And your soul
Don’t forget
That your family is gold
Keep, keep it together
Keep people together forever and ever

Keep, keep it together
Keep people together forever and ever

Keep, keep it together
Keep people together forever and ever

Keep, keep it together

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3 thoughts on “Radio 59, side A, track 15: “Keep It Together” by Madonna

  1. Lynda says:

    Great post – and happy birthday! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] of judgmental glee surrounding an unplanned pregnancy that didn’t involve me.  And even now, as I’m working on my family tree and plugging in names and dates, I have a compulsion to see how many months after a marriage the […]

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